Those were the Knicks we remember from the regular season.
The ones that outworked their opponents, defended with passion and purpose, the ones who were gritty and just tougher than whomever they played. Those Knicks had been missing for a few games but were back for Game 5 at home Wednesday.
New York’s 19-point lead nearly evaporated in the fourth but the Knicks hit their free throws and hung on for the 112-103 win. The Heat still lead the series 3-2 as things head back to Miami for Game 6 on Friday night.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
1) Once again, it’s all about Jalen Brunson
Sign 3,847 of how much Jalen Brunson means to this Knicks team — with their season on the line he played a full 48 minutes on Wednesday.
Those were meaningful minutes, too — 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. As he has been all season Brunson was at the heart of everything that worked for the Knicks.
Jalen Brunson came up BIG in the must-win Game 5.
Knicks force a Game 6 👀#NBAPlayoffs presented by @GooglePixel_US pic.twitter.com/rgeRNtixbE
— NBA (@NBA) May 11, 2023
“What can you say about the guy? He’s just incredible,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of Brunson.
You can say Brunson didn’t get the All-NBA nod the Knicks felt he deserved. He finished ninth in guard voting — in an incredibly deep pool of guards who had strong seasons — but if the measure is value to his team, it’s hard to find a guard who matters more than Brunson.
2) Barrett, Randle have big nights as well
RJ Barrett added 26 points and played maybe his best game of this series on Wednesday night.
However, the 24 points from Julius Randle really summed up the Knicks’ resolve in Game 5.
Randle started cold shooting 1-of-7 in the first quarter — then he didn’t miss a shot the rest of the night (6-of-6). In the second half it was like he was a different player — or, the good player who made appearances much of this season and earned an All-NBA spot — as he attacked and made the right read on kickoff passes. Randle turned a Madison Square Garden that has been up-and-down on him this postseason — just like his game has been — back into his corner.
RJ and Julius got it done in the Knicks Game 5 win 💪
Barrett: 26 PTS, 7 REB
Randle: 24 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST, 4 3PM#NBAPlayoffs presented by @GooglePixel_US pic.twitter.com/OBQPBVeLiS
— NBA (@NBA) May 11, 2023
3) Miami dug a hole for three quarters with its shooting
Miami was one of the worst shooting teams in the league this season and had the NBA’s 25th-ranked offense through the first 82 games. Then the playoffs happened, Jimmy Butler was good for at least 25 points a night, and they started knocking down their wide-open 3-pointers that they clanged off the rim all season (25th in the league in open 3-point shooting percentage).
The regular season Heat were back for Game 5.
They missed wide-open 3 after wide-open 3 and couldn’t seem to hit anything — they were 4-of-23 on shots outside the paint in the first half.
Things turned around in the fourth when the Heat shot 11-of-21 overall and knocked down five 3-pointers, but it was too late to dig out of the hole they found themselves in.
Butler finished with 19 points – the first time he has been held under 25 this entire postseason — plus nine assists and seven rebounds. Bam Adebayo added 18 points and Duncan Robinson had 17.
The Heat need their shooters to show up at home Friday night.