The New York Knicks got to extend the season for a few days—a few weeks, even—longer than most people expected but they ultimately surrendered.
Miami defeated New York 96-92 in Game 6 and closed the Eastern Conference semifinals matchup with a 4-2 win over the Knicks sending the latter home with their tail between the legs.
It would have been the first time since 2000 for the Knicks reaching the ECF had they come back from a 3-1 deficit they put themselves into earlier this week, but the odds were ominous and the ending was hardly a surprising one.
They will have to wait at least one more year to reach those depths into a postseason. The best news? The Wizards (1979) and the Hornets (never) have longer streaks of not reaching an NBA conference finals. Gotta find consolation somewhere today, I guess.
This iteration of the New York Knicks was not far from the one playing basketball a bit over 12 months ago. After not trading for Donovan Mitchell nor any other supernova, the Knicks retained their same core only adding (mostly) Jalen Brunson in the summer and Josh Hart via midseason trade.
Julius Randle led last year’s roster in regular-season minutes played and he did again this season. RJ Barrett finished second both years. Evan Fournier got the third-most in 2022 and Jalen Brunson did so in 2023. Mitchell Robinson, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Obi Toppin, Miles McBride, and Jericho Sims, were all already there a year to this day.
That team won 37 games and finished 11th in the East missing even the play-in.
This team, with Brunson leading the way in impact if not in minutes, won 47 games and finished 5th in the East, coasting through the first round and getting to play a Game 6 in the second round.
And that little JB difference was the most noticeable thing on a Friday to forget.
That’s because Brunson scored 41 points to his teammates’ 51. That’s because Brunson went 14-of-22 from the field (8-of-9 from the stripe) to his teammates’ combined 13-of-49. That’s right. Brunson alone scored more field goals than the rest of the Knicks as a team. As ridiculous as that sounds.
Jalen Brunson became the second player in Knicks franchise history to record at least 4 games with 30+ points in a single playoff series pic.twitter.com/iF25ffz7zQ— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 13, 2023
Basically, the 2023 47-win Knicks were represented by Brunson on Friday while the 2022 37-win Knicks were the rest of the team. As simple as that. Somebody other than Brunson needed to step up, but everybody else decided to hide in plain sight. As shameful as that is.
Randle scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds but needed 14 field-goal attempts and 36 minutes to get there. He hit the net on just three of his 14 FGA.
RJ Barrett finished with 11 points going 1-of-10 from the field in 32 minutes. As was the case with Randle (8-of-9 from the free-throw line), only the charity stripe saved his day a bit (RJ went 9-of-10 from the line).
RJ Barrett takes accountability for his Game 6 performance:— x - KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) May 13, 2023
"I played terrible." pic.twitter.com/1OQdmLoi3W
The Knicks were so atrocious at closing the game that they didn’t even score a single point in the fourth until there were only six minutes left on the clock. Speaking of six...
New York found itself down that figure with a minute left in the game. Brunson, paying homage to a Knicks legend of yore, missed a layup leaving it short but was lucky to get elbowed in the face right after that. JB hit a couple of flagrant freebies, Hart added two more pops with less than 55 seconds to go, and all of a sudden New York was there looking at a tiny two-point difference.
But again, these are the 2023 New York Knicks, which means that they were always going to live or die by Brunson. Alas, following a Jimmy Butler missed shot on the other end it was Brunson who committed a turnover after an ill-advised pass that pretty much wrapped it all up and allowed Miami to seal the deal with 14 seconds to spare.
"We were one of the final 8 teams and that's not the goal. There is a lot of work to be done and we understand that... let's use this as motivation to move forward and get better "— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) May 13, 2023
- Tom Thibodeau when asked what the disappointment was like following the game pic.twitter.com/p1GD5O7Z6l
But ayo, quoth Thibs: “We are one of the final 8 teams!”
Now, seriously, something will definitely have to change.
The core is young, stout, solid, and stubborn, and although at times they are soft or perhaps nor truly convinced of their talent and what they can achieve, they’ve proved to be strong enough to make a deep run with just a couple of tweaks on top of a bunch of natural growth and development next summer.
That said, Miami outplayed New York in Game 6 and although the final score only reflects a four-point difference between both teams it wasn’t really that close.
Yes, the Knicks built a hellacious 14-point lead in the first 11-and-change minutes of play. For what? For nothing. The Heat came back roaring—and taking advantage of Brunson hitting the pine, because of course—and ended up outrebounding, outscoring, out-hustling, out-everything New York after that initial blip.
The Knicks dished out 13 dimes against 12 turnovers. The Heat completed 25 assists to only seven TOs. The former team built a huge lead early, the latter entered the break leading by one measly point and never again trailed.
“Congratulations to the Heat, to the organization, to the coaching staff, Spo and Pat Riley and all their players,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
For more statements made by Thibs, you can check this tweet here or this one if you prefer.
Tons of players offered their thoughts after the loss, too. You can peep those clips with words coming from Randle here, Barrett here, Brunson here, and Grimes here, because throwing it all in this little post would be total overload.
Long road ahead. Changes are inevitably coming (bye D-Rose and a “shocked” Evan Fournier, re-welcome Josh, etc, etc...) but we’ll have plenty of time to discuss that in the next few weeks and months.
"If the next disgruntled star becomes available NY has the assets to make a trade & not ruin future flexibility…— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) May 13, 2023
"…question whether roster has the upside to be more than a good regular-season team…answer lies in the play of Julius Randle"
–Bobby Marks https://t.co/YXMYDpzNH7 pic.twitter.com/3eJP64D6EN
Finally, congrats to Josh Hart and his wife for their baby twin boys born yesterday. As Dom Toretto once said, “Sports are dumb, Family is everything.”
See you soon, Brothers & Sisters, Posters & Toasters. Stay around, keep commenting, we’ll appreciate it. October can’t come soon enough.