Five takeaways: Heat hammered by Knicks; still hanging onto sixth seed

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra reacts during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks on Friday in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK – Coach Erik Spoelstra likes to say the Miami Heat still have something to play for.

It didn’t look like it Friday in New York.

Once again, the Heat allowed a lottery-bound team and one of the worst in the league to take it to them. The Knicks came out firing from the start and rolled to a 122-98 victory over the Heat at Madison Square Garden. Miami lost both games this season in New York by a combined 53 points.

The Knicks (28-51) scored 65 first-half points and never let up, pushing the lead to as much at 30 points in the fourth quarter. New York was playing without Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter and lost Michael Beasley 18 seconds into the game. Tim Hardaway Jr. came out of the game late in the third quarter with a leg injury.

“You have to credit them,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They were playing with energy and confidence. They moved the ball, found open shooters. But compared to what we have been doing defensively, we just didn’t bring it. We’ve had probably two or three no-shows this year. This was one of them. It’s unfortunate and it’s hard to really explain because they’re in a similar situation in Atlanta (on Wednesday). We played a tremendous game there, very similar circumstance and it was a no-show.”

The Heat (43-37) finish the season with an 18-23 record on the road, having lost 13 of their past 15 away from home. Miami still owns the No. 6 seed in the East, one-half game ahead of Milwaukee and a game ahead of Washington, who lost to the Hawks on Friday. The Heat has all tiebreakers against both teams.

The Knicks were led by Damyean Dotson, who scored 30 points. Dotson, a rookie from Houston, entered the game averaging 3.0 points and had one double-digit scoring game in his career, 14 points.

Goran Dragic led the Heat with 15 points.

Here are our five takeaways:

Philadelphia taking control for third seed: The Sixers moved one-half game ahead of Cleveland on Friday with a 132-130 home victory over the Cavaliers. Philadelphia (49-30) now can finish No. 3 if it wins its final three games, which are at home against Dallas, at Atlanta and home against Milwaukee. Cleveland (49-31) closes out the season with a home-and-home against the Knicks. The Heat will face the No. 3 seed in the first round of the playoffs if they hold onto the sixth seed.

“What we see is opportunity ahead of us,” Spoelstra said. “Before this game was opportunity. We just didn’t take advantage of it. That’s why it’s always such an unpredictable fine line. Whether you’re ready and on edge or whether you’re not. And clearly we weren’t tonight.”

Playing down to their competition: The Heat once again came out flat, uninspired and disinterested against a team below them in the standings. Miami finishes the season with nine loses to the worst five teams in the East: three to Brooklyn, two to New York and Orlando and one to Atlanta and Chicago. The Heat were swept in their two-game series with Sacramento.

“We knew they were going to play free,” Tyler Johnson said. “They’re developing a lot of young guys over there. They wanted to definitely get their confidence up and we let them play free. For us, I think, we have a lesson to learn from these types of teams we’ve played all year and kind of struggle with.”

Defense takes the night off: After the Hawks shot just 36.7 percent on Wednesday, the Knicks shot 61.2 percent in the first quarter and finished making 53.6 percent of their shots, the best shooting night against the Heat in the past 18 games, dating back to March 1, the night the Lakers ran Miami out of AmericanAirlines Arena. New York finished with 18 3-pointers in 35 attempts.

“Karma of the game, especially late,” Wade said. “You know they’re playing free, they’re playing with no thought. You allow guys to get real comfortable and then you’re trying to now make a run back they’re already in their groove and they’re already in their zone and they just kept knocking them down. Definitely credit to them but these are the hardest games to play. It’s easy to play against OKC on Monday than it is to play against the Knicks or Atlanta or Brooklyn, guys who are not playing for the playoffs. ”

Back at full strength: Dwyane Wade, Dragic and James Johnson all had an excuse to sit Friday after each missed Wednesday’s game in Atlanta to heal their various injuries, but all three were back in the lineup, although it didn’t help. Even though the Heat lost the game, it wasn’t because they tanked. They once again had one of those inexplicable performances in which they looked like anything but a playoff team.

Scoreboard watching: The Heat remain in play for the sixth through the eighth seed along with Washington and Milwaukee while Cleveland and Philadelphia are still batting for the No. 3 seed. Technically, Miami still could see anyone of four opponents – Toronto, which clinched the No. 1 seed in the East, No. 2 Boston or Philadelphia or Cleveland. Spoelstra likes the excitement surrounding the final few days of the season.

“I want our guys to have this type of ending to a season, where they’re checking other games, still engaged, still want to play, still want to compete, still feel that  we have something to play for, because we do,” Spoelstra said before the game. “This is probably the most competitive and compelling it’s been on both sides in a long time.”

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