That was a tough one.
The Knicks dropped Game 1 and handed their home-court advantage to the Miami Heat after losing 108-101 at MSG to kick their second-round series off early on Sunday.
Jalen Brunson, who led New York with 25 points, shot 0-for-7 from beyond the arc (11-of-23 from the field) and turned the ball over five times in 40 minutes. That’s something we had not watched many times this season, so it sucked to witness, let alone at this particular time in the postseason.
“I was horrific,” Brunson said after the game. “Very uncharacteristic by me—and this one’s on me. I’ve got to be better.”
Brunson, in fact, had a very unique game on Sunday—for the bad, that is. It was the first game this season in which he attempted 7+ 3PA scoring none of them. He tied his season-high turnovers figure with five possessions lost. He had as many personal fouls and TOs combined as he did assists (seven). He finished with the third-worst plus/minus (-8) among Knicks players on Sunday.
"There were key moments in the game where you need to finish strong and be strong, and that starts with me. Today I was horrific. Very uncharacteristic of me and this one is on me. I got to get better"— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) April 30, 2023
- Jalen Brunson on what separated Miami from them today pic.twitter.com/1BoR97fLDg
“I think inside the 3-point line I was pretty efficient,” Brunson said. “Outside the 3-point line, I was terrible.”
Brunson acknowledged that the Heat are “a good team, with great defense, well coached, and experienced,” and that “you got to give them the credit.” That said, he added that “I have to be better.”
Truth be told, nobody decked in New York threads did a lot to help their case.
RJ Barrett scored 26 points but needed 20 field-goal attempts and eight freebies (five of them made) to get there. Obi Toppin started the game and scored the third-most points (18) getting four three-point shots to fall of the 11 he went for. Josh Hart, starting in place of Quentin Grimes, was the only other Knickerbocker in double-digit figures (10) though he shot a horrid 5-for-12 (including a null 0-for-4 from distance).
"We're just not making shots right now…the biggest thing. We did a helluva job in terms of playing tough, physical. We didn't make shots, & still gave ourselves a chance late in the 4th. We know that, we're frustrated…but that's something we can change"— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) April 30, 2023
– Josh Hart on Game 1 pic.twitter.com/bpQ6GiHpH5
Back to Hart.
Thibs decided to start the reserve wing for the third time in the postseason even with Grimes available from tip-off and making his comeback from the shoulder injury he suffered in the first-round series. The reason, trying to put the clamps on Jimmy Buckets—which he did to some extent, limiting Butler to “only” 25 points through the day.
“The thing about Butler is his size. Size is a big thing,” Tom Thibodeau said after giving Hart 43 minutes.
“I think we did a hell of a job playing tough, playing physical,” Hart said. “We didn’t make shots and we still gave ourselves a shot to win late in the fourth. So, we know that—we’re frustrated with that, but that’s something that we can change.”
Toppin agreed with his teammates. “Three-ball didn’t fall for us today, but we got another game coming up Tuesday,” said Sunday’s starter, who did so in relief of a still-recovering Julius Randle. Topping attempted the most three-point shots (11) for the Knicks but could only score four of those. Even then, he was the only New Yorker bagging more than one three-pointer. “We just gotta go back, look at the film, and be ready for the next game.”
"I don't think anyone thought this series was going to be won or lost in the first game. A tough team, obviously... I don't think there was an opportunity that we let slip away"— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) April 30, 2023
- Josh Hart on if there was an opportunity lost with today's loss pic.twitter.com/0P4dMg8cb6
Had it not been for the final result, a seven-point loss, and for the total collapse that saw New York go from a 12-point advantage midway through the second quarter to a 19-point turnaround in the scoreboard ending up with Miami getting the W, perhaps we would be talking about another Broadway Barrett type of performance by RJ.
Although he’s only played 11 postseason games, Barrett’s Game 1 against Miami was actually rather impressive when put in context. He tied his career-high in minutes (40), shot 50% on a rather bulky 20 FGA, and more than anything he dished out seven dimes to go with nine boards. Nearly a dub-dub, close to a trip-dub.
Sadly, Barrett went 1-for-5 from beyond the arc and that clearly hurt a Knicks team that could only hit 7 of the 34 three-point shots they attempted. “They made 13 and we made seven,” Barrett said. “That’s a big discrepancy to make up, especially in a playoff game.”
Young Barrett sounded confident after the game, though, and he knows what was (and is) coming from the Heat. Encouraging going forward if Thibs and the guys can fix their woes.
RJ Barrett discusses the fight that the Heat had today:— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) April 30, 2023
"From playing them throughout the course of the year, they are never going to give up. That's one thing that I personally enjoy about this series, is that it's going to be hard-fought" pic.twitter.com/oPtcfxUDHQ
“They made adjustments. They picked up the intensity a little bit—played hard,” Barrett said. They made shots and we didn’t.”
Barrett kept going: “They are never going to give up. That’s one thing that I personally enjoy about this series,” Barrett revealed, adding that “it’s going to be hard-fought, it’s going to be tough—you gotta go out there and kind of take it.”
New York, and Barrett in particular, didn’t know how to exploit the semi-absence of Jimmy Butler (who refused to and never left the court, mind you) after he rolled his ankle with five minutes left in regulation. The Knicks only scored one bucket in that time, committed three turnovers, got three shots blocked, and got outscored 11-7.
Asked about the Knicks' failure at attacking (they didn’t even try) Butler during the final minutes, Brunson called it a “tricky situation” reasoning that Butler “wasn’t 100 percent” but adding that Butler is “one of the best defenders in the league, so even if his feet aren’t moving fast side to side, he has great hands.”
Brunson also conceded that “as a team, we got to do a better job recognizing what’s going on, especially late in the game.”
Veteran Kevin Love was surprised about the Knicks' strategy of not forcing Butler to make on-ball defensive plays. “Yeah (I was surprised), especially because he was on RJ, and RJ has been playing so well the last few, three or four games. So yeah a little bit,” said Love.
"That's what the playoffs are about. You're going to be facing good players and good teams and you have to find a way to overcome it and conquer"— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) April 30, 2023
- Erik Spoelstra on facing Jalen Brunson pic.twitter.com/v6vRQuz9rm
At the end of the day, everybody knows this is going to be a hella tough, long series unless something very weird happens.
“I don’t think there’s an opportunity that we let slip away,” Hart said. “This is going to be a tough physical series and every game’s different.
“None of us are going to waver. None of us are going to lose confidence. We’re going to continue to be aggressive, take the right shots. If they go in, cool. If not, we’re going to keep battling,” Hart finished.
Brunson beat the same drum as his former ‘Nova teammate: “We can’t be discouraged,” said Brunson. “Playing in the NBA, it’s all confidence. You gotta stay poised and stick together as a team. We just gotta come back hungry, be better, fix our mistakes, and then move forward from there.”
Game 2 coming quickly on Tuesday. Knicks trailing for 48 hours. Four meetings to go before we call it a clinch. Tip-off at the usual 7:30 ET slot, with hoops played inside MSG before the boys fly down to South Beach. Don’t miss it.