New York Knicks Head Coach Tom Thibodeau proved prescient in his pre-game predictions for a hard-fought series against the Miami Heat. The first quarter of the do-or-die Game 5 played out as a continuation of Game 4, with neither team able to convert on many shots.
The Heat, however, again imposed their will on the offensive glass, earning nearly as many second-chance points as New York had overall. In the end, it was the Knicks’ hustle plays, offensive rebounds, and made shots that kept them in the game. The team pulled out an 18-2 run at the start of the second quarter, and Jalen Brunson‘s leadership helped keep the Knicks’ season alive.
Brunson became only the fourth Knick ever to score 30 or more three times in one playoff series, joining legends Bernard King, Patrick Ewing, and Carmelo Anthony. Brunson’s 38 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists helped lead the Knicks to a crucial win, forcing the series to a sixth game.
Brunson’s heroics were not the only reason the Knicks managed to stay alive in Game 5. The team’s defense also played a significant role in turning things around. After surrendering 28 points in the first quarter, the Knicks held the Heat to just 39 points in the second and third frames, thanks in part to the gritty play of Grimes and Barrett, who hounded Miami’s perimeter players and did their best to make life difficult for Adebayo on the interior.
The Knicks also benefited from a tweak to their lineup. Thibodeau opted to start Taj Gibson at center instead of Nerlens Noel, giving New York a more physical presence in the paint. Gibson responded with a solid all-around performance, finishing with eight points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks in 29 minutes.
Despite Gibson’s contributions, the game remained tight throughout the fourth quarter, with neither team able to pull away. Miami kept the pressure on, getting key baskets from Butler and Robinson down the stretch to keep the Knicks at bay. But New York refused to go quietly, answering every Heat surge with a run of their own.
With less than a minute left in the game, the Knicks found themselves down by one point, and it was Brunson who once again came up big. After Barrett missed a 3-pointer, Brunson grabbed the offensive rebound and put it back up and in, giving New York a one-point lead with just 25 seconds left on the clock.
The Heat had one last chance to win the game, but Butler’s jumper at the buzzer missed its mark, and the Knicks escaped with a hard-fought 104-103 victory.
After the game, Thibodeau praised his team’s resilience and effort.
“The spirit, the fight, the determination,” he said. “We’ve been down before and we’ve come back. We’re a tough team. We’re a resilient team. We’re not going to quit.”
The win sets up a decisive Game 6 back in Miami, where the Knicks will look to continue their season-saving run. For now, though, they can savor a hard-earned victory and take heart in the knowledge that they’re not going down without a fight.