Five takeaways: Another night, another embarrassing effort from the Heat in loss at the Knicks

New York Knicks center Kyle O’Quinn and Miami Heat forward Josh Richardson battle for a rebound during the second quarter of Wednesday’s game. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

NEW YORK – A road trip that started so promising with the Heat winning the first two games ended with a thud after two humiliating losses.

For the second consecutive night, Miami fell behind by at least 20 points in the first half and never recovered. The result was an embarrassing 115-86 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, even with the Knicks playing all but 2 ½ minutes without their best player, Kristaps Porzingis, who was helped off the court after spraining his right ankle.

The Heat (10-11) appeared to put these types of performances behind them with victories last week against the Celtics and Timberwolves. But after escaping with a close win against the worst team in the league, Chicago, on Sunday, Miami embarrassed itself on consecutive nights in Cleveland and New York (11-10).

“It’s the very best and the very worst of what we’re capable of. It’s as simple as that,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.

While Miami at least cut into the deficit in Cleveland, Wednesday’s effort was pitiful from start to finish in its worst loss of the season.

The Knicks ended the half on a 9-0 run to take a 21-point lead, the final two on a 21-foot buzzer-beater by Tim Hardaway Jr., who caught a long pass from Jarrett Jack and flipped the ball toward the basket in one motion. Hardaway then did the shimmy, which Heat fans know all too well from seeing the same dance from his father for so many years.

Center Enes Kanter led the Knicks with 22 points and 14 rebounds as the Knicks outscored the Heat 58-32 in the paint and shot 60.3 percent.

The Heat, who were without center Hassan Whiteside, shot just 38.1 percent. Kelly Olynyk led the inept effort with 18 points.

“We’ve just got to be more consistent, both ends of the floor everywhere,” Olynyk said. “We’re really, really up and down. It’s like we’re two different teams. We’ve got to figure out a way to bring the right team to the game every single time we step out there.”

Here are our five takeaways:

Disappointing ending: The Heat appeared to be on their way to solid road trip after winning the first two games, and although they ended up splitting the four games, it was a very unsatisfying 2-2. Miami had a chance to make a statement but played two of its worst games of the season, a list that now is growing. Miami led for a total of 50 seconds combined in the two games and in both fell behind by at least 20 points in the first half and 30 points in the third quarter. Now what? The Heat come home for two games against Charlotte and Golden State before another three-game trip that concludes a stretch of 14-of-19 games on the road.

“It’s hard to figure out this team right now,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what I’m trying to really figure out, one game to the next. And it clearly was not the same team that started the road trip from a defensive standpoint. And, at the same time, it can be that the next game. That’s what so hard to figure out about this group. But we’ll get back to Miami, we’ll regroup, and get ready for a big game on Friday night.”

Another slow start: Earlier in the year, it was the second halves that were killing the Heat. The past two games, the Heat appear to be sleepwalking through the start of the game, digging themselves a deep hole from which they could not recover. After falling behind by 27 in the second quarter at Cleveland on Tuesday, the Knicks dominated Wednesday’s first half, shooting 58.5 percent and outrebounding Miami 28-17. Of course, there was the ultimate embarrassing start Sunday in Chicago, when Miami set a franchise low for first-quarter points with seven.

“I think we were kind of little bit disconnected on the defensive end and it led to disconnection on the offensive end and we kind of went quiet, we didn’t rally, we didn’t get each other together and try to reel things back in,” Olynyk said. “Once you let stuff get away from you, it’s too far out of sight.”

Defenseless: The Heat pride themselves on the defensive end and slowly were getting back to the type of defense that allowed them to make a run during the second half last season. Then came the past two nights. Cleveland wound up shooting 49.4 percent for the game Tuesday, but the Cavs built their lead in the first three quarters, when they shot 54.1 percent. The Knicks were even better, and actually got better as the game went along.

“The last two games, we couldn’t stop nobody,” said Goran Dragic, who scored just six point while shooting 3-of-12. “I feel like they’re playing five and zero and can score willingly. Then of course you don’t get confidence you can’t make shots, but the most disturbing is defense and second-chance points.”

Porzingis injury: The 7-foot-3 power forward was injured when Justise Winslow stepped on his right ankle as he went to save a ball from going out-of-bounds. Porzingis slammed the floor with his fist and had to be helped to the locker room. X-rays were negative and Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said Porzingis wanted to come back and play. Porzingis entered the game as the league’s fourth-leading scorer with a 27.0 average. The Knicks, though, never skipped a beat, not with Kanter taking over and dominating the Heat.

Replacing Whiteside: The Heat center sat out because of growing concern over his problematic left knee. Rookie Bam Adebayo received his fourth start of the season in Whiteside’s place. The 6-foot-10 Adebayo was matched up with the the 6-11 Kanter, who returned after missing three games because of back spasms. After going 7-of-7 and scoring 19 points off the bench at Tuesday, Adebayo scored nine  points and had five rebounds against the Knicks.

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