The Knicks season, which began with low expectations in what some fans have called the team’s most exciting game in more than 20 years, ended on Friday night with a 96-92 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. ended on
Jalen Brunson nearly led the Knicks to victory, scoring consistently even when the game seemed to be slipping away. He led all scorers with 41 points. However, Brunson’s teammates fought back. Julius Randle and RJ Barrett shot 4 of 24 for a combined 26 points. Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 24 points.
Barrett acknowledged his poor performance as he sat down for the post-game press conference. He sat down at the front table, stared at his stats on the printed box score, said “Wow,” and addressed reporters.
“I played very badly. I am very disappointed with the way we played today.’ , you learn from it.
After the Heat beat the Milwaukee Bucks, the East’s No. 1 seed and the N.B.A. Favorites – In the first round, the Knicks’ path to the Eastern Conference Finals looked promising. The fifth seed Knicks defeated a talented fourth seed Cavaliers led by guard Donovan Mitchell. The Heat, the eighth seed, on the other hand, averaged 20.1 points per game in the regular season, but went into the second round without guard Tyler Herro, who suffered a broken arm against the Bucks.
However, as the Knicks series against Miami began, the differences between these two teams became apparent. The Heat have a legitimate star player in Butler who can lead his team to victory if he so chooses. Knicks is not.
“They didn’t play like a No. 8 seed at all,” Brunson said. “They cannot be trusted.”
Most NBA fans are probably accustomed to Butler touting his performance in the playoffs, and Butler followed suit this postseason. He stifled the Knicks with high-scoring games and stellar defensive efforts. He averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 assists and 7.0 rebounds per game against the Knicks going into Game 6.
A six-time All-Star, Butler often played at that level during the regular season, but was arguably the best player in the playoffs, and many casual N.B.A. Fans may need to find out via a Google search.
On the other hand, the Knicks’ best players, Brunson and Randle, have wavered between looking tough enough to take this team to the Eastern Conference Finals and not being geared for that stage. Brunson acknowledged his struggles in the Game 1 loss of the series, saying he was “terrible” as he went 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.
Randle, who was the Knicks’ only All-Star selection this season, made the All-NBA. He hasn’t looked like him in this playoff. In the regular season, he averaged a double-double of 25.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, but he averaged 16.8 points and 8 rebounds in the playoffs entering Game 6. Heat, but he was concerned about their playoff struggles first.
The Knicks’ last playoff appearance was two seasons earlier. Randle again performed well in the regular season, making his first All-Star team and averaging 24.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per regular season double-double. However, in the first round of the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, he held steady, averaging 18.0 points and 11.6 rebounds, despite averaging 37.3 points in the team’s three regular season matchups, the most he scored against an opponent. The Hawks eliminated the Knicks in five quick games.
After the Knicks lost 3–1 in this Heat series, Randle questioned the team’s will.
“Maybe they want more than that,” Randle said when asked about the Knicks’ poor offensive rebounds and little aggression on loose balls. “I don’t know. That’s what we’ve been doing all year, and if we’re going to be in this season, we’ve got to find a way to go ahead and play it.”
The Knicks responded by stopping the Heat’s late comeback attempt in Game 5 when Brunson looked like the best player on either team.
Friday’s loss was especially disappointing because the Knicks looked like they could have run with more depth, but they still seem to be doing better this season, and a performance like Brunson’s in Game 5 is a sign that this is the season. The team has the right pieces in place to move forward.
The Knicks finished 11th in the East last season with questions about the future of coach Tom Thibodeau and Randle. In the offseason, the Knicks, as always, missed their top free agent and did not trade Mitchell. He said he thought the Jazz would trade him to the Knicks instead of the Cavaliers. Instead, the Knicks signed former Dallas guard Brunson in the second round in 2025.
With Brunson, the Knicks have become one of the most surprising teams in the NBA. Brunson and Randle have produced an exciting one-two punch this season. Beating Mitchell’s team in the first round was a statement of sorts to those who questioned the Knicks’ decision not to trade.
Teddy Foran, 24, who grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, said after Game 1 against the Heat. He became a Knicks fan while growing up watching the game with his father.
“What we did in the off-season maintaining a young core was great. It’s not selling to Donovan, but as you can see, if you sell to Donovan, you lose 5 rounds. So if we lose the second round, it doesn’t matter.”
When Brunson and Randle led the Knicks to their deepest playoff run since 2013, when they also lost in the second round, crowds of fans gathered at Seventh Avenue to party after the win. The team last made it to the NBA. 1999 Finals and 2000 Conference Finals. But maybe these knicks were finally enough to make this team attractive to the key star players they’ve been desperately chasing and missing out on each off-season.
“We know how lucky we are.” Thibodeau talked about playing at Madison Square Garden, which he described as the best stadium in the league. “Hopefully, we will make them proud. We give whatever we have, sometimes we fall short, but we will come back.”