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Knicks show defensive consistency they lacked this season in win over Heat

New York Knicks' Ron Baker, right, celebrates with

New York Knicks' Ron Baker, right, celebrates with teammates during their 98-64 win against the Miami Heat in an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 31, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach) Photo Credit: AP / Joel Auerbach

MIAMI — The Knicks again will undergo changes after missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season. One will be on the defensive end.

Coach Jeff Hornacek said they need to simplify how they defend teams next season, and Derrick Rose agreed that the schemes were too complicated.

“Yeah, we were trying to figure out everything at once,” Rose said before the Knicks beat the Heat, 98-94, on Friday night. “Trying to figure out who’s going to be out there. There were a lot of things we were trying to figure out this year. Overall, we didn’t help each other.”

That wasn’t the case Friday night. Without Carmelo Anthony (sore lower back) and Rose (sore left knee), the Knicks shared the ball on offense and moved their bodies on defense.

Leading 96-94 in the closing seconds, the Knicks had a chance to ice the game, but Willy Hernangomez missed from the baseline with 12.9 seconds left. The rebound went out of bounds off Kristaps Porzingis.

Goran Dragic had a chance to tie it with a driving layup, but as it was about to rim off, Heat center Hassan Whiteside touched the ball while it was in the cylinder and was called for offensive basket interference with 7.1 seconds left. Courtney Lee sealed the win with two free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining.

Porzingis led the Knicks (29-47) with 22 points and Lee added 20. Ron Baker had 10 points and six assists.

Dragic scored 22 points and Whiteside had 17 points and 16 rebounds for the Heat, which shot 4-for-18 in the fourth quarter.The Knicks held Miami to 19 fourth-quarter points.

“We got a full effort, helping each other out, really getting after it, not many easy shots,” Hornacek said. “Every guy on the court played defense.”

Too much blame has been put on the triangle offense for the Knicks’ underachieving season. Confusion reigned on both sides of the court, but more so defensively.

Associate head coach Kurt Rambis was appointed defensive coordinator early in the season, but things never turned around. The players expressed nearly as much frustration about the defense as with having to play the triangle.

It seems Rambis will remain in that position. He is close friends with Knicks president Phil Jackson, and Hornacek said there is no plan to look for a defensive coach this offseason.

“The defensive schemes, maybe we have to simplify it for them,” Hornacek said before the game. “We’ll take a look at all that stuff, but not necessarily needing a defensive guy.’’

Countless breakdowns, as well as a lack of effort, contributed to the Knicks giving up 108.4 points per game before Friday night.

Rose, who played for a defensive tactician in Tom Thibodeau with the Bulls, recognized early that defense was the Knicks’ weakness.

“I’ve been saying that the entire year,” said Rose, one of the defensive culprits. “We weren’t consistent defensively this year and it shows with our record.”

The Knicks can look no further than their opponent to see what working hard and playing together can accomplish.

The Heat, once 11-30, now is tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference at 37-39. Miami has done it with defense, a strong culture and a strong coaching staff.

“I think we’re more talented, but it shows that basketball is a team sport,” Rose said.

“They had some guys hurt, but they started the year just playing basketball,” Hornacek said. “Then all of a sudden they found if they get after it defensively the whole game, they can have a chance to win games. Then they get their confidence going and get after it even more. It’s a different level, a different mentality that you have to have to win in this league.”

New York Sports