The Miami Heat have now lost three straight games after blowing a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter to the New York Knicks to lose 111-103 Friday night. The Knicks outscored the Heat 38-15 in the fourth quarter, led by a dominant performance from Immanuel Quickley, who scored 18 of his 23 points in the final 12 minutes of the game.
As spirited of a win as it was for a Knicks team that are headed to the lottery, this was an egregious loss for a Miami team that’s had a pretty rough week. It also means its quest to secure the top seed in the East is in jeopardy. With the loss to the Knicks, the Heat have now dropped four of their past six games and hold just a half game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
What’s shocking about each of Miami’s past three losses is that all of them were winnable games. The Knicks are all but eliminated from playoff contention, but Miami failed to close out a team that was without Julius Randle. The Warriors were without Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, and the 76ers rested both Joel Embiid and James Harden, and yet the Heat still couldn’t beat either of them when the odds were in their favor.
With just a few weeks before the playoffs start, it appears as though the Heat are starting to come apart a bit at the seams. Against the Warriors we saw a bit of frustration from Miami when Jimmy Butler and Udonis Haslem needed to be separated during a timeout. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra chalked it up to competitive spirit among his players, but when the team is losing games they should be winning it is hard to just shrug off that altercation and move on.
It doesn’t help that guard Tyler Herro has missed the past two games for the Heat with a knee sprain, taking away an important contributor to this team. Herro’s averaging nearly 21 points a game for the Heat, and he provides elite shot creation and playmaking off the bench. Those are things that were sorely missed in the past two games for Miami, especially down the stretch. Herro was questionable for the Knicks game, so perhaps he’ll be close to returning in the next game or two to help break this losing streak.
But these three losses are pretty damaging for the Heat in a closely contested Eastern Conference. Miami is now tied in the loss column with the Bucks and third-place Sixers. The Boston Celtics are also looming at the No. 4 spot with just one game separating them and Miami. Of those four teams the Sixers have the weakest remaining schedule, followed by the Heat, while the Celtics have the toughest opponents left on their calendar. But strength of schedule won’t mean anything for the Heat if they can’t start stringing together some wins to try and hang on to that No. 1 spot in the East.
Up next they’ll take on a Brooklyn Nets team at home that should have both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the lineup. A loss in that game could really shake up the standings if the three teams behind the Heat come away with wins this weekend. Miami’s recent struggles ensures that the final two weeks of the regular season are going to be chaotic, as the top four teams in the East are in prime position to grab the No. 1 spot.