2023 Playoffs: East Conf. Semifinal | Knicks vs. Heat

5 takeaways from Knicks' season-extending Game 5 victory over Heat

New York's Jalen Brunson and Quentin Grimes both play all 48 minutes, and each deliver clutch plays in the 4th quarter.

Playing all 48 minutes, Jalen Brunson scores 38 points and New York withstands Miami's late run to stave off elimination.

NEW YORK — When you’re facing elimination, there can be no holding back. With the New York Knicks’ season on the line, their two starting guards played all 48 minutes of Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. And despite the lack of rest, they each came up big in the fourth quarter.

Jalen Brunson scored 10 of his team’s 28 points in the final period, while Quentin Grimes came up with the biggest defensive play of the night. The Heat had cut a 19-point Knicks lead down to two, but New York would not let their season die, and they sent the series back to Miami with a a 112-103 victory.

Here are some notes, numbers and film from a game that had New York fans chanting “Knicks in 7!” as they exited Madison Square Garden …

1. The full 48

The New York bench, which was terrific in the regular season, has not been good in this series. It’s also been shorthanded, with Kia Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Immanuel Quickley missing the last two games. Through Game 4, the Knicks had been outscored by 21 points (29.1 per 100 possessions) in 30 minutes with Brunson off the floor.

Coach Tom Thibodeau’s solution for that problem was to never take Brunson off the floor. The Knicks’ star played all 48 minutes on Wednesday, rewarding his coach with a game-high 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. And he still had gas in the tank in the fourth quarter, hitting two of the biggest shots of the night, a pick-and-roll pull-up 3-pointer to put the Knicks up seven with 7:30 left and an isolation pull-up jumper that put them up six with 4:10 remaining.

“If he needed a blow he would have told me,” Thibodeau said. “This time of year you’re going to see guys get big minutes.”

Thibodeau is a defense-first coach and Brunson can be a defensive liability, but the former was about as effusive as a coach can be about his star player in the aftermath of an exhausting and exhaustive 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.”

There was more …

“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.

After banging knees with Bam Adebayo on a screen, he limped back into the play …

Quentin Grimes collision with Bam Adebayo

Then he stayed in front of Butler and took the ball away …

Quentin Grimes steal

The Knicks couldn’t capitalize on the other end, but the Heat couldn’t make the shots they needed after that.

2. Second-quarter success

In each of the first four games of this series, the Heat won the second quarter by at least five points. And if that success were to continue, the Knicks would have been in a big hole at halftime, because they were down 10 after the first 12 minutes, having scored just 14 points on 22 first-quarter possessions.

But the Knicks proceeded to score 18 points on their first seven possessions of the second, turning that 10-point deficit into a six-point lead. And one key to their success was putting Duncan Robinson into a couple of pick-and-rolls early in the period. On New York’s first possession of the second, Obi Toppin (guarded by Robinson) handed the ball to Brunson, who dribbled at Robinson and drew Kyle Lowry off the strong side corner, leaving Grimes open.

Two possessions later, Grimes (being guarded by Robinson) set a ball-screen for Brunson. Robinson hedged out, but Caleb Martin (Brunson’s defender) stayed with his man, not leaving Robinson alone with the Knicks’ most dangerous offensive player. With two on the ball, Brunson got off it. The Heat rotated, but RJ Barrett got another open corner 3 on the opposite side of the floor before Robinson could get there …

RJ Barrett 3-pointer

The Knicks finished with 36 points on 24 second-quarter possessions, tied (with the third quarter of Game 4) for their most efficient quarter of the playoffs. And then they scored 23 points on their first 11 possessions of the third to build their 19-point lead.

3. Target No. 2

Robinson wasn’t the Knicks’ only target in Game 5. In fact, Brunson was happy to just attack his initial defender if Robinson was able to defend the pick-and-roll somewhat successfully. That initial defender was often Gabe Vincent, who Brunson attacked pretty relentlessly. The isolation bucket with 4:08 left was against Vincent, who had a hard time staying in front of Brunson without fouling him.

Kyle Lowry did a better job. But with a little more than six minutes to go in the fourth, Lowry picked up his fifth foul, which was painful in more ways than one. First, it came with 2.6 seconds on the shot clock and the Knicks’ possession stalled on the perimeter. Second, it brought Vincent back in the game, and the Knicks went at him right away, getting another huge bucket to keep the Heat at bay.

Vincent was guarding Barrett and had actually navigated a couple of Mitchell Robinson screens. But Jimmy Butler felt the need to help, there was no help behind him, and Robinson got a dunk …

Mitchell Robinson dunk

A couple of minutes later, Adebayo put Brunson on the free throw line when he doubled an iso vs. Vincent. Two possessions after that, Barrett attacked Vincent with a drive, Butler came with help again, and Isaiah Hartenstein got a tip dunk.

These liabilities have been there all series, but the Knicks were a little more deliberate in attacking them on Wednesday. Plus, the Heat didn’t always help the helper.

“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.”

4. Free throw discrepancy

Neither team had shot particularly well through the first four games of this series, but the other three factors of efficiency — turnovers, free throws and rebounding — were in the Heat’s favor. Then the Knicks committed 19 turnovers (the most for either team in any game) in Game 5. And though New York had more offensive rebounds, second chance points (21-12) were also again in Miami’s favor.

But free throws were a huge advantage for the Knicks, who attempted 40, their highest total in any game this season (92 total games) and more than twice as many as the Heat (19). Seven different Heat players committed at least three fouls, and Vincent wasn’t the only guy who couldn’t defend Brunson without fouling. The Knicks’ point guard drew fouls 10 total.

Some of the other fouls were intentional. Mitchell Robinson bricked some of the worst free throw misses we’ve seen all season, both in Game 4 on Monday and again in Game 5. And with the Heat trying to get over the hump in the fourth quarter, they went to a “hack-a-Mitch” strategy, intentionally sending him to the line with a foul away from the ball before the Knicks could get into their offense.

But the big man managed to make three of his four attempts on the intentional fouls in that fourth quarter, and Thibodeau then replaced him with Hartenstein, perhaps not wanting to push his luck.

5. Open opportunities

The score from beyond the arc was even (39-39), though the two teams didn’t shoot equally well. The Knicks were surely happy to go 13-for-34 (38%), after shooting less than 33% from deep in eight of their nine eight playoff games. The Heat, meanwhile, continue to struggle from long distance. They shot 45% from 3-point range in their first-round series vs. the Milwaukee Bucks but are just 31% from beyond the arc in this series after going 13-for-43 (30%) in Game 5.

And a lot of those 30 misses were wide open.

As the Knicks built that 19-point lead early in the third quarter, Kevin Love (0-for-7 from deep), missed two great looks, one near the top of the floor after setting a back-screen and another from the left corner after the Knicks’ defense got scrambled.

Robinson was 5-for-10 from beyond the arc, a big reason why the Heat were willing to live with him being targeted on defense. But he missed two huge shots that could have made it a one-point game at a couple of different points in the fourth. The first was a wide-open look in transition that rattled in and out. The second was a side-step 3 after Butler drew two to the ball.

“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 Heat can still close this out in Game 6 at home on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), and the Knicks still need two more wins. But a comeback from 3-1 has been done before and the Knicks know the history.

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

Jimmy Butler takes what the defense offers but can't lift the Heat to victory in Game 5.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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