Julius Randle, Knicks struggle in blowout Game 3 loss to Jimmy Butler, Heat

MIAMI — Jimmy Butler is back and has reinforced his greatness. The Knicks and Julius Randle? They just folded.

Saving a terrible time to produce one of its most anemic offensive performances, New York was crushed by the Heat, 105-86, leaving Saturday with a 2-1 series deficit.

Butler made the difference with 28 points and a jolt of intensity after participating in Game 2. But he wasn’t the Knicks’ biggest problem Saturday.

They are mostly to blame for the Biscayne Bay failure.

“We paid the price,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.

The Knicks, trailing wire-to-wire, shot just 34 percent overall while missing (protect your eyes, kids) 32 of 40 3-point attempts. Misfiring was widespread.

Julius Randle, moving at ¾ speed in his abysmal 38 minutes, scored just 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting. His play ended with a lollygag back on defense with about a minute left, allowing Cody Zeller an open dunk in transition.

“I have to find a way to play better,” he said.

Jalen Brunson, clearly working through injuries to both legs, missed all five 3-pointers. The Knicks bench, a problem since the beginning of the series, was once again ineffective, with Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes combining to miss 12 of 16 three-pointers. Quickley also sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter when Bam Adebayo dug into the guard’s leg.

So there were no positives for the Knicks on Saturday. It was a paint wipe to the perimeter.

Butler’s impact, meanwhile, was immediate. He scored on Miami’s first possession, selling a pump fake before converting a floater. Stacked the box score in the first quarter – 10 points, two blocks, two rebounds, one assist, 5-for-9 shooting.

“They came out tough, they started out physical,” said RJ Barrett, who missed 11 of his 16 shots as the Knicks were outscored by 32 points in his 25 minutes. “Jimmy had like eight points in the first two minutes or something. They just came out strong. They gave a punch and we battled throughout the game, but they got off to a great start and had a good game.”

Somehow, the Knicks never recovered from Butler’s initial onslaught. They trailed by double digits in the final 35 and a half minutes.

“[Butler’s] he’s been the best player in the world lately, so I can’t be mad that we have him on the floor,” said Heat guard Max Strus, who finished with 19 points. “Having always helps. We just try to feed on whatever he gives us. And everyone is just trying to help him. It was so great. We just want to do our job and be great for him.”

Butler also sprained his right ankle — the same one that kept him out of Game 2 — while falling on the field on a drive in the third quarter. He continued to play and move well in the fourth quarter, helping to seal the blowout.

“I’m comfortable,” Butler said, “and confident.”

Butler had six days to heal from the initial injury, skipping Game 2, and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was well aware of the challenge. Butler showed up and fired up the notoriously fickle Miami crowd and arrived fashionably late on Saturday.

The Knicks had no answer.

“I got it down to 10 a couple of times, but then I could never get the next one,” Thibodeau said. “That’s the hard thing. And they played from the advantage the whole game. Give a team a cushion, it’s hard. Every time it looks like we’re in trouble getting back into it, we haven’t done the next one.”


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