Jalen Brunson scored 38 points and the New York Knicks held off the Miami Heat 112-103 on Wednesday to push their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series to a sixth game.
Miami, looking to put the series away at Madison Square Garden, whittled a 19-point third-quarter deficit to two with 2:37 remaining, but the Knicks held on to pull within 3-2 in the best-of-seven set.
“You’ve got to give them credit, that’s a hard team to play,” Brunson told broadcaster TNT after playing all 48 minutes. “But we just came out to fight.
“We didn’t get discouraged with the 10-point deficit in the first quarter, we just kept fighting,” said Brunson, who added nine rebounds and seven assists.
RJ Barrett scored 26 points and Julius Randle shrugged off an early blow to the eye to add 24 for the Knicks, who will try to level the series in Miami on Friday.
“Protect home,” Adebayo said of the Heat’s game six mission. “At this point that’s the biggest thing for us.”
The winner of the series will face either the Philadelphia 76ers or Boston Celtics for a place in the NBA Finals. The 76ers lead their series 3-2.
It was close in the early going, but after Quentin Grimes’s three-pointer put the Knicks up 10-8 midway through the first quarter the Heat closed the period on a 16-4 run to lead 24-14.
The Knicks hit back and they traded the lead in the second quarter.
With less than a minute remaining before halftime, Miami star Jimmy Butler soared to block Brunson’s lay-up, then raced down the floor. His lay-up missed, but Bam Adebayo grabbed the rebound and slammed home a dunk that put Miami up 47-46.
Randle tied it with a free throw, and with 1.3 seconds remaining drained a step-back three-pointer that sent the Knicks into the break with a 50-47 lead.
The Knicks kept the pressure on in the third, pushing the lead to 19 with 5:55 left in the period.
Miami, finally getting their three-point shots to fall, cut that to 10 going into the fourth, and Butler’s pull-up basket, followed by his free throw on the Heat’s next possession, had Miami just two down with 2:37 left.
New York’s Isaiah Hartenstein answered with a dunk and with the Knicks up by six Grimes — hobbling after a fall — came up with a steal from Butler and the Knicks held on.
Butler led the Heat with 19 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Adebayo added 18 points and Duncan Robinson scored 17 off the bench for Miami, who are trying to become just the second eighth-seeded team — after the 1999 Knicks — to reach the conference finals.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers — who like the Heat came through the play-in tournament — sought to clinch a Western Conference finals berth when they took a 3-1 series lead into their clash with the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in San Francisco.