The trade looked good. But not good enough.
It didn’t result in a victory, but Derrick Rose juiced the Knicks’ second unit in his debut Tuesday, playing alongside rookie guard Immanuel Quickley in the backcourt.
Coach Tom Thibodeau, though, chose not to close with Rose and the Knicks suffered a heartbreaking 98-96 defeat at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena.
Rose’s debut in his second Knicks’ stint was a lively success as he rattled home 14 points with three assists in 20 minutes. Rose also registered a block and a steal after not having so much as a shootaround practice with his new club. He shot 5 of 9 — 2 of 3 from 3-point range.
Trailing 98-96, the Knicks had one last gasp but RJ Barrett couldn’t convert a driving layup in the final seconds, though he appeared to have a step on defender extraordinaire Jimmy Butler.
“I thought I had a really good look — a layup going to my strong hand,’’ Barrett said. “I just got to finish those.’’
The Knicks still have to get the chemistry right in wake of the Rose trade with the Pistons. They led by 82-76 after three quarters but couldn’t hold off the Heat.
It wasn’t Rose’s fault, though he got a little sloppy early in the fourth quarter, with a turnover and getting an ill-advised shot blocked. That prompted Thibodeau to use starting point guard Elfrid Payton to close, though Quickley entered in the final minute.
Asked why he didn’t close with Rose, Thibodeau said, “He just got here today. So we’re still working our way through things. I just felt we needed people who know what we’re doing. I didn’t want to put him in a situation like that.”
For his part, Rose, delighted to be back with Thibodeau, said he wasn’t fully pleased with his performance because of his early-fourth-quarter mistakes.
“To tell you the truth, I’m a perfectionist,’’ Rose said. “I’m thinking about the turnovers I had in the fourth. It sucks, but we have room to grow and remind myself it’s the first game. I know I’m a winner. That’s why it stings losing this game.’’
Quickley’s minutes weren’t affected as expected, but his shot was. He was just 1 of 8 from the field before hitting a key floater with 40 seconds left to cut the deficit to a point.
The odd man out as expected was Austin Rivers, who did not play but managed to illegally walk onto the court to chat with Butler before key free throws in the final 10 seconds.
Julius Randle, coincidence or not, also never got into his All-Star groove, shooting 4 of 18 for 12 points in his worst game this season.
Barrett (13 points), benched late in the previous game against Miami, did not have a particularly good game either despite having a chance to be the last-second hero.
He still thinks the Rose addition is going to make the Knicks better.
“He brought great energy,’’ Barrett said. “He was making the right plays for the team really. He brought a lot of leadership and was talking to us all game. It’s something we really appreciate. It’s great to have a guy like that on our team.’’
It was a tie game at 94-94 when Randle shot an open 18-footer from up top that hit off the back iron. Miami’s Tyler Herro, their NBA bubble playoff hero, drained a 3-pointer with 1:04 left. After Quickley’s basket, Randle drove and missed an off-balance jumper from the right side with six seconds left.
Payton played well, too, scoring 18 points with four assists, and his job seems safe.
The Knicks, who lost both ends of the home-and-home to fall to 11-15, will have to get the chemistry down pat.
Rose and Quickley entered the game as a tandem with 3:27 left in the first quarter. Down eight points, the duo went to work very quickly and helped stage a 25-5 run.
Thibodeau loved the whole second unit.
“I think you see it often when you have multiple point guards out on the floor, it gives you another ball-handler, secondary ball-handler and you can include Alec [Burks], too,’’ Thibodeau said. “Their versatility allows them to actually blend with both groups. So I think we’ll see some of that as we go forward as well.’’
Off the bat, Rose found Quickley for a 3-pointer. Quickley found Rose for a 3-pointer. Rose made a steal then drove the baseline and made a sensational pass to Burks for a corner 3-pointer. Then Rose hit rookie Obi Toppin off a pick-and-roll for the slam.
In Rose’s and Quickley’s first 7:13 as a backup backcourt tandem, they were a plus-20.
The Rose-Quickley-Burks-Toppin-Nerlens Noel quintet impressed the Knicks coach.
“I think the bench played really well,’’ Thibodeau said. “That’s important. Nerlens gave us good minutes. Obi, Quick. I thought that whole group played really well together. It really got us going.’’
Before the game, Thibodeau swooned over Rose, calling him still an “elite’’ player, adding, “He’s telling me this is as healthy as he’s been.’’