Knicks escape with a 106-104 victory against surging Heat without Jalen Brunson

Not even facial recognition saw that coming.

Without an ailing and inactive Jalen Brunson, the Knicks held off the surging Miami Heat despite stumbling and stumbling through the final minute of a 106-104 win at MSG.

It ended with a potential game winner from Miami’s Tyler Herro bouncing off the edge, allowing Julius Randle to breathe easy after his turnover nearly forfeited the game.

The final moments were absolutely wild. It included two terrible passes and turnovers from RJ Barrett – who was otherwise brilliant on Thursday – and a stumble from Randle by 2.1 seconds that was judged a trip.

But the Knicks (28-25) prevailed and moved a game inside the Heat (29-24) to sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They got a clutch steal and dunk from Isaiah Hartenstein, who has played better over the past two games with Mitchell Robinson still out with a broken thumb.

Barrett finished with 30 points in 41 minutes, playing the stretch this time after being benched in key moments of Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers. Randle, who was named an All-Star reserve not long before the tip, added 23 points and 10 rebounds, including a dunk with 5.2 seconds left.

The Heat is one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, recovering from a poor start to the season to climb into a playoff spot. Miami also defeated the Knicks nine times in their last 11 matchups.

But not Thursday.

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Brunson was a late scratch with a non-COVID illness, bringing Immanuel Quickley into the starting lineup. It represented Brunson’s fourth missed game of the season and the Knicks are now 2-2 without their point guard.

His DNP on Thursday also pushed Evan Fournier back into the rotation, as the Frenchman recorded 18 minutes and missed six of his seven shots. Quickley added eight points in 37 minutes.

Named an All-Star reserve alongside Randle, Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 32 points in 38 minutes.

The third quarter, like the end of the game, was a rollercoaster. The Knicks started with 11 consecutive points to take a commanding lead, the Heat followed with a 21-4 run and the Knicks scored 11 of the last 14 points. In the end, the Knicks went into the final period with a five-point lead.

Coach Tom Thibodeau knew it was going to be a tough game and the Knicks squeaked past.

“Miami plays great defensively, as always,” said Thibdoeau. “But getting Jimmy back and their overall depth is very strong.

“They’re where we are in the standings. I think history, Miami, New York, we know they’re a really good team. So they’re next game, just be ready.

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