NEW YORK (AP) — Many NBA teams dread back-to-backs, especially when the first game was as tough as the one Miami had a night earlier.
“We don’t function like that,” guard Goran Dragic said. “We try to win every game that we can.”
Dragic had 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, and the Heat breezed to an easy victory a night after going down to the wire, beating the New York Knicks 105-88 on Wednesday night.
Reserve James Johnson added 18 points for the Heat, who tied Indiana for seventh place in the Eastern Conference as they continue a second-half surge that could carry them to the postseason.
Josh Richardson finished with 17 points as Miami (37-38) improved to 26-8 since an 11-30 start.
The Heat pulled out a 97-96 victory in Detroit on Tuesday on Hassan Whiteside’s tip-in at the buzzer, and coach Erik Spoelstra joked before the game he was glad they were right back at it so that victory wouldn’t be celebrated too long.
“Our guys understand what’s at hand and I want our guys to embrace this challenge and enjoy it,” Spoelstra said. “This was a tough back-to-back and we were able to get it done.”
Kristaps Porzingis had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Knicks, who were eliminated from postseason contention for the fourth straight season since winning the Atlantic Division in 2012-13.
“I thought we would be somewhere in the playoff race. Six, seven, eight seed. Right there,” Porzingis said. “But things didn’t go as we wanted.”
Carmelo Anthony was scoreless in the first half and finished with nine points on 4-of-12 shooting.
The Heat led 77-68 after three, then opened the fourth with an 11-2 run, featuring uncontested dunks by Whiteside, James Johnson and Tyler Johnson to open an 88-70 cushion.
The lead grew to 23 later in Miami’s sixth straight victory at Madison Square Garden. The teams meet again Friday in South Florida to complete the home-and-home series.
Derrick Rose sat out with a sore left knee as the Knicks fell for the ninth time in 11 games.
Heat: Miami’s 37 wins tie the most ever by a team that was 19 games under .500 at any point in a season. The 2013-14 Knicks finished 37-45 in the first season of their four-year playoff drought. … The Heat are 12-2 on Wednesdays, their best day of the week.
Knicks: Coach Jeff Hornacek said he thought Rose would play in the game in Miami on Friday. … Rookie Ron Baker, starting for Rose, was 2 for 12 and missed all five 3-pointers.
The NBA’s independent medical expert determined that Joakim Noah was physically able to play, allowing his 20-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy to begin with Wednesday’s game. Noah was recovering from Feb. 27 left knee surgery when the penalty was announced Saturday and he couldn’t start serving it until he was deemed healthy. Noah will be allowed to practice and travel with the team, but can’t be in the arena during games. The center will miss the last eight games of this season and first 12 of next, but Hornacek said having Noah in practice will be beneficial.
“Some of the things that we’re going over now toward the end of the season, we’re trying to emphasize are maybe a little different than when he was here four weeks ago,” Hornacek said. “So, yeah, any time he’s at practice, it’s going to be good for not only him but the other guys, too.”
Anthony took just two shots in the first half. The All-Star forward, the Knicks’ leading scorer, said after the game he didn’t know what his role was, but believes it’s to assist the young players on the roster.
“I’m just here to kind of help those guys and keep those guys kind of positive and motivated,” he said.
“I don’t think me going out there trying to score 30 and 40 every night and playing that way is going to help them out at this point.”
The teams play Friday in Miami.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.