In a turn of events, the New York Knicks ended the Houston Rockets six-game win streak and the Miami Heat held Giannis Antetokounmpo to 13 points in a blowout win.
The Rockets, who are now playing an ultra-smallball style of basketball referred to as “microball”, were abused by the Knicks, who won the rebounding advantage 65-34. Even with that wide of a gap, the Rockets kept the game within reach, losing 125-123.
RJ Barrett led all Knicks in scoring with 27 points, tying a season-high for the rookie from Duke University. Three Knicks registered double-digit rebounds: Julius Randle with 16, Mitchell Robinson with 13 and Taj Gibson with 10. To go with that, seven players scored in double-digit points: Barrett (27), Randle (16), Wayne Ellington and Bobby Portis with 15 each, Robinson (12), and Frank Ntilikina and Maurice Harkless with 11 each.
Finally, the Knicks style of having all of the power forwards worked in their favor.
Despite 35 points from James Harden and 24 points from Russell Westbrook, the Rockets were unable to match the scoring output of the forwards from the Knicks.
Westbrook attempted only 19 field goals, his lowest since mid December. He is attempting 25 field goals a game over the last two months. Only Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant have accomplished the feat of 25 field goal attempts per game for an entire season this century.
After a 105-89 whipping, the Heat are now 2-0 against the 52-9, first seed Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat were led by Bam Adebayo, who scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, while playing stellar defense on Antetokounmpo, who was held to only 13 points on 6-of-18 shooting. Although held to a low scoring output, Antetokounmpo still grabbed 15 rebounds.
This is a warning sign for the Bucks. A player of Adebayo’s capabilities can limit what Antetokounmpo is able to do to impact the game. He can shuffle his feet and be strong enough to match Antetokounmpo at the rim and on drives to the basket.
The Heat are now the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and would be matched against the Indiana Pacers in the first round if the playoffs started today. Jimmy Butler only scored 18 points against the Bucks, but his defense, playmaking and leadership impacts the team in ways that don’t show on the box score.
The Heat are a NBA Finals contender at this point and should be taken seriously by all organizations.