Jalen Brunson’s 30-point performance propelled the Knicks to a Game 2 victory over a Jimmy Butler-less Miami Heat squad.
It wasn’t the prettiest win, but the Knicks got the job done in Game 2. Critics will say New York shouldn’t have had to work that hard against a Heat team missing Jimmy Butler, but all wins are worth the same.
SERIES TIED!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/TV2MYnuCK4— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) May 3, 2023
For the Knicks, Jalen Brunson had one of his best games of the playoffs this year, scoring 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting, scoring the majority of his points in the second half to lead the Knicks to victory. RJ Barrett finished with 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting, doing most of his damage in the first half, and had an efficient game from behind the arc, shooting 5-f0r-9. Julius Randle returned from injury tonight and finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists. His all-around game proved to be too much for Miami, as it’s easy to see how much better the Knicks are with Randle out there. Lastly, Josh Hart put together another little-bit-of-everything type of performance, adding 14 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists, and 1 steal. His team-high box plus/minus of +16 shows how much of an enabler he can be for the Knicks on both ends of the floor.
In the opening quarter of play, the Knicks got off to a great start as RJ Barrett (16 points in the first), put together some strong drives to the basket and was able to convert on the inside early and often. RJ’s presence early on was a great sign, especially with Miami without Jimmy Butler for this game. Check out this basket, where he absorbed the physicality from the defense and turned it into an and-one:
BARRETT EN FUEGO🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/ep2rzVBMAp— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) May 2, 2023
Aside from Barrett, it was great to see Julius Randle back for the Knicks, scoring 8 first-quarter points, getting to his spots, and nailing his shots in stride. His presence is extremely important going forward in this series, so it was an encouraging sign for him to come out ready to play in Game 2 despite his ankle issues. The strength and physicality he plays with are vital for the Knicks to close out possessions on defense. His quick decision making was something we didn’t see too much of but it was put on full display to open this game.
RANDL3⃣ pic.twitter.com/avu5LzjafP— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) May 2, 2023
While Barrett and Randle put together a solid first quarter, so did the Heat. Coming out of the gates, Miami hoisted threes any time they could get space, nailing five. The Knicks’ defense in the first was lackadaisical with poor communication and worse perimeter defense. Still, they led 31-29 after the first.
In the second quarter, the Heat picked up the pace, and shut down the second unit, taking the lead early in the quarter. In fact, for the entire quarter, the Knicks made just 5 field goals, with the majority of their points coming from the charity stripe. While it was a relatively quiet offensive quarter for the Knicks, Randle kept them within striking distance at halftime. He cashed in on a pull-up three late in the quarter, then a step-back jumper just 30 seconds later.
Not only did the Knicks’ offense stall to end the half, but their defense was clearly not on the same page. Between leaving Heat players open for uncontested shots and foul trouble (Robinson and Hartenstein each with 3 fouls in the first half) due to poor rotations, New York was a step slow. Regardless of how large the deficit was, the Knicks continued to battle and were able to cut into the lead heading into the locker room. At the half, the Knicks trailed the Heat 54-51.
The first play of the second half was an indicator of how the rest of Game 2 would go defensively. Max Strus got by the entire Knicks defense for an easy layup. It was immediately apparent New York would need to outscore the Heat to win. That’s when Jalen Brunson finally came alive, scoring 13 of his game-high 30 points in the third quarter, hitting his spots despite the smothering Heat defense.
Brunson did the majority of the scoring in the third quarter for the Knicks. Randle also made his presence known, creating opportunities for himself and his teammates with 5 points and 2 rebounds in the quarter. Check out this difficult fallaway shot:
RANDLE CIRCUS SHOT pic.twitter.com/sVmfdj5bSB— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) May 3, 2023
It was a phenomenally executed offensive quarter from the Knicks, with Jalen Brunson leading the way. After committing 6 turnovers in the first half, the Knicks did a great job at protecting the basketball, committing just 1 turnover for the quarter. Still, Miami clung to a 77-76 lead heading into the fourth.
The final quarter of play was a nail-biter. With Brunson and Randle on the bench to start the quarter, the Knicks bench did a great job of keeping this game close. The Knicks’ bench in the fourth quarter can be summed up by this play:
HARTENSTEIN TO GRIMES TOUCHDOWN pic.twitter.com/9KDvbonMQk— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) May 3, 2023
The Knicks gave the Heat a taste of their own medicine, as Hartenstein found Grimes making strides up the court for the eventual and-one finish. Hartenstein played the majority of the fourth quarter but did a great job spacing the floor, moving within the flow of the offense, and keeping the Heat off the offensive boards before Robinson came in with less than 4 minutes to close the game.
Aside from Hartenstein, Quickley hit two big shots off the bench. It was an odd game for Quickley, who saw just 9 minutes of action. Regardless of his low minute count, he still managed to score 6 points on 3-of-7 shooting, making the most of what he was given.
What was surprising about the fourth quarter was the absence of RJ Barrett. After scoring 24 points through the first three-quarters of play, he never saw the floor again. Thibs, questionably, chose two strong defensive guards in Josh Hart and Quentin Grimes alongside Jalen Brunson to negate Miami’s perimeter shooting.
Down the stretch, New York once again leaned on the Villanova alumni on both ends. Josh Hart had a fantastic game on defense, but his offense sealed the deal for the Knicks in Game 2. He hit several clutch shots to give the Knicks a cushion. Brunson and Hart combined for 15 of the Knicks’ 18 points in the final 5 minutes of the game. Their relentlessness and determination on offense overshadowed their defensive woes, as the Heat couldn’t cash in late, giving the Knicks free throws to put Game 2 out of reach.