Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra entered the postgame interview room with a cup of a celebration beverage. Then, after taking a seat, he started expressing how challenging the road has been for the Heat.
It was a fight throughout the regular season. They have to win the play-in game to advance. They were three minutes away from going home before the playoffs started and needed a surge to earn the right to play top-seeded Milwaukee.
All forgotten. They advanced to the last four of the NBA playoffs despite being seeded eighth overall.
After defeating the New York Knicks by a score of 96 to 92 on Friday night in Game 6, Jimmy Butler finished with 24 points, Bam Adebayo added 23, and the Miami Heat advanced to the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
Spoelstra remarked that it was “really fricking hard” to get it to the finals of the Eastern Conference.
For some business models. Not for Miami. The Heat will be going there for the 10th time overall, the seventh time in the last 13 years, and the third time during the previous four seasons. On Wednesday, they will play Game 1 at either Boston or Philadelphia; the locations of those games will be determined by the winners of the other two East semifinal series on Sunday.
Max Strus led the Heat with 14 points and Kyle Lowry with 11 points, who also dished out nine assists. They are the second No. 8 seed in the history of the NBA to make it to the conference finals, joining the New York Knicks, who did it back in 1999.
Jalen Brunson had a phenomenal game for New York, scoring 41 points on 14-for-22 shooting. On the other hand, his teammates only scored 51 points between them; Julius Randle led the way with 15 points, and RJ Barrett contributed 11 points despite shooting only one of ten shots correctly. Also contributing 11 points for the Knicks was Josh Hart.
“Congratulations to the Heat, to the organization, to the coaching staff, to Spo and Pat Riley, and all of their players,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. They gave it to them throughout this season, and I have to give them credit for that. However, I couldn’t be more pleased with how our team has performed. The season’s conclusion often brings about disappointment, but in the end, there can only be one team standing… “Proud of this team’s effort throughout the whole year.”
In the end, Miami came out on top despite the fact that things were looking quite grim. With just under a minute left on the clock, Gabe Vincent was penalized for a flagrant-1 foul against Brunson. This started a run in which the Knicks scored four points in 4.6 seconds.
After Brunson sank both free throws and Hart scored a basket, the score was 92-90, with Brunson’s team now trailing by two points.
The Knicks successfully prevented a score at the other end of the court, but their subsequent possession resulted in no field goals being scored. After Butler converted both free throws with 14.4 seconds remaining, the game was officially over, and it was time to start counting down to the conference finals. Lowry had just stolen the ball by deflecting it away from his opponent.
“It was a battle,” Lowry remarked. “When Tom Thibodeau is coaching a team, you can expect them to play with a lot of intensity. Nevertheless, we made it through the arduous process via some means.
Within the opening two minutes and fifteen seconds of the fourth quarter, Miami was called for four fouls, which set the stage for New York to continue getting to the free-throw line throughout the game.
The Knicks were able to level the score early in the third quarter, but they missed ten other field goal tries and two free throws in the second half that would have put New York into a tie or given it the lead.
Brunson finished the first half with 22 points, which tied for his third-highest before halfway in any game this season. It was also his most points ever scored by halftime of a playoff game. When the Knicks came out firing and grabbed early control, he had 15 points before the end of the first quarter.
In the first quarter, New York had a lead of 14, while Miami never had a lead of more than two points in the first quarter and a half of the game. But after the break, it was Miami that had the upper hand, leading 51-50 thanks in large part to the fact that it had stopped New York from getting a shot off at the basket.
The Knicks made 11 free throws in the first quarter, which is the most by any Heat opponent this season, and ties for the fourth-most against Miami in an opening period over the past decade. In the first quarter, the Knicks scored the most points against the Heat. However, in the remaining 15 minutes and 16 seconds of the half, they did not even get to the line.
Until that moment in the game, the score was Knicks 29, Heat 17. Then, after the completion of the second quarter, the score was Heat 34, Knicks 21. And from that point on, this was the first time anyone else ever took the lead.
“We’ve got guys that just want it,” Lowry remarked about the team.
Brunson and Quentin Grimes played the full 48 minutes for the Knicks in Game 5, but that was not an option for them in Game 6. Brunson only played for 2 minutes and 44 seconds in the first half, while Grimes was on the bench for 6 minutes and 41 seconds of that period. However, some of that time was since Grimes received his third foul with 37.6 seconds left in the first half. Immanuel Quickley has now missed three games in a row due to a sprained ankle on his left foot. The final record for New York was 53-40, which was the team’s best since it went 60-34 in the 2012-13 season.
After undergoing surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon, Heat guard Victor Oladipo attended the game while wearing crutches and a brace. The Miami Heat starters Vincent, Strus, and Butler were all shorter than the starting pitcher for the Miami Marlins, a rookie named Eury Perez, who made his first appearance in the major leagues. In each of the first three quarters, Miami had opportunities to shoot a 3-pointer as the clock ran out. Unfortunately, each and every one of them was unsuccessful.