MIAMI — The Miami Heat showed why they may win the Eastern Conference and the Knicks showed why they won’t make the playoffs at status quo.
Last season, the Knicks finished ahead of the Heat in the standings, and that just seems eons ago.
The Knicks were pummeled from the opening tap Wednesday at FTX Arena. Julius Randle was again a train wreck, and Miami’s defense was its swarming best as the first-place Heat (31-17) recorded a 110-96 thrashing of the Knicks.
The Knicks (23-26) have lost five of six and finish a rugged three-game road trip in Milwaukee on Friday.
Randle was badly outplayed by new Heat forward P.J. Tucker (20 points, 7 of 9 from the field).
Randle was lackluster and confused on both ends. He wound up with 11 points on 5 of 12 shooting, missing all three of his 3-point shots and committing four turnovers. Randle was an abominable minus-34 in his 27 minutes of action and didn’t see the court in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t just Randle. The Knicks starting backcourt of Kemba Walker (seven points, 2 of 8) and Evan Fournier (2 of 7, seven points) were invisible.
With a gaggle of Knicks fans populating the downtown arena, the road team fell behind by 30 points in the third quarter. The Knicks were outclassed and out-hustled from the get go.
It was 11-2 before Tom Thibodeau finally called timeout and 30-16 after the first period with the Pat Riley-inspired Miami defense ferocious.
It never got much better. Miami’s Jimmy Butler sliced through the Knicks’ defense for 22 points and sharpshooters Duncan Robinson (25 points) and Tyler Herro killed the Knicks from deep, combining to shoot 10 of 17 from 3.
Randle was off his game again in the opening half, with four points on 2 of 6 shooting and three turnovers.
In the third quarter he just got worse. He shot an airball on a corner 3 leading to a Heat 3-pointer. Then he either passed or lost the ball against the bottom of the backboard, leading to another Miami 3 in transition.
It made the score 70-48 with 9:24 left in the third. Thibodeau called timeout but kept Randle in the contest.
Compounding the anti-Randle sentiment was Obi Toppin’s big first half. He was active on the boards, hit a 3-pointer, drove strong to the basket for a layup and put down a circus alley-oop dunk on a fast break with Alec Burks as the deliverer.
In six minutes, Toppin scored seven points — 3 of 3 from the field. He was a plus-4 to Randle’s minus-17 at intermission.
Down 23 points, newcomer Cam Reddish, who did not play Monday in Cleveland, came in for garbage time with 9:50 left and promptly threw a lob for Toppin over his head and out of bounds but later swished a 3-pointer. He finished with six points — 2 of 6 from the field.
Even if the Knicks don’t seem ready for battle, the Heat always get up for this longtime rivalry. They swept the Knicks all three games last season.
“C’mon you know my boss,’’ Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said of Riley. “We lived those moments. They were showing a bunch of highlights of those old Heat-Knicks series. It feels like a different lifetime for me because I was watching all of those from the video room. They were intense. It’s not like those emotions leave you.’’