The Miami Heat have begun regaining their form since Jimmy Butler’s return.
Butler scored eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter to help the Heat beat the New York Knicks 109-103 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
The Heat will look to do it again on Tuesday night in the rematch between the two teams in Miami.
“I think when you look at their numbers when Jimmy plays versus when he doesn’t play, it’s two different teams,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said about Butler, whom he coached during his stints in Chicago and Minnesota.
“So I think now that they’ve gotten healthier they’re playing at a pretty high level.”
Before Butler returned from a 10-game absence due to health and safety protocols, Miami had a 105.1 offensive and 111.0 defensive rating per NBA Advanced Stats.
With Butler the past five games, the Heat have a 113.0 offensive rating and 108.1 defensive rating. Butler is averaging 21.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 8.0 assists and shooting 44.6 percent in 33.6 minutes per game. Butler finished with 10 rebounds and nine assists and shot 11-of-12 from the free throw line on Sunday.
The Heat have used 16 different lineups in 23 games after using only 15 all of last season.
Miami beat the Bulls without Goran Dragic (sprained left ankle), who did not make the trip to New York, and was already without Moe Harkless (left thigh contusion), Avery Bradley (right calf strain), Meyers Leonard (left shoulder surgery) and Chris Silva (left hip flexor strain).
Bam Adebayo (20.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists) led the Heat with 24 points as six players scored in double figures including Kendrick Nunn, who scored 16 points and has averaged 18.3 points while shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from 3-point range over his past nine games.
“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us, and we don’t want any pity,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “If any organization or any locker room or any team can handle all of this, it’s us.”
Julius Randle finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists and Reggie Bullock scored a season-high 21 points, but the Knicks had their two-game winning streak snapped.
Rookie Immanuel Quickley is averaging 16.1 points over his past eight games. But after scoring in double figures in four out of five games, Quickley has played only 14.3 minutes over his past three, averaging 8.7 points, 2.3 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game.
Help is on the way for New York, however, after it acquired Derrick Rose in a trade with the Pistons for Dennis Smith Jr. and a 2021 second-round pick.
“Thibs is getting the band back together,” said Heat forward Jimmy Butler, who played with Rose in Chicago.
Rose, who has averaged 14.2 points, 4.2 assists and has shot 42.9 percent overall and 33.3 percent from 3-point range in 15 games, reunites with his former coach Tom Thibodeau in what will be his second stint in New York.
“I’ve known (Rose) my whole career — we came in together,” said Taj Gibson, another former teammate of Rose in Chicago. “He’s a competitor. He’s a great guy.”
Rose has been dealing with a left knee issue of late and Nerlens Noel (knee) also did not play against Miami.
–Field Level Media