NEW YORK -- On the surface, it appeared the Miami Heat were playing effective defense at halftime. They thought otherwise when the topic was discussed during the break.
Then it was a matter of turning words into actions, and the Heat did so by holding the New York Knicks to 35 percent shooting in the final 24 minutes of a 105-88 victory Wednesday night.
"We came out playing better defense the second half," Miami center Hassan Whiteside said. "Guys came in here, talked about it in the locker room and went to go do it. You can do talk about it but when you add action to it, it's a big difference."
"We had to go back to us," Heat reserve forward James Johnson added. "We had to go back to our details, what we do best and our identity, which is play defense."
The Heat pulled away in a span of about 6 1/2 minutes bridging the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth. During those minutes, Miami surged ahead with a 17-5 run, holding the Knicks to 2 of 13 from the field.
The improved defense occurred less than 24 hours after Whiteside's tip-in had given the Heat a dramatic one-point win over the Detroit Pistons. Instead of accepting the lulls on the second night of a back-to-back, the Heat (37-38) took care of things and headed back to Miami tied with the Indiana Pacers for seventh place in the Eastern Conference, 1 1/2 games up on the Chicago Bulls.
"We came in at 2 a.m.; it's a back-to-back," Miami point guard Goran Dragic said. "We don't have some key players. Some teams can put an X (and say) we're going to lose this game. We don't function like that. We try to win every game."
Miami improved to 26-8 since losing 30 of the first 41 games. The Heat matched the 2013-14 Knicks for the most wins when being at least 19 games under .500 at any point. They did it by getting steady performances on offense.
Dragic led the Heat with 20 points and nine assists, and he contributed seven rebounds, too. James Johnson added 18 points and seven rebounds, and Josh Richardson had 17 points and a career-high five steals.
Whiteside nearly recorded his 52nd double-double, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds despite foul trouble as the Heat shot 47.6 percent and hit nearly half of their 3-pointers.
While the Heat are in a crowded playoff field, the Knicks were unable to get consecutive wins for the first time since Dec. 20-22 and were officially eliminated from playoff contention. New York (28-47) is 12-34 in its last 46 games and will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season and 13th time in the 17 seasons since Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing was traded in September 2000.
"It was hard," Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said. "Even tonight, even though we won't be playing in the playoffs, it is still hard, especially when you still care about the game and still want to win games despite the situation. That makes it 10 times harder."
Porzingis led the Knicks with 20 points and eight rebounds, and rookie Willy Hernangomez added 12 points. Anthony took two shots in the first half and was held to nine points, marking the third time this season he was limited to fewer than 10.
"It is not (only) this game," Porzingis said. "There have been a lot of ups and downs throughout the season."
Miami closed the first half with a 12-4 spurt over the final 5:19 to get a 49-41 lead. The Heat took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by James Johnson with 3:38 left and ended the half with a 3-point shot by Richardson with 3.6 seconds left.
By the end of the third, Miami held a 77-68 lead despite Whiteside sitting for the final 8 1/2 minutes with four fouls. Miami put it away in the opening three minutes of the fourth, when it opened the quarter with a thunderous one-handed dunk by James Johnson and built an 86-70 lead on a putback by Okaro White with nine minutes remaining.
NOTES: New York G Derrick Rose (sore left knee) sat out after he was limping late in the second half of Monday's win over the Detroit Pistons. Coach Jeff Hornacek said Rose would have played if the Knicks were in contention for the playoffs. ... The NBA released the report on the final two minutes of Miami's 97-96 win in Detroit on Tuesday, decided on C Hassan Whiteside's tip-in before the buzzer. The report stated Whiteside and G Rodney McGruder committed fouls on the sequence before the final shot. ... New York C Joakim Noah was cleared to be on the active roster and began serving his 20-game suspension for testing positive for a banned supplement. Noah can practice and travel with the team but must vacate the arena two hours before the opening tip. ... Miami G Dion Waiters (sprained left ankle) missed his sixth straight game. ... New York F Lance Thomas (sore right hip) missed his fourth consecutive game.