With the New York Knicks’ season on the line, Jalen Brunson delivered. Brunson played the entire game and dropped 38 points to down the Miami Heat 112-103 in Game 5.
With the victory, Brunson and the Knicks forced a Game 6, which will take place Friday as the Heat lead 3-2.
While New York walked away the winner, it was the Heat who looked motivated at the start of the contest. After keeping things close early, the Heat went on a 10-2 run in the middle of the quarter. A controversial flagrant foul by Josh Hart set the Heat up for a late run to close out the quarter.
With under a minute to go, Hart was called for a flagrant foul on a 3-point attempt by Jimmy Butler. The play was reviewed and officials confirmed the call.
Butler, who led the Heat with 19 points, hit 2 of his 3 free-throw attempts to make it a 6-point game. Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin added baskets to down the stretch to make it a 24-14 game in favor of the Heat.
Just as things were threatening to get out of hand, the Knicks answered. The team hit its first seven shots in the second quarter, and went on an 18-2 run to take back the lead.
Robinson finally hit a 3-pointer to send the Heat on a 7-0 run. That gave the Heat a 3-point lead with 5:56 to play in the half. That was the biggest lead for either team down the stretch of the first half. The two teams traded baskets to end the quarter. With just over a second to play, Julius Randle gave the Knicks a 50-47 lead heading into halftime.
Randle, who finished with 24 points, gave the Knicks momentum to end the half, and both Brunson and R.J. Barrett capitalized in the third quarter. Brunson dropped 10 of his 38 points in the quarter. Barrett followed with 12 of his 26 points.
That helped the Knicks break open a 13-point lead with five minutes to play in the quarter. New York continued to put on the pressure, though a late 3-pointer by the Heat cut New York’s lead to 10 entering the fourth.
The Knicks maintained that 10-point lead early in the quarter, but Miami finally got hot from beyond the arc. The Heat hit three consecutive 3-pointers to cut the Knicks’ lead to just 4 points with seven minutes to play.
The Heat dominated Game 3 and outworked the Knicks in the fourth quarter to hold on and take Game 4, positioning themselves to wrap up a series in five games for the second time in this postseason. They began it by knocking off Milwaukee, which had the best record in the league.
But they missed 21 of their first 25 3-pointers and were still down 13 with 9 1/2 minutes before Robinson and Lowry each made a pair in a 12-3 burst that trimmed it to 95-91 with more than half the final period remaining.
Butler had one of his typical do-everything stretches with a basket, a blocked shot and a free throw to cut it to 103-10, but the Heat couldn’t come all the way back like they did in the deciding game against the Bucks, when they were down by 16 points.
They led 24-14 after one, but Butler began the second quarter on the bench and the Knicks capitalized. They pushed the pace to get rare easy shots and Barrett made two 3-pointers in an 18-2 spurt that gave them a 32-26 lead.
Randle’s 3-pointer made it 50-47 at the half. Kevin Love got the first basket of the third, but Barrett and Brunson answered with consecutive 3-pointers to ignite the Knicks’ next spurt. The lead was eight before an 11-0 surge, featuring back-to-back 3-pointers by Brunson and Randle, pushed it to 73-54 midway through the period.
Robinson finished 4 of 8 at the line, ending with eight points and 11 rebounds.
“What can you say about the guy? He’s just incredible, all-around player. Great leader, great toughness. Mental toughness, physical toughness, ability to think on his feet, ability to lead, ability to connect with people, bring the best out of people. That’s what makes him special. And it’s play after play.”
The Knicks’ lead was again six points with a little less than two minutes left. That’s when Grimes, the other guy who played all 48 minutes, made the biggest defensive play of the game.
“Just tried to do everything I could to win,” Brunson said matter-of-factly. “We did that. Now it’s onto Game 6.”
While Brunson was nonchalant about his performance, his teammates and coach were more than happy to sing his praises after a night that won’t soon be forgotten in Knicks lore.
“That’s JB,” Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle said. “That’s what he’s been doing all year. Ultimately, at the core of who he is, he’s a competitor and he wants to win. So he left it all out there tonight. He carried us in a big way.”
Brunson went toe-to-toe at times with Heat guard Kyle Lowry, who, like Brunson, went to Villanova. Lowry called Brunson a “great talent” following the game.
“That man has played 45 mins and 48 mins the last couple games,” Lowry said. “You got to give him credit for just being aggressive and continuing to attack.”
Brunson said he never spoke to Thibodeau about the possibility of playing all 48 minutes, but Thibodeau said Brunson understood heading into the game that it was a possibility.
Thibodeau said if the situation called for it again in Game 6, he wouldn’t hesitate to use both players the same way. Thibodeau has always believed Brunson was ready for this moment and loves the fact he has found another player who shares the same basketball philosophy that he does “the magic is in the work.”
“I’ve never seen anyone work the way he does,” Thibodeau said of Brunson. “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.”
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