At times, the lead was fragile. The gunshots ceased. The atmosphere in the building became strained. There were times when the Miami Heat seemed to be on the verge of a meltdown.
And, once again, they found a way.
The eighth-seeded Heat’s wild voyage continues, with Miami on the verge of yet another trip to the Eastern Conference finals. The Miami Heat defeated the New York Knicks 109-101 on Monday night, led by Jimmy Butler’s 27 points and 10 assists and Bam Adebayo’s 23 points and 13 rebounds.
“It was great that we were able to hold home court,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But we know we have a task in New York.”
They’ll carry a 3-1 lead into Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, one victory away from clinching this East semifinal series and returning to the conference finals for the third time in four years.
“We’ve got a job to do,” Butler said, “and I think we’re very capable.”
The Heat were led by Max Strus (16 points), Kyle Lowry (15 points), and Caleb Martin (10 points). Miami became the fourth No. 8 seed in the NBA playoff format’s 40-year history to win at least seven games. The New York Knicks won 12 games as route to the NBA Finals in 1999, while Memphis won seven in 2011 and Philadelphia won seven in 2012.
Jalen Brunson had 32 points and 11 assists for the fifth-seeded Knicks, while RJ Barrett had 24 points and Julius Randle had 20 before fouling out with about three minutes remaining.
“You’ve got to win four to win a series,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau. “All we’re thinking about now is winning the next game.” Take it one quarter at a time. Win the first quarter, the second quarter, the third quarter, and the fourth quarter. And then we’ll think about it the following day.”
Miami missed 12 of its first 15 attempts in the fourth quarter, but the Knicks didn’t capitalise, cutting the Heat lead to three points in that stretch. It was nine going into the fourth, and Brunson’s free throws with 4:40 remaining brought New York within 99-93.
But Martin’s smash energised an impatient crowd, and the roars became louder about a minute later. With the Knicks behind by seven, Randle went into the lane, but Strus beat him to it, drawing contact that resulted in Randle’s sixth foul with 3:08 remaining. The Heat maintained control for the remainder of the game.
“They’ve got offensive rebounds, loose balls, and some tough guys who get respect,” Barrett added. “I have to give them credit. They’re putting in a lot of effort. They have men falling every possession, they get calls, and they get rebounds. They’re having a good time. We also worked hard.”
The Knicks never led in Game 3, but did so twice in Game 4.
They took two one-point leads in the first quarter, each for 33 seconds, but Miami erased the deficits with quick baskets on the following play.
But, unlike Game 3, in which Miami led by double digits for practically the entire last three quarters, this one was in question for much of the time.
The Knicks reduced an 11-point lead to 67-65 with 7:07 remaining in the third on a 3-pointer by Barrett, but they never got over the hump. An 8-1 run during a two-minute span late in the third restored the 11-point advantage, and Miami led 90-81 heading into the fourth.
“We’re kind of fighting an uphill battle,” Brunson said. “I didn’t do enough in 48 minutes.”
A Miami squad that was just three minutes away from being ousted from the play-in round is now one victory away from making the NBA final four.
It may come as a surprise to many, but not to the Heat.
“We’ve been tested this year,” Strus said. “And we knew that when the battles came, we’d be ready.”
Immanuel Quickley, who hurt his left ankle late in Game 3, was out for the Knicks. His condition for Game 5 is unknown, however he is classified as day-to-day. … Quentin Grimes, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday, replaced Josh Hart in New York’s starting lineup. The Knicks surrendered six offensive rebounds in the first three quarters combined, then seven in the fourth.
Adebayo scored seven field goals in the first half for the Heat. It was the first time in his 473 NBA games that he had five dunks before halftime. The Heat’s 7-2 start to the playoffs ranks eighth all-time. They were 8-1 in 2005, 2013, 2014, and 2020, reaching the NBA Finals all three times. … Miami missed four three-point attempts on one possession early in the fourth quarter.
This was Spoelstra’s 103rd playoff victory. He is just the third coach in history to have won that many playoff games with the same club; Gregg Popovich has 170 with San Antonio, and Phil Jackson has 118 with the Los Angeles Lakers and 111 with the Chicago Bulls.
Pat Riley, the Heat president, Spoelstra’s supervisor, and the Heat’s previous coach, won 102 games with the Lakers.
WEDNESDAY IS A BIG DAY
The Heat and South Florida’s NHL franchise both have a chance to go to the East playoffs on Wednesday. The Florida Panthers lead their second-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0, with Game 4 set for Wednesday night in Sunrise, Florida.