5 lessons learned from Knicks’ season-extending win against Heat in Game 5

Jalen Brunson and Quentin Grimes, two guards for New York, each play all 48 minutes and make crucial contributions in the fourth quarter.

There can be no holding back when you’re on the verge of elimination. The New York Knicks’ season was on the line, so on Wednesday night, Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat featured both of its starting guards for the whole 48 minutes. And despite getting little sleep, they all had a strong fourth quarter.

In the fourth session, Jalen Brunson contributed 10 of his team’s 28 points, and Quentin Grimes made the game’s most important defensive play. The Heat had trimmed the Knicks’ 19-point advantage to two points, but New York refused to let their season end, winning 112-103 to send the series back to Miami.

All 48 minutes :

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In the regular season, the New York bench was excellent, but this series has not been kind to them. Immanuel Quickley, the runner-up for the Kia Sixth Man of the Year, has missed the previous two games, so it has also been shorthanded. With Brunson off the court through Game 4, the Knicks have been outscored by 21 points (29.1 per 100 possessions) in 30 minutes.

To address the issue, Thibodeau decided to keep Brunson on the court for the entire game. Brunson, the Knicks’ star, recorded an impressive stat line of 38 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. He made a crucial pick-and-roll pull-up three-pointer, extending the Knicks’ lead by seven points with 7:30 remaining. In addition, he nailed an isolation pull-up two-pointer, giving them a six-point lead with 4:10 left. Brunson showcased his endurance and remained impactful in the fourth quarter.

Although Brunson may be a defensive liability and Thibodeau is a defense-first coach, the latter was about as effusive about his star player as a coach can be following a strenuous and demanding performance.

“The thing I love about him is you prepare yourself for that,” Thibodeau said. “I’ve never seen anyone work the way he does. And he does it in front of everyone. He does it in our gym, does it all summer long. He does it at a game speed. He never has to adjust in a game because of the way he prepares himself. He conditions himself to play big minutes. Just a tremendous leader.”

successful second quarter

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The Heat won the second quarter by at least five points in each of the first four games of this series. The Knicks were down 10 in the first 12 minutes of the game after scoring just 14 points on 22 first-quarter possessions. If that success had continued, they would have been in a serious hole at halftime.

But the Knicks went on to score 18 points in the second quarter on their opening seven possessions, converting a 10-point deficit into a six-point advantage. Involving Duncan Robinson in a few pick-and-rolls early in the era was one of the keys to their success. During New York’s opening possession of the second, Obi Toppin, who was being covered by Robinson, passed the ball to Brunson. Brunson then dribbled toward Robinson and lured Kyle Lowry away from the strong side corner, leaving Grimes unguarded.

The Knicks concluded the second quarter with 36 points on 24 possessions, which was matched with the third quarter of Game 4 as their most productive quarter of the postseason. They subsequently stretched their advantage to 19 points by scoring 23 points on their opening 11 possessions of the third.

No. 2 target

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In Game 5, the Knicks had other targets than Robinson. In fact, if Robinson was able to contain the pick-and-roll to some extent, Brunson was content to simply attack his primary defender. Gabe Vincent was frequently the first line of defense, and Brunson attacked him quite mercilessly. With 4:10 remaining, Brunson faced Vincent in an iso situation, and Brunson struggled to keep Vincent in front of him without fouling him.

Kyle Lowry performed better. But when Lowry committed his fifth foul with a little over six minutes left in the fourth, it was unpleasant in more ways than one. First, the Knicks’ possession froze on the edge as there were only 2.6 seconds left on the shot clock. Second, it allowed Vincent to rejoin the game, and the Knicks immediately attacked him and scored another big basket to hold the Heat at bay.

Vincent, who was protecting Barrett, had successfully gotten past a few Mitchell Robinson screens. But when Jimmy Butler stepped in to aid, no one was there for him, and Robinson scored a slam. A few minutes later, Adebayo doubled an iso on Vincent and sent Brunson to the foul line. Two possessions later, Barrett drove to attack Vincent, Butler once more assisted, and Isaiah Hartenstein scored on a tip-in.

“It’s not a shocker what they’re going to try to do,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, adding that his team just has to figure out “how to get the job done defensively. I think that’s one of our greatest characteristics. Yeah, there’s schematics. We’ll work on Xs and Os. We’ll have some kind of strategy. But at the end of the day, we have incredible competitors in the locker room. You just figure out how to get the job done.”

Discrepancy in free throws

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In the first four games of the series, the Heat had an edge in turnovers, free throws, and rebounds despite both teams struggling with their shooting. However, in Game 5, the Knicks committed a staggering 19 turnovers, the highest in any game. Although New York had more offensive rebounds, Miami still outscored them in second-chance points, winning 21-12.

In Game 5, the Knicks had a big edge with 40 free throw attempts compared to the Heat’s 19. It was the Knicks’ highest number of free throw attempts this season (out of 92 games). The Heat had multiple players, including Vincent, struggling to contain Brunson without fouling, and the Knicks’ point guard accumulated 10 fouls.

In Game 4 and Game 5, deliberate fouls were committed, including some missed free throws by Robinson. In the fourth quarter, the Heat resorted to a hack-a-Mitch strategy, intentionally fouling him away from the ball to disrupt the Knicks’ attack. Despite this, Robinson managed to convert three out of four deliberate fouls. To avoid further risk, Thibodeau replaced him with Hartenstein.

Open opportunities

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Despite both teams struggling with shooting, the score from beyond the arc was tied at 39-39. The Knicks shot 13 for 34 (38%) and exceeded their usual long-range success rate in the playoffs. The Heat, however, continued to struggle with long-range shots. After going 13-for-43 (30%) in Game 5, their series shooting percentage dropped to 31%. Many of those 30 misses were wide-open opportunities.


As the Knicks surged to a 19-point lead in the third quarter, Kevin Love (0-for-7 from deep) missed two prime opportunities. One came from near the top of the floor after a back-screen, and the other from the left corner when the Knicks’ defense was in disarray.

Robinson’s 5-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc was crucial for the Heat, but he missed two pivotal jumpers in the fourth quarter. The first was a wide-open look that almost went in. The second was a side-step three-pointer after Butler drew double coverage.

“I really felt that we needed to get it to at least a tie, or one point, or take the lead,” Spoelstra said. “And I think that could have changed things. But you have to give them credit. They made plays when they needed to.”

“There were a bunch of wide-open ones. But I think the tenor of the game was probably more in their favor.”The Knicks still need two victories, but the Heat can win Game 6 at home on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But a comeback from a 3-1 deficit has been achieved before, and the Knicks are aware of the precedent.

“This is something that can be done,” Barrett told MSG Network. “It’s been done before 13 times.”

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