Apologies, friends. I have not been at my best these past two days. As much as I was looking forward to Friday night’s Knicks-Heat game, I somehow forgot to post a Game Thread. After the Knicks’ miraculous 122-120 win, I couldn’t bring myself to recap the game until the following afternoon. Maybe it’s the Heat that do this to me. I friggin’ hate that franchise. If you’re a Knicks fan of my generation, you probably feel the same. Over the past two decades, they have been less a rival and more a remorseless tormentor. They give me the heebie-jeebies.
And despite the 71 points New York put up in the first half, those old feelings started to resurface almost immediately in the third quarter. The Heat — a proven postseason squad — have been accused by some of not taking the regular season seriously enough. But they flipped a switch defensively in the second half, and suddenly the Knicks were in a postseason-type battle. And when they started catching almost every break, grabbing every loose ball, and getting every foul call (32-17 difference in free-throw attempts), things seemed particularly bleak.
Sure enough, the Heat benefitted from an absurd foul call (Tyler Herro ran into Bam Adebayo, but Immanuel Quickley was called for the foul) and brutal Knicks offensive possession to take a one-point lead with 24 seconds remaining. The Knicks stumbled and bumbled through most of those 24 seconds, with Julius Randle ending up with ball near the sideline. Julius has had a truly bizarre career with the Knicks. He’s experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. He’s duffed a few clutch moments. But when he released this shot, and it appeared to be on target, a strange thought flashed through my mind: That’s going in!
Randle's GAME WINNER from every angle pic.twitter.com/CLnLcytiYV— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) March 4, 2023
These Knicks have a ton of heart. They took the Heat’s best shot, and didn’t back down. Mitchell Robinson and Jalen Brunson were injured during the third quarter — Brunson in particular looked to be hobbled by a twisted ankle — but both came back and played. But at the end of the night, it’s about getting buckets. The Knicks got the biggest bucket of their season. With 1.1 second remaining and a future Hall-of-Fame coach drawing up the play, the Heat couldn’t do the same.
Mitchell Robinson with the CLUTCH steal pic.twitter.com/99eaTfiHIT— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) March 4, 2023
Eight wins in a row. It feels great. AS P&T’er @back noted, we might just be seeing the most fun Knicks team since the 1990s.
- Knicks good!
- Did Julius relish going up against Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo? Perhaps. Those two guarded him most of the night, and it didn’t much matter: Randle finished with 43 points on 16-25 shooting (8-13 from three!), nine rebounds and three assists. I also thought he played some of the best defense on Butler of any Knick. Ever the foul merchant, Butler went to the line a preposterous 20 times on the evening on his way to 33 points.
- Brunson was a damn warrior, scoring 25 points and dropping eight dimes. He didn’t let that bum ankle hold him down. However, I do worry a bit about him handling the hard double-teams the Heat were throwing at him late. He (and most of his teammates, to be honest), need to swing the ball to the open man quicker. I actually kind of hope more teams double Brunson during the last few weeks of the regular season, just so the team can get used to it. You know it’s coming in the playoffs.
- Immanuel Quickley seems to relish playing in Miami. He had that 20-point fourth quarter last season, and he followed it up Friday with an ultra-efficient 21 points on 7-11 shooting.
- On offense, RJ Barrett had his way with the smaller Heat backcourt. He powered his way to the bucket to the tune of 17 points. On defense, he really struggled against Herro in the third quarter.
- Some Thibs weirdness: He removed IQ for Barrett in the fourth and put Barrett on Herro again, which made no sense in my opinion. The Heat targeted RJ with the Herro-Bam pick-and-roll, and RJ struggled to get through the screens. Thibs must have noticed it too, since he put Quickley back in for the final few minutes.
- I wonder how Brunson’s ankle is feeling today. I can’t help but thinking it might be a good idea to give him a breather on Sunday night in Boston. Hell, the Knicks might mess around and win the game anyway!
- Look at this hug!
Big hug for the Big Dog pic.twitter.com/BDdwzO3Gki— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) March 4, 2023
This team, y’all.