Jimmy Butler scored 24 points, Bam Adebayo added 23 and the Miami Heat head back to the Eastern Conference finals after beating the New York Knicks 96-92 on Friday night.
Max Strus had 14 errors and Kyle Lowry had 11 points and nine assists for the eighth-seeded Heat, who won the semifinal series 4-2 to reach the conference finals for the 10th time overall and the third time in recent four years.
Miami became the second No. 8 seed in NBA history to reach the conference finals, joining the Knicks, who did so in 1999. The Heat will visit Boston or Philadelphia in Game 1 on Wednesday. The Celtics and 76ers play Game 7 of their series on Sunday.
Jalen Brunson was spectacular for New York, scoring 41 points on 14-of-22 shooting. But his teammates combined for just 51 points: Julius Randle had 15 and RJ Barrett 11 on 1-of-10 shooting. Josh Hart also had 11 points for the Knicks.
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It was risky at the end, but Miami survived. Gabe Vincent was penalized for a flagrant-1 against Brunson with just under a minute to go, starting a streak in which the Knicks scored four points in 4.6 seconds.
Brunson made the free throws, Hart added a layup and the 92-86 lead was cut to 92-90.
The Knicks managed a stop at the other end, but never took a shot on the next possession. Lowry deflected the ball for a steal, Butler made two free throws with 14.4 seconds left and the countdown to the NBA Final Four was on.
Miami was fouled four times in the first 2:15 of the fourth quarter, setting the tone for New York to keep coming to the line throughout the final period.
The Knicks tied it early in the third, but missed another 10 field goal attempts in the second half, along with two free throws, which would have brought New York to a tie or given them the lead.
Miami bent, but never broke. Vincent set up Adebayo for a dunk with 1:05 left that put Miami up 92-86, at which point it became a matter of stopping.
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Brunson scored 22 points in the first half, tying his third most before halftime in any game this season, and his most until halftime of a playoff game. He had 15 in the first quarter as the Knicks flew out to take control early.
New York led by 14 in the first quarter and Miami has never led by more than two in the first 24 minutes. But it was Miami with the lead at the half, going up 51-50 at halftime largely because it ultimately kept New York off the line.
The Knicks made 11 free throws in the first quarter, the most by any Heat opponent this season and tied for the fourth-most against Miami in an opening period in the past decade. But they didn’t even get to the line in the final 15:16 of the half.
The score to that point: Knicks 29, Heat 17. The score for the rest of the half: Heat 34, Knicks 21, despite Miami being outscored 21-6 from 3-point range in the first two quarters.
Knicks: Brunson and Quentin Grimes played all 48 minutes of Game 5, but that was quickly wiped out in Game 6. Grimes sat out for 6:41 of the first half, Brunson for 2:44, though part of that was because he got his third foul with 37.6 seconds left. … Immanuel Quickley (sprained left ankle) missed his third straight game. … New York finished 53-40, its best single-season record since going 60-34 in 2012-13.
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Heat: Victor Oladipo was at the game, on crutches and propped up after surgery to repair his torn patellar tendon. … The Heat had three starters (Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Butler), all shorter than the Miami Marlins starting pitcher a couple of miles away: rookie Eury Pérez, making his major league debut, measures 6 feet 8 inches. … Miami had 3-point attempts as time expired in each of the first three quarters. They all failed.
Among those in attendance: Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, even on a rookie minicamp weekend for his team, and Dallas (and former Knicks) guard Tim Hardaway Jr., whose father’s jersey He is among those withdrawn by the Heat.