Heat in the Garden

“Orange and blue skies,” they said! “It’s going to be different in ‘The Gahhh-den,’” they said! “Knicks in 5,” they said! “Won’t be any hot plates when we put them in the Knickstape,” they said! Here we go again. Fresh off shocking the world, the Heat had to prove themselves all over again. You could feel the energy in New York as it has been a Dolphins decade since the Knicks have won a playoff series. Steven A Smith was absolutely losing his mind all weekend hyping up the crowds on his digital pep rallies. Working himself up into a frenzy of belief that because the Knicks won 3 incredibly tight games over the Heat during the regular season, that meant the Knicks were on a different level from the Heat.


All of the superstars were out in abundance in the front and second rows in Manhattan. Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Spike Lee, and Jack Harlow who had the pleasure of Kyle Lowry’s pillow soft bottom falling onto his lap were all out in their finest fits. The Miami Heat are still looked at as a lowly 8 seed as if they did not just shock the world with the biggest playoff upset in NBA history. As if they didn’t just send Giannis home early to sail on his catamarans in the pristine blue seas of the Aegean in April. As if the same people who claim to be experts that were still picking the Bucks when they were clearly in trouble down 3-1 didn’t watch Jimmy and the Heat close out Budenholzer’s tenure at Fiserv Forum after being down 16 points going into the 4th quarter. A wise man once told me, “a hard head makes for a soft bum, keep banging your head against the barrier of reality and sooner or later it will sink in.” The Heat don’t give you that luxury of progressively allowing you to accept them as legitimate threats. Himmy Butler is more of a “you gon’ learn today” kind of guy.


So here came the Heat in their Tiger Woods like “winning day” Sunday red threads. I had to mute the ESPN on ABC pregame broadcast because it felt like I was watching MSG Network with how in the tank they were for the Knicks. Where is TNT or Bally Sports when you need them? You could tell everyone who picked against the Heat in the first round also picked against the Heat in this round against New York as a default force of habit. “Miami is really good, they are shooting the ball well, and playing great defense but whoever they are playing is better than them because I illogically refuse to accept the evidence before me and by default I have to pick the other team.” The non-believers never believe, it’s their job to think that Miami’s confidence is irrational and their winning results inexplicable. That first round had to be a fluke, there’s no way they can repeat that feat against the 5 seed Knicks of NY, right?

Miami Heat guard Max Strus (31) sets up a play against New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) during the second half of Game 1 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Sunday, April 30, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

This perception of Miami is something that has plagued this franchise since their bubble run during the pandemic. Somehow the Heat actually drew criticism for being successful and winning games in that venue while the losers were given a pass for losing because of the venue. What kind of alternate reality are we living in? Make it make dollars if it doesn’t make sense. Does the eye test not matter anymore or are all teams locked into the limitations that the predictive metrics produced by the advanced stats tabulated during the regular season?


People picked the Heat to potentially lose to Indiana in the first round after TJ Warren turned into prime Jordan in the bubble. People picked the Bucks to sweep the Heat in the second round in the bubble. Experts picked the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals in the bubble to sweep or gentlemen sweep and folded themselves in pretzels to try to explain how this ragtag team of misfits from Miami took out blue bloods like Boston and Milwaukee. Then last season it was like déjà vu. Except last year the Heat were the one seed and the pundits still gave them no respect. Some people called them “the weakest one seed of all time.” Some basketball narrative spinners were even saying maybe Atlanta could shock the world in the first round against the Heat. Others were saying Philadelphia in the second round would definitely knock them off.

In the third round, Boston was definitely going to sweep the Heat or beat them in five just like they would have in the bubble if they had not played that year in the bubble. The Heat have defied all of those odds consistently in Jimmy Butler’s reign, and they continue to do the same this season despite having an absolutely horrendous regular season that almost saw them miss the playoffs and become a draft lottery team.

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) and forward Kevin Love (42) meet on the court during the first half of Game 1 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the New York Knicks, Sunday, April 30, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

What the New York Knicks have now realized is what the Heat have been trying to convince the rest of the world for the past 3 years. These guys are a legit threat. It does not matter how many undrafted players are on their roster (seven if you’re counting). It doesn’t matter that Jimmy Butler was not an All-Star this year. It does not matter that Bam is not really an offensively dominant player in the playoffs. It does not matter that Tyler Herro has broken his hand. It does not matter that Victor Oladipo has torn his patellar tendon. It doesn’t matter that UD expected to be retired by now but he is still looking to fight guys like Bobby Portis. No matter what the situation is, the Heat are the scrappy bunch that will always fight. They will not stop. They won’t relent and for the Knickerbockers to win this series, they will have to match the Heat in terms of their physical and mental toughness. They will have to match the Heat’s fight. They will have to match the Heat’s intensity. They will have to match the Heat’s insatiable desire to win because the Heat have been close to the mountaintop twice over the past four years and the pain and disappointment of not winning the championship drives them. They have the experience and the motivating pain in their battery packs.


In the game on Sunday, the Heat played very passively in the first half. It was a feeling out process. Jimmy Butler and Bam were not aggressive. They settled for a lot of three point attempts and we were on pace to shoot 68 three pointers based on the volume of threes that we took in the first quarter. Miami had a huge deficit with points in the paint as we allowed the Knicks to attack the key with impunity while not doing the same offensively. That all changed after Coach Spo reminded his team at halftime who the Knicks are and who we are. The Knicks are an elite paint scoring team, but the Heat have been an elite paint defense all season.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra works the bench during the second half of Game 1 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the New York Knicks, Sunday, April 30, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Heat came out in the third quarter and got busy. They locked down the paint and put in a no fly zone for the New York guards to come across there. Miami put three men on the ball and trapped Jalen Brunson to not let him get free, which forced him to take more outside jumpers that did not go in for him on Sunday. Miami shepherded J.R. Barrett outside to make him a three-point shooter and let Obi Toppi shoot three after three. He went 4 for 11 which was not bad, but we can live with that. What we can’t live with is them destroying us in the paint like they did in the first half of the game.


Kevin Love has become an absolute wonder signing for this Miami team as his three-point shooting prowess has returned to him at the perfect time in the season. Love’s screen setting has been marvelous and his defense has not been a liability. Not to mention K. Love’s outlet passing, which has been very Wes Unseld-like, have been creating lethal fast break relief buckets for us. With Aaron Rodgers watching in attendance, Love threw touchdown after touchdown to Strus and Jimmy Butler.  Jimmy B went up and made tough catches during the Heat’s immaculate run where they took the lead, seized the momentum, and never relinquished it. This run was truly special to watch because we saw Spo’s adjustments paying off huge dividends in real time while marveling at Miami’s show stopping execution.


In the fourth quarter the Heat knew how to close. The regular season was a tough one for Miami, but one thing that Heat did do a lot of this season was play many tight games in crunch time. Close games became part of the Miami brand this season and they developed a knack for delivering in clutch moments as they pulled out a league leading 15 wins after being down in the 4th quarter. They did it twice more in the Bucks series and again on Sunday with their 3rd quarter run. The Heat know how to execute at the end of pressurized games and they played the 4th quarter as such, even with Jimmy Butler no longer a factor after a scary moment where Josh Hart kicked his foot and caused him to roll his ankle viciously. While the Knicks were struggling trying to figure out who would take them home in crunch time, Kyle Lowry stepped up to the plate and knocked down some tough shots. It was a vintage performance for the Philly-raised Villanova man that stunned the stars in the crowd and had Stephen A much more measured in his post game analysis than he was in the pregame.

Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry (7) dribbles up the court during the first half of Game 1 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the New York Knicks, Sunday, April 30, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Knicks are now on notice that this is not the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bam is not Evan Mobley. This is Heat culture personified. The Heat not being favored in a single game this post season but winning 5 out of those 6 games is Heat culture personified. Alonzo Mourning quietly pumping his fist amongst a cacophony of screaming Knicks fans as his team was getting ready to clinch game one on the road, that is Heat culture personified. Dwyane Wade quietly sitting in the front row with his chic Miami Vice looking designer limo tinted shades covering up the fire in his eyes, that is Heat culture personified. Jimmy Butler rolling his ankle looking like he should be carried off into the locker room but staying on the court making his free throws and playing for an additional 5 minutes as a viable decoy to help his teammates carry him to victory, is Heat culture realized. Heat fans taking over Madison Square Garden at the end of the game audibly chanting “LET’S GO HEAT!!!” That is Miami Heat culture glorified. The Heat once again being underdogs for Tuesday night’s game 2 against the Knicks and loving the fact that they are perceived this way in Vegas is Heat culture codified.


So to my Knick fan friends who were so excited that the Heat beat the Bucks because it meant that they were going to the Eastern Conference Finals for sure since playing the 8 seed would definitely be easier than playing #1. Not so fast my friends! You have to be very careful what you ask for because, sometimes- you just might get it. Now you gotta go through Miami first, and that as you may now have finally realized, is not going to be as easy as you thought.

Leave a Replay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.


Hello fellow sports fans! My name is Joseph Jordan. Welcome to our page. Welcome to our website. I hope you are as deeply passionate about sports as I am. Julien and I have spent a lot of time writing our sports opinions on Facebook over the years. … Read More>>


Follow Us

Your The Sports. Your Inbox. Everyday