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RJ Barrett wasn’t in a scoring mode on Super Bowl Sunday, but when he made a defensive miscue, it was the last straw for Tom Thibodeau.
Barrett was benched in the fourth quarter, finishing with three points, as the Heat escaped with a 109-103 Garden victory in a Sunday matinee.
Julius Randle poured in 26 points and added 12 rebounds and seven assists. Reggie Bullock was on fire from 3-point range, knocking in seven 3s, for 21 points.
But the Knicks (11-14) showed they can’t win unless Barrett is a major factor, and he was a no-show. Barrett played just 19 minutes and shot 1 of 6 as the Knicks had their two-game winning streak snapped. Barrett was scoreless in the first half.
Sources said the Knicks were on the verge of acquiring Derrick Rose — with multiple reports saying the deal is done — partly to give them more offensive firepower in the closing minutes. The Knicks were frozen at the end. Randle missed a corner 3 with the Knicks down 103-99 with 1:33 left.
Still down 3, Alec Burks — in the game for Barrett — front-rimmed a 3-pointer. Miami’s Tyler Herro came down and iced the win with a 3-pointer with 33 second left as Miami reversed some recent bad fortunes to move to 9-14.
Bullock, who has started all 20 games he’s played, banged in six 3-pointers in the first half on eight attempts. Bullock was the recipient of a handful of passes from Randle out of the double team.
The Knicks tied a season-high with 17 3s, but it wasn’t enough as they scored just 44 points in the second half.
Bullock’s marksmanship allowed the Knicks to be within 60-59 at halftime. Miami’s Kendrick Nunn, an undrafted guard, led the Heat with 14 first-half points — making 4 of 5 3-pointers.
With the Knicks missing backup center Nerlens Noel, Taj Gibson came off the bench for a spark, scoring nine points, making all four of his shots.
The Knicks have used the same starting lineup 20 times — tops in the league for continuity. The only time Thibodeau has swayed is when Bullock was injured. By contrast, Miami has had 16 different starting lineups because of injuries and COVID-19 contact tracing.
Before the game, Thibodeau raved about his former player, Jimmy Butler, who finished with 17 points. He said the Heat were struggling because of Butler’s assorted injuries and other COVID-19 absences. The Heat are now 6-5 with Butler and 3-9 without.
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