Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat put on a defensive clinic in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks, holding them to just 88 points and a paltry 40% shooting from the field. Butler led the way with his trademark intensity and disruptive instincts, but it was a team effort all around, as the Heat swarmed the Knicks with traps and double-teams, contested every shot, and closed out effectively on shooters. The end result was a dominant 20-point victory that put Miami on the doorstep of a series sweep.
One of the keys to the Heat’s defensive success was their ability to limit the production of Julius Randle, the Knicks’ All-Star power forward. Randle had been a force in the first two games of the series, averaging 24 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists per game, but he was neutralized by Miami’s focused and aggressive defense. Bam Adebayo drew the primary assignment on Randle and used his quickness and length to deny him easy looks and force him into tough shots. The Heat also sent timely doubles and traps at Randle, making it hard for him to get comfortable and build momentum. By the end of the game, Randle had scored just 15 points on 6-of-17 shooting, and had committed six turnovers.
Another factor that contributed to the Heat’s defensive lockdown was their ability to snuff out New York’s perimeter scoring threats. In Game 2, the Knicks had hit 15 three-pointers and kept themselves in the game despite Randle’s struggles. But in Game 3, Miami held them to just 8-of-31 shooting from beyond the arc, suffocating their shooters with frenetic rotations and contested closeouts. The Heat’s guards and wings did an excellent job of staying attached to New York’s shooters and blowing up their handoffs and screens, while also swarming the paint to prevent easy drives and finishes. As a result, the Knicks’ offense looked out of sync and disjointed for most of the game, unable to generate any sustained stretches of success.
Despite the lopsided scoreline, the Heat know that they can’t get complacent or underestimate the Knicks in Game 4. New York is a gritty and determined team that won’t go down without a fight, and they still have plenty of talent and tenacity on their roster. But Miami’s defensive dominance in Game 3 was a testament to their focus and execution, and if they can replicate that effort in Game 4 and beyond, they could be a dangerous team to face in the later rounds of the playoffs. The Heat have always been a team built on toughness and defense, and in Game 3, they showed why that formula can still be so effective in today’s NBA.