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Heat edge Knicks to reach NBA Eastern Conference finals

Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat goes to the basket during Game 6 of the 2023 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the New York Knicks on 12 May 2023 at Kaseya Center in Miami, Florida

The Miami Heat punched their ticket to the NBA Eastern Conference finals on Friday, clawing out a 96-92 victory over the New York Knicks to win their playoff series four games to two.

Jimmy Butler scored 24 points and Bam Adebayo added 23 to lead the Heat, who are in the conference finals for the second straight year and the third time since 2020.

They’re the first eighth-seeded team to reach the conference finals since the 1999 Knicks, dispatching the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round before battling past the Knicks in a series epitomized by the hard-fought game six.

“I like it,” Butler told broadcaster ESPN. “That’s what we do better than anything is grind these wins out.

“We’ve been in games like this all year long. We’re prepared for it, we stay with it til the end,” Butler said.

The Heat withstood another stellar performance from Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, who scored 41 points but was harried into a crucial turnover with 16.4 seconds remaining and the Heat up by just two.

The Heat were finally rolling, up 92-86 with less than a minute to play, when Miami guard Gabe Vincent has assessed a flagrant foul after catching Brunson in the face with an elbow as they jockeyed for the ball on inbound.

Brunson hit both free throws and Josh Hart drove for a layup that pulled New York within two, but Brunson, under pressure from Butler and Max Strus, committed a turnover and Butler made two free throws to again extend Miami’s lead.

Facing elimination, the Knicks had come out strong and led 31-24 after the first quarter.

Brunson scored 22 points in the first half, but the Heat had edged ahead 51-50 at the break and the Knicks never regained the lead.

Adebayo scored 17 points in the first half, his 11 points in the second quarter helping turn the tide.

He pulled down nine rebounds with two steals and a block, his dunk putting Miami up by six with 1:05 to play.

Kyle Lowry added 11 points with nine assists and two steals for the Heat, who made just seven three-pointers but were 23-of-25 from the free-throw line.

Julius Randle added 15 points for the Knicks, who haven’t made it to the conference finals since 2000.

Miami will play either the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers for a place in the NBA Finals. The Celtics host the Sixers in game seven of their conference semifinal series on Sunday.

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