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Rozier’s 34 help power the Heat past the Knicks in 109-99 statement victory

MIAMI – A season searching for a statement victory found one Tuesday night, with the Miami Heat holding off a New York Knicks rally for a 109-99 decision at Kaseya Center.

Uneven at home this season, and with a losing record against teams with winning records, the Heat rode the hot hand of guard Terry Rozier to their seventh victory in their last 10 games.

“It was really good to see us respond to the competition,” coach Erik Spoelstra said, “and find a way to win at the end.”

The victory kept the Heat even in the loss column with the Indiana Pacers for the sixth and final direct berth into the best-of-seven first-round of the playoffs.

Rozier closed with 34 points, at 10 of 15 from the field, including 8 of 11 on 3-pointers. He was supported by 17 points from Jimmy Butler, 15 from Bam Adebayo and 14 from Haywood Highsmith.

But it was Rozier who swung the score.

“Somebody does have to score,” Spoelstra said of the tightly contested defensive showdown, “this is not just a cage match.”

The Knicks got 31 points from Donte DiVincenzo and 24 from Miles McBride, with Jalen Brunson scoring 20, but doing it on 5-of-18 shooting.

“More than anything,” Spoelstra said, “this was an introduction to our new players to Heat-Knicks.”

While the Heat remained without Tyler Herro, the Knicks continued in the absences of OG Anunoby and Julius Randle.

The Heat entered 17-24 against teams at .500 or better and 19-17 at home, with the victory lifting them to 42-33, assuring another winning season in the Pat Riley era.

Next up for the Heat is a Thursday night showdown against the Philadelphia 76ers, who on Tuesday night got center Joel Embiid back in their lineup.

That made Tuesday significant, Adebayo said.

“It’s just a momentum builder,” he said.

Five Degrees of Heat from Tuesday night’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat led 34-22 after the first period, 58-43 at halftime and 83-73 going into the fourth.

But, later, a 12-0 Knicks run capped by a layup by former Heat forward Precious Achiuwa then tied it 92-92 with 3:59 to play.

From there, a Highsmith 3-pointer put the Heat up 95-92, with three Rozier free throws, an Adebayo tip-in and a driving Butler basket producing a 102-94 Heat lead with 1:52 left.

A DiVincenzo 3-pointer play followed, as did an Adebayo jumper, leaving the Heat up 104-97 with 62 seconds to play.

A driving Brunson basket cut the Heat lead to 104-99 with 57 seconds to play, before Rozier splashed in his eighth and final 3-pointer of the night to seal it.

“When they came back,” Spoelstra said, “you hear the groaning, or hear the smattering of the Knicks fans, you can either feel sorry for yourself or you can either respond.”

2. Scary Terry: Rozier picked up where he left off in Sunday night’s 27-point performance with 12 first-quarter points that included a 3-of-4 start on 3-pointers that included a four-point play.

He then moved to 20 points by halftime, including 5 of 6 on 3-pointers over the first two periods.

He was up to 28 points on 12 shots going into the fourth.

He then returned with 7:40 left and the Heat up 92-81, helping put it away with his six late points.

“I felt like I  could score the ball pretty well, and it’s just one of those nights,” Rozier said. “Credit goes to my teammates and coaches in allowing me to be me.”

Credit also came from his teammates.

“This was a different mode he was in today,” Adebayo said.

3. Active, engaged: With the calendar flipping to April, Butler, on schedule, was active and engaged.

Not only did he take the initial defensive assignment on Brunson, but he was up to 13 points and five assists by halftime, including a 3-point conversion.

Still, with the Knicks packing the pack, Butler was limited with his attacks, adding just two more points in the third period, at 7 of 9 on 3-pointers at that stage.

Butler added six assists and five rebounds.

4. Rotation alteration: While the Heat remained with a starting lineup of Butler, Adebayo, Rozier, Duncan Robinson and Nikola Jovic, the rotation was altered.

Not only was Caleb Martin back after being given Sunday off in Washington off to rest a sore right ankle, but Kevin Love returned after being sidelined since Feb. 29 with a bruised right heel.

Love then converted his first two 3-point attempts.

With Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Highsmith the other reserves in the primary rotation, it shuffled Thomas Bryant, Delon Wright and Patty Mills out of the mix.

Love closed with eight points, three rebounds and three assists in 15:30.

“I feel fresh,” Love said afterward. “My body feels really good.”

The contribution, Spoelstra said, was significant.

“Kevin gives us something different, it spaces the floor in a different way,” Spoelstra said. “And he just has such great veteran experience for these kind of games.”

5. The Brunson burner: After scoring 91 points in his previous two games, including a 61-point performance last week against the San Antonio Spurs, Brunson had six at halftime on 2-of-8 shooting.

Brunson was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for March earlier in the day.

Brunson entered the fourth quarter with 14 points on 3-of-12 shooting, with Highsmith supporting Butler in the defensive effort and Adebayo stepping up on switches.

While Brunson closed 9 of 10 from the line, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said there should have been more.

“He’s getting fouled, he’s getting fouled, he’s getting fouled, he’s getting fouled, he’s getting fouled, he’s getting fouled,” Thibodeau said.

From Adebayo’s perspective, it was about “not letting him get in a rhythm.”

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