The Miami Heat eliminated the No. 5 seeded New York Knicks on Friday and became just the second No. 8 seed to reach the conference finals.
Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo led Miami to a 96–92 game 6 victory at the Kaseya Center in Miami despite a massive effort from the Knicks' Jalen Brunson.
In 1999, the No. 8-seeded Knicks advanced to the Conference Finals and eventually the NBA Finals in a lockout-shortened season.
Butler had 24 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, while Adebayo had 23 points and 9 boards as the Heat won the Eastern Conference Semifinal series 4–2. The Heat await the winner of the Boston Celtics-Philadelphia 76ers series for Game 7 on Sunday in Boston. The Eastern Conference Finals begin on Wednesday.
The Heat screwed up Brunson's heroic play. A highlight-worthy fadeaway served as an early sign he was fully recovered after playing all 48 minutes of Game 5. Scoring 41 points on 5-for-10 3-point shooting and 14-of-22 field-goal attempts, Brunson scored the most points in a playoff game by a Knicks guard in team history.
RJ Barrett was aggressive in the paint for the Knicks, committing three fouls in seven minutes. They found themselves at the line again after being fouled by Kevin Love with 5:29 remaining in the first quarter. Barrett made both of his free-throw attempts to go 8-for-8 and put the Knicks ahead 17–14.
After Brunson made a 26-foot jumper with 3:43 remaining, Julius Randle stepped up to center stage.
Despite Caleb Martin's foul, Randle drove to the basket for the layup and then got an extra point at the line. After a defensive rebound from Josh Hart, Randle made a midrange shot assisted by Brunson for back-to-back buckets.
Randle's blast put the Knicks up 31–17, forcing Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra to end the half with 2:40 remaining in the first.
After the huddle, the Heat went on a 7–0 run, highlighted by Kyle Lowry making both free throws after Hart was fouled. Butler snatched a rebound on the other end of the floor, allowing Lowry to make it 3. Randle made a bad pass that was intercepted by Martin, then Butler made a quick shot for the Heat. But the Knicks were able to close out the first quarter up 31–24.
Two minutes into the second quarter, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau gave Brunson his first rest since Game 4. It seemed like Brunson could barely catch a few breaths before the Heat took full advantage of his absence.
In another unanswered flurry of buckets, Adebayo took off to help the Heat take a 37–36 lead with 7:48 remaining in the second quarter. He made a free throw after a foul by Isaiah Hartenstein, then made a jumper and a dunk.
Another bucket by Adebayo in the final minute of the second gave them 17 points at half time, but Brunson responded with a floating jump shot at the other end of the floor. He was called for a foul with less than 30 seconds left in the half. Max Strauss' free throws gave the Heat a 51–50 lead in the second quarter, despite hitting only two 3's.
Starting the third quarter, Brunson and Barrett both had three fouls. In addition to having two crucial Knicks in foul trouble, the Knicks opened the period 0-of-6 from the field.
The Heat took a 74–71 lead in the fourth quarter after Butler's strong performance.
Brunson, who became the first Knicks since Patrick Ewing in 1990 to record at least 30 points in three straight playoff games, accounted for every Knicks field goal in the fourth quarter, going 3-for-6 from the field. And one was helping. submit.
Miami had its biggest lead of the game at the halfway point of the quarter after another -1 from Butler.
With the Heat looking to be cruising to victory, a key call with 59.5 seconds remaining in the game nearly swung the momentum back to the Knicks.
Brunson was knocked in the face by Gabe Vincent, and after review, it was deemed a head 1, putting Brunson over the line. Brunson made both free throws, then found Hart for a layup to cut the Heat's lead to 92–90.
Butler missed a jumper on the other end, and Hart gave the Knicks life with the rebound. But Lowry made a steal and the Knicks were fouled. Butler hit two free throws with 14.4 seconds remaining. With the Knicks trailing by 4, Quentin Grimes missed a 3-pointer with 13.5 seconds left, and the Knicks' season ended with Brunson's garbage-timed dunk.
The Heat would play in their third Eastern Conference Finals in four seasons after first surviving the play-in tournament, then sweeping top-seeded Milwaukee in the first round.