It was a MUST-win game.
Game 2 of the 7 game series vs the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks down a game already. The Heat without their star forward Jimmy Butler — which meant losing would be that much more defeating.
The Knicks started out good but Miami took an 8-point lead in the 2nd quarter — playing zone defense and hitting the 3 ball. NY battled back to tie it; Miami took the lead by 3 at the half, and went up by 6 points early in the 3rd — with the likes of Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin hitting 3 after 3.
Miami kept threatening to build a big lead and take game 2 of the series; but the Knicks held on like junkyard dogs, battling back to take a lead late in the 3rd. Miami came right back — taking a 6-point lead early in the 4th. Dogfight.
No matter what the Knicks did on D — Miami seemed to have an answer — spreading their offense ala Mike D’Antoni in his prime, with Vincent, Robinson, or Martin constantly hitting 3’s with a second left on the 24.
And then with 5:30 left in the 4th quarter, the Knicks put their D into overdrive and Isaiah Hartenstein and Josh Hart triggered the plays that turned the tide. Hartenstein — who had given NY a big energy lift when he entered late in the 3rd quarter — grabbed offensive rebound after offensive rebound; Hart grabbed the ones he wasn’t getting; Brunson hit big 3’s — and Hart followed suit. Randle was penetrating, drawing the D, and feeding Hart for corner 3’s. And the Knicks took control.
Final score: NY 111 Miami 105, at an electrified Madison Square Garden on a Tuesday night — the raucous celebrating crowd including many former Knicks: Carmelo Anthony, John Starks, Bernard King, and Amare Stoudemire were seen celebrating on the sidelines.
“It was a hard fought game,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “We knew the way the game unfolded at the beginning we’d see a lot of zone; a lot of 3’s. I thought in the 2nd half we competed really well. We had a lot of hustle plays. Julius gutted it out; played tough. Jalen was fantastic. RJ big big start to the game for us. We had a number of guys step up and get it done.”
“Josh did everything,” continued Thibs. “That’s who he is; you talk about the playmaking ability, the assists, the big 3’s, the rebounds, the defense. Isaiah — those were huge hustle plays he made. We needed them. Great screen to free up Josh in the corner. Those things are unselfish and winning plays. This is the type of series this is — hard fought on every play.”
1. Barrett Dominated in the 1st Half
RJ Barrett was a big story for the Knicks in the 1st half — he dominated as the best player on the court — attacking the basket constantly for efficient drives — and hitting his 3 ball. Barrett carried NY to the early lead, and kept the Knicks in it as Miami came back with their spread-the-court-hit-the-3 offense.
RJ hits the open triple 🎯
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) May 2, 2023
Barrett would finish with 24 points on 8-17 shooting (5-9 from 3).
2. Randle Attack Mode
Meanwhile Julius Randle was in Attack mode. He was questionable before the game with the re-aggrevated ankle sprain that kept him out of Game 1, but played with aggression. He played like he feared nobody on the Miami team — and kept taking it to the rim for scores or making good passes out.
Randle would finish with 25 pts, 12 rebounds, 8 assists and a +14.
Attack mode activated 🔋 pic.twitter.com/DkeNirIDXf
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 2, 2023
3. Hartenstein & Brunson Key Late 3rd Quarter Knick Surge
It would be the beginning of a turning point. As well as Robinson had been playing, Hartenstein gave the Knicks a new burst of energy: he OWNED the boards for the next 11 minutes, and started making Hustle plays that ignited the Knicks.
Jalen Brunson took over on offense — hitting a 26-foot step back jumper, then a 3, and then a floater with 2:44 left in the 3rd to give NY an 84-83 lead.
Miami took back the lead on a Gabe Vincent jumper to take an 85-84 lead into the 4th.
4. Dogfight at Start of 4th
When Hartenstein ripped down a rebound and threw a quarterback pass to Grimes ahead of field for tie game at 80-80 — MSG exploded.
I-HART OUTLETS >>>>
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) May 3, 2023
But Miami just kept coming back — hitting 3’s late in the 24 second clock no matter how ferocious the Knick D. When Caleb Martin hit a 3 with 7:06 left in the 4th, Miami was up 6 again. Knicks timeout.
5. Knicks Take Command in Last 6 Minutes
Turning Point #1
A Jalen Brunson jumper next time down tied the game at 93.
Brunson sinks the fader for the tie 🥶 pic.twitter.com/fYxMXVVb5L
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 3, 2023
But Gabe Vincent was fouled on a 3 that he looked like he flopped on — and made all 3 free throws to put Miami back up 3.
Turning Point #2
But then at the 5:30 mark — Hartenstein triggered another turning point — Brunson missed a jumper — Hartenstein grabbed the offensive rebound; Quentin Grimes missed a 3 — Hartenstein again helped with the offensive rebound with loose ball foul by Max Strus who fell underneath him. Josh Hart missed a jumper, but Hartenstein again grabbed the offensive rebound. Julius Randle got the ball top of the key, Hartenstein set a screen, and Randle found Hart in the corner for a 3 — BANG. Tie game!
ALL HART 👌3️⃣ pic.twitter.com/lxW2MCsDCt
— x – KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) May 3, 2023
The Knicks defended, and Jalen Brunson came down and hit a HUGE 3. NY 99 Miami 96.
Jalen Brunson AGAIN 🎯 pic.twitter.com/S9tPFKC7ca
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 3, 2023
The Knicks were on a 12-3 run.
KNICKS WIN!!! pic.twitter.com/wabzDN4IjU
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 3, 2023
Hartenstein drew his 5th foul with 3:55 left, and left for Mitchell Robinson.
Turning Point #3
The Knicks defense INTENSIFIED. In the final 4 minutes that defense would cause Miami’s shooters to miss pressured 3’s.
- Vincent missed a 3 with 4:17 left.
- Kevin Love missed a 3 with 3:43 left
- Caleb Martin missed a 3 with 3:07 left — an airball and shot clock violation.
Down the other end, Brunson hit a floater for a 101-96 NY lead.
Turning Point #4
Down the other end, Julius Randle drew a double team and found Hart in the corner for ANOTHER HUGE 3. NY 104 Miami 100.
JOSH HART IS CLUTCH
MSG IS LOUD pic.twitter.com/tQAU4QsXc3
— x – KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) May 3, 2023
Turning Point #5
The Knicks Defense forced Lowry into a miss on a drive, and down the other end Hart missed a 3, grabbed his own rebound, drove to the basket, missed a layup against heavy bodies — the ball rolling off the front of the rim where Julius Randle ripped it down and was fouled. Randle hit 2 free throws and NY was up 106-100 with 1:02 left.
Again the intense Knick defense caused Vincent to miss a 3.
Josh Hart grabbed the rebound and fed ahead of the field. The Knicks played keep away then Grimes saw Mitchell Robinson alone under the basket — fed him but the ball was tipped — Robinson grabbed it and was auto fouled by Bam Adebayo. Robinson line-drived one free throw in and NY was up 107-100 with 47 seconds left.
Again the intense Knick defense caused Martin to miss a 3. Josh Hart made 1 of 2 free throws for a 108-100 NY lead with 31 seconds left.
“Josh Hart making big time plays down the stretch and give credit to Julius Randle making the right pass at the right time that led to Hart’s open 3,” said NBA analyst Ross Kreines on Twitter. “Also, Josh Hart will never cheat you of his minutes: toughness and his willingness to make extra effort plays, usually decide games.”
Miami Would Not Give Up
But Miami wouldn’t give up — Vincent hit a drive, and Randle turned the ball over by stepping on the white line trying to inbound the ball against heavy Miami pressure. Duncan Robinson hit a 3 and Miami was down by only 3 with 22 seconds left.
Miami tried to steal the ball from NY with a pressure D but NY maintained it and Miami was forced to foul Hart with 12 seconds left. He made both free throws to finally ice it.
- Brunson finished with 30 points on 10-19 shooting (6-10 from 3) and a +12. He had shot 0-7 from 3 in game 1.
- Hart had 14 points on 4-11 shooting (2-4 from 3), 11 rebounds and 9 assists and a +16. He had shot 0-4 from 3 in game 1.
- Immanuel Quickley only played 9 minutes — he was 3-7 from the floor — hitting his floater, but 0-4 from 3.
- With Randle back, Obi Toppin played 10 minutes. He had an important rebound but was 0-2 for 0 pts and a -8.
- NY outrebounded Miami 50-34.
- Miami was 17-49 from 3.
- NY was 16-40 from 3.