Knicks rally to steal a 111-105 win over Miami to tie the series 1-1

Jalen Brunson Knicks
New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson reacts after scoring a three-point basket in the first half of Game 2 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the Miami Heat, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Despite playing a Miami team without its star forward Jimmy Butler, the Knicks needed every second to escape with a 111-105 win at Madison Square Garden to tie the series at one game apiece before heading to Miami. 

With Butler out and both Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson cleared to play for New York, it seemed like the Knicks had a good shot to even the series before traveling down South, but nobody told the Heat, who played like a team with no pressure and nothing to lose, moving the ball with confidence and matching the Knicks’ usual physicality, often simply being the aggressor themselves.

New York looked to be on their backfoot for most of the game and seemed lost in their defensive rotations far too frequently. The Knicks’ usual rotations to close out on three-point shooters looked like scrambles of desperation as the Heat continued to knock down open looks all game, hitting 17 threes on 35.4% shooting from deep on 49 threes as Miami opted for “volume threes” without Butler in the lineup. 

Caleb Martin paced the Heat with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Gabe Vincent added 21 points, five assists, and two rebounds. The two made a combined eight three-pointers on the night. 

However, with New York down six with 6:30 left to play and seemingly on the brink of a catastrophic upset, head coach Tom Thibodeau made the decision to bring Josh Hart back into the game for RJ Barrett, sparking a 24-12 run that carried the Knicks across the finish line. 

The move was a surprise to some since Barrett was electric on offense for much of the night. He scored 16 of the Knicks’ 31 first-quarter points, hitting three shots from deep but also attacking the rim with the same physicality and assertiveness he’s displayed all postseason. He finished with 24 points, three rebounds, and three assists.

However, what Thibodeau wanted was defense and physicality by keeping Hart in with Quentin Grimes and Brunson in the backcourt. 

Thibodeau got what he wanted.  

With 5:30 to go in the fourth quarter, New York had one possession where they had four offensive rebounds, including three by Hartenstein, before Randle found Josh Hart in the corner for a three to tie the game at 96. On the very next possession, Brunson would nail a contested three to put the Knicks up 99-96 and cap off a 12-3 run. 

“Those were huge hustle plays,” said Thibodeau after the game. “We needed them. Those plays are unselfish, they’re winning plays.”

“It was kind of showing who we are,” asserted Hartenstein after the game. “No matter what happened, we just keep going.” 

It epitomized the effort of the Knicks down the stretch. A team that looked lifeless for much of the game turned into an absolute terror in the final five minutes, hunting down every loose ball with vicious energy. New York had seven offensive rebounds in just the last five and a half minutes and finished with 12 on the night. 

Hartenstein finished with nine rebounds off of the bench while Josh Hart had 14 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, and one steals. 

“In Josh’s case, he did everything,” said Thibodeau after the game. “That’s who he is. 

Caleb Martin drives against Isaiah Hartenstein of the Knicks
Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin (16) goes to the basket against New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) and forward Julius Randle (30) in the first half of Game 2 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Even with that turn of events, nothing came easy for the Knicks on Tuesday. 

Despite leading 108-100 with 36 seconds left, the Knicks allowed Gabe Vincent to make a layup and then after Randle committed an inbounds violation, Duncan Robinson knocked down a three to bring Miami down by three with just 23 seconds left. 

However, the Knicks were able to knock down their free throws and escape with a win. 

They were only in a position to do so in large part because of their hobbled stars. 

Randle returned from his two-game absence to score 25 points while snatching 12 rebounds and dishing out eight assists. He shot just 3-of-9 from deep but played with his typical physicality in the paint and when Miami sent double teams at him, he was able to swing the ball and get open looks for his teammates. 

“I thought he read the game way,” said Thibodeau. “And he attacked the rim, but when they’re on you spray.”

Jalen Brunson added 30 points with five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. It was the first 30-point playoff performance by a Knicks since Carmelo Anthony. 

But it didn’t start off looking that good for Brunson. He was attacked by Miami on the defensive end, often getting beaten off the drive, and he had only eight points at the half. Still, the point guard responded with a huge second half, scoring 22 points, including ten in the final seven minutes, to propel the Knicks to victory. 

“I started to feel sorry for myself,” Brunson admitted after the game. I said, I’m out here, let’s go hoop.”

Brunson was also 6-of-10 from beyond the arc as the Knicks shot 40% as a team from three on 40 attempts just two days after putting together an ice-cold effort where they shot 20.6% in a Game 1 loss. 

“JB’s been making plays all year,” said Randle after the game. “He’s not afraid of the moment.”

The win not only keeps the Knicks very much alive in the series but gives hobbled stars Brunson and Randle three full days to rest before Game 3 tips off in Miami on Saturday night. 

For more Knicks coverage, visit amNY Sports

Mitchell Robinson Knicks
Miami Heat center Cody Zeller, left, watches New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson fall over Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry (7) while fighting for a rebound in the first half of Game 2 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)