After Wednesday night’s Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat, Jalen Brunson got the bulk of the recognition, and rightfully so. The Knicks’ point guard played all 48 minutes and cemented himself in to Knicks history with a dominant 38-point, nine rebound, seven assist performance that will go down as one of the more memorable Knicks playoff performances ever. And RJ Barrett, who had yet another playoff gem with 26-points, seven rebounds, and two assists. also got a lot of love as he continued to shine as the team’s second best player right now. But right next to Brunson for the entirety of the 48 minute ride, was his backcourt mate, Quentin Grimes. And while his final stat line of eight points, four rebounds and five assists don’t jump out at you, there’s a compelling argument to be made that it was Grimes, who may have had the play of the season, that was the second most important player on Wednesday. Brunson, Barrett, and Julius Randle (at least in the second half) all registered more than 20 points each and had big, impactful, memorable moments of their own. But through it all, it was Grimes allowing the Knicks’ three stars to shine.
On defense, his job has been primarily been to make things difficult for the Heat’s Jimmy Butler. And while it is no easy task slowing Butler down, Grimes has done an exceptional job. So far this series, Grimes has guarded Butler for 94 possessions. On those possessions, Grimes has two blocks, and a steal and has limited the Heat shooting guard to just 16 points on 5-17 shooting (29.4%). Butler, who’s ankle is likely still bothering him a bit, has settled a bit at times and there’s a thought that maybe he’ll be more aggressive going against Grimes moving forward. But even if that were the case, there is no denying how good Grimes has been on Butler thus far. But how has Grimes excelled in slowing Butler down when so many have failed to do so this post season? Well, there are two things stand out the most in the clips below.
First, is his ability to stay hip to hip with Butler. Regardless of if Butler is going iso, driving, posting up, or using a screen, Grimes has done well to stick with Butler and make his presence felt. And against a physical and strong player like Butler, this is imperative because you want to initiate the contact and be the aggressor since if you don’t, he will often just lower his shoulder, use his strength, and throw you off balance. But it’s a balance act of course. You can’t overcrowd a player like Butler too much or else he will just blow right past you and Grimes hasn’t done that either. For the most part, Grimes has done an amazing job of being close enough to be the aggressor on defense, while still being quick and low enough to recover when Butler does attack.
Jimmy Butler in the 94 possessions guarded by Quentin Grimes this series: 16 points on 5-17 (29.4%) from the field, along with 2 blocked shots and a steal.— Teg (@IQfor3) May 11, 2023
Second, is his discipline. When guarding the best players in the league, it is often just as taxing physically as it is mentally. You obviously have to be strong, quick, and in shape, but you also have to have the smarts to know when to gamble, when to go over/under screens, how to be physical without fouling, and what moves your opponents go to. Thus far, Grimes, who has just five fouls in his last has 90 minutes of game time, has done an admirable job of staying in Butler’s airspace, but doing so without being baited into fouls. During the regular season, Butler, who has long been known as not just a physical player, but a smart and crafty one as well, ranked seventh in the league with 8.7 free throw attempts per game. It’s obviously a big part of Butler’s game and Grimes’ ability to either block or contest Butler’s shot without fouling has helped tremendously.
Then there’s the impact he’s had offensively as well. Again, Grimes had just eight points on 3-8 shooting, but his spacing influenced the game way more than his stats suggest. Despite shooting just 25.8% from 3 this postseason, Grimes is still defended like an outside threat. He’s proven he can get hot from downtown and even when he isn’t shooting great, he isn’t afraid to let it fly and that alone can be the difference.
For those who were wondering/questioning whether Grimes would make a difference in terms of spacing, here’s exhibit A.— Rit Holtzman (@BenRitholtzNBA) May 11, 2023
Strus was helping from the strongside off of Josh Hart every time. This wasn’t available. pic.twitter.com/9Nkketi9AM
As seen in the clip above, Grimes has so much more gravitational pull on the strongside corner than Hart ever did. Grimes doesn’t get an assist or point here and fake fans like Stephen A. Smith would never notice, but he makes plays like this and the one below possible. And for a team who’s three main scorers like to attack the paint, it’s imperative to have a floor spacer like Grimes on the court at all times.
Quick breakdown of two plays that show Quentin Grimes’ value on offense. And a big reason why NYK needed him for all 48 mins in G5. pic.twitter.com/GxNmJm0Tgc— Tom Piccolo (@Tom_Piccolo) May 11, 2023
Grimes may not be the second or third best player on the team but he is surely one of the most valuable players on the team because of all the little things he does defensively and offensively. With the Knicks facing elimination, don’t be surprised to see Grimes play the whole 48 again tonight.