Knicks couldn’t survive two minutes without Jalen Brunson in the Game 6 loss
MIAMI – Jalen Brunson didn’t sit still for a second on Wednesday night as the Knicks saved their season by beating the Heat in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
They lost their season in a two-minute span without Brunson on Friday.
Thoroughly outplayed by a dominant Brunson in the first quarter, the Heat went on an 8-0 blitz once the star guard finally got a breather in the second.
Miami, who had lost as many as 14 points, took the lead and then knocked out the Knicks with a 96-92 Game 6 win.
It showed exactly why Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau had been terrified to rest Brunson in the absence of the injured Immanuel Quickley during the Game 5 win at Madison Square Garden.
The smallest star guard breather helped the Knicks pack for the summer in front of a sold-out crowd of 19,737 at Kaseya Center.
Although Quickley missed a third straight game with a sprained left ankle, the Knicks were still rolling early.
They led 31-17 after Brunson passed to power Julius Randle for a turnaround with 2:40 left in the first quarter.
They appeared en route to forcing a climax in Game 7 on Monday at the Garden.
But outwardly she will not bring much.
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Miami responded with a 20-5 run to not only get back in the game, but to take the lead – and momentum – for good.
Kyle Lowry went to Bam Adebayo for a floater that cut the lead to 36-29 with 9:55 left in the half, and Adebayo was fouled in the act.
Brunson – who had played 92 ¹/₂ consecutive minutes without a break – finally got a reprieve. He went to the bench for the first time since 6:25 in the first half of Game 4.
Adebayo’s ensuing free throw set up a run of eight unanswered Miami runs.
The Knicks badly missed Quickley, the runner-up sixth man of the year.
Adebayo’s putback dunk gave the Heat the lead at 47-36 with 7:51 left in the half.
By the time Thibodeau returned Brunson three seconds later for Miles McBride, the Knicks had already given up all momentum.
Yes, Obi Toppin briefly put them back to 44-41 midway through the second quarter, but Miami was not only back in it, but on the verge of winning it.
The Heat led by one in the half, by three after three quarters and held the Knicks at arm’s length in the fourth.
But it was that blitz in the second that brought the Knicks in.