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Knicks 100, Heat 98: Scenes from fourth quarter comeback glory

Thanks to 24 points from Jalen Brunson, the Knicks overcome an atrocious third quarter, hold the Heat to 11 in Q4, and win in a nailbiter.

Miami Heat v New York Knicks Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Twenty years ago today, the New York Knicks beat the Celtics in Boston, 94-88. Shandon Anderson would score a season-high 28 points, Kurt Thomas would add 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Dikembe Mutombo would log 13 points and 12 rebounds. Starbury and Penny were yet to join the team. Don Chaney was still the coach (for now).

With due respect to our elders, that 2003 team was not nearly as exciting as the crew currently employed in New York. Tonight’s Knicks gave us a comeback for the ages. Down by 16 points entering the fourth quarter, they held the Miami Heat—one of the league’s best—to 11 points in the final frame, scored 29 of their own, and achieved what might stand as their definitive victory of the year. Final score, 100-98.

And hey, tonight’s orange, In-Season Tournament court at MSG didn’t look so horrible after all.

First Quarter

Julius Randle scored five of the Knicks first seven points, on their way to a nine-point lead.

Mitchell Robinson caught two quick fouls and took the pine after five minutes. Meanwhile, the Heat displayed finese ball movement that spun the Knicks’ heads, and the Floridians went on a 14-2 run to go head by two points. Thibs called a timeout. The Knicks managed to tie the game briefly, fell behind, then scored seven straight points and lurched ahead when Josh Hart pulled the trigger on a corner three. No hesitation!

The Heat pulled ahead again, thanks to nine first quarter points from Bam Adebayo. He was questionable with a sore hip but didn’t show signs of suffering tonight.

Miami is the league’s third-best team for steals, the Knicks rank tenth; the Knicks rank sixth for defensive rating, the Heat rate eighth. Through the first 12 minutes tonight, both teams had shot 55.6% from the floor and 38% from behind the arc. Evenly matched? You betcha. The Heat brought a 28-25 lead into the second quarter.

Second Quarter

To start the second, Thibs sent out Immanuel Quickley, Donte DiVincenzo, RJ Barrett, Josh Hart, and Isaiah Hartenstein. This line-up is lively and feisty. Their passing had smoother movement than grandma with a belly full of Thanksgiving leftovers and a dose of MiraLAX.

Miami kept threading smart passes and finding holes to exploit in the paint. They’re the league’s fourth-best three-point-shooting team, but made only two of their 13 second-quarter tries from deep. One triple came from Jimmy Butler, who—as is becoming his tradition when playing the Knicks—turned his ankle. He was in evident pain with three minutes left in the frame. (Spoiler: He stayed in the game.)

The Knicks couldn’t capitalize on Miami’s poor shooting because they struggled, too. Despite being the NBA’s ninth-best three-point-shooting team, the Knicks were 1-of-5 from downtown in Q2. They also missed seven attempts in the paint.

As the quarter expired, Julius Randle spun into the lane and kicked out to Quentin Grimes in the corner. Grimes hadn’t scored a point since November 15, but he drained the trey to give the Knicks a 51-50 halftime lead.

Through the first half, Randle remained his enigmatic self. He had scored 11 points, five assists, and four rebounds, but coughed up six of the Knicks’ 10 turnovers. Miami scored 18 points off of those turnovers. At least New York had won the battle on the glass, 28-22, and points in the paint, 30-24.

Your halftime shot chart. Look at all those red Christmas decorations along Miami’s three-point boundary! They surely wouldn’t shoot that badly in the second half. . . .

Third Quarter

The Heat came out of intermission ready to play. New York, well. . . . While the Knicks were still spiritually in the locker room, Miami rattled off seven points in under two minutes. Thibs needed another timeout. The hits would keep coming, however, with Miami building to their largest lead yet (18 points) and scoring 19 unanswered points while New York missed six field goal attempts.

As in the previous game, against Minnsota, the Knicks were massively flatulent in the third quarter. By the eight minute mark, they had converted only four three-pointers for the game. Finally, Mitchell Robinson made a free throw, and Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett scored two points apiece. With his team’s lead cut to 13, Erik Spoelstra called for time.

Gradually the Knicks fell behind by 20, while barely attempting long-range shots and making almost nothing outside of the paint. New York had turned the ball over 15 times to Miami’s nine, The Heat had scored 25 points of turnovers. The Heat are one of the five slowest teams in the league, but they sprinted the court tonight, making the most of all the gimmes that New York gave them.

Finally, Quickley was released from the bench. His energy gave the team life like electricty to Frankenstein’s monster. The Knicks follies were too many to count this quarter, however, and perhaps none moreso than when, with under 20 seconds left, Point Randle dribbled into trouble, kept dribbling, and had ultimately had the ball knocked out of bounds by Love. Maybe let’s not let the guy who keeps turning over bring the ball up when the team desperately needs a score?

In this quarter, the Knicks had shot 8-of-24 and were outscored 37 to 20. 87-71 with 12 minutes to go. Here’s the ugly truth:

Fourth Quarter

The Knicks came out and kept coughing up the ball. Fortunately for them, Quickley and DiVincenzo hit back-to-back triples, sparking a nice run. IQ scored his 17th point to cut the lead to 10, then RJ smoked his first triple to make it seven with seven minutes to go.

The Heat don’t get tired, they don’t stop fighting, and they never stop circulating the ball. Although the Knicks promised a comeback—thanks to IQ lacing another three—it was far from guaranteed. Miami missed multiple buckets while Quickley and Josh Hart worked their shorts off, but still the bad guys remained ahead 96-87 with under four minutes to go.

Julius Randle had sat for the first eight minutes of the quarter. He checked in for the final push. Brunson made back-to-back hoops, catching fouls on both. After Jalen’s second stop at the charity stripe, New York was down by two with two minutes to go. RJ drove for a layup, made a free throw, and New York had finally climbed out of the hole they had dug in the previous quarter.

Thirty seconds later, Brunson capped a 12-0 run with 20-footer for a three-point lead.

The Heat had shot 3-of-19 thus far through the quarter, and when Adebayo bricked a driving dunk that Julius caught about 20 feet away, the Garden’s rafters were shaking. Two freebies for Adebayo cut the lead to one, then Brunson went to the line with 11 seconds on the clock. He made one of two, Jimmy Butler missed a 25-footer at the buzzer, and the impossible had occurred. New York had held the Heat to 11 fourth-quarter points and escaped with the win.

Your Starters:

  • Jalen Brunson: 24 points, three apiece for rebounds and assists, two turnovers, 10-of-16 FG, 1-of-4 3P, 34 minutes.
  • Quentin Grimes: three points, two assists, one steal, three fouls, -20, 1-of-4 FG, 21 minutes.
  • RJ Barrett: 18 points, seven boards, one assist, three TO, +10, 7-of-14 FG, 1-of-5 3P, 34 minutes.
  • Julius Randle: 13 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, six TO, 5-of-12 FG, 1-of-4 3P, 35 minutes.
  • Mitchell Robinson: seven boards, five points, two steals, two fouls, 20 minutes.

(Honorable Mention, Immanuel Quickley: 20 points, four rebounds, two assists, one block, +21, 8-of-17 FG, 4-of-8 3P, 26 minutes)

Up Next

If they hadn’t won, I would have heard echoes of Kenny Albert saying “Another Knick turnover” in my dreams. What a win. Someone recently remarked that the Knicks hadn’t had a signature victory yet; well, they can ride the vapors off this one for a long time. Next up are the Suns on Sunday afternoon. That should be a nice way to spend my birthday. Thanks for the thriller, Knickerbockers.

Box Score