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Jalen Brunson struggles as Knicks’ late rally falls short in loss to rival Heat


1 week ago 23

MIAMI –  The Knicks were reminded of last year’s elimination with a Jalen Brunson struggle twist. ‘

The Knicks star couldn’t come close to matching his supreme play of late, missing 12 of his 17 shots as a comeback fell short in Tuesday’s 109-99 loss to the Heat. 

In a lot of ways, the Knicks were uncharacteristic in ways that often only apply when they face Miami in big games.

Jalen Brunson drives on Caleb Martin during the Knicks’ 109-99 loss to the Heat. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

They committed sloppy turnovers.

They lost the rebounding battle handily, 39-30, despite entering as the NBA’s best team on the glass.

They were outhustled, outmuscled.

But after trailing throughout – most often by double-digits — the Knicks exploded a 12-0 run in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 92 on Precious Achiuwa’s putback with four minutes left. 

Jimmy Butler shoots over Josh Hart during the Knicks’ loss. AP

The Heat responded with a 17-7 run to close out the win, with Terry Rozier finishing with a game-high 34 points. 

The big difference Tuesday was that Brunson — a star in that playoff series against the Heat last year – was riding the struggle bus. 

Perhaps he was due for a letdown after carrying such a load in March.

Donte DiVincenzo looks to make a move on Terry Rozier during the Knicks’ loss. Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

He acknowledged feeling under the weather before the game, saying with congestion, “”I don’t feel the best, but I’m fine.”

Then he committed five turnovers and missed 5 of 6 treys.  

The Knicks (44-31) dropped their third straight and fell below the Magic from 4th to 5th in the Eastern Conference. 

Miles McBride drives on Caleb Martin during the Knicks’ loss. AP

New York’s bright spots Tuesday were Miles McBride, who dropped 24 points and chased around Rozier on defense, Bojan Bogdanovic, who had his best game as a Knick with 16 points off the bench, and Donte DiVincenzo, who added 31 points in 35 minutes on 11 for 21 shooting. 

Erik Spoelstra’s teams tend to ramp it up in April.

Part of that is because Jimmy Butler coasts through the regular season before turning on the boosters when it matters. 

Bojan Bogdanovic drives between Nikola Jovic (right) and Caleb Martin during the Knicks’ loss. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

And it’s starting to really matter for the Heat (42-33), who are currently seventh in the East and trying to avoid the play-in. 

“Jimmy kind of does side quests during the year until about April,” Josh Hart said. “Then he starts locking in. I’m sure people are going to see that maniac competitive side now that he’s done with the side quests and he’s on to the main quests.” 

It was the Knicks’ first game at the Kaseya Center since being eliminated in Game 6 last year.

And it was a rough start.

After dueling MVP chants for Brunson and Butler in the opening minutes, the Knicks trailed by 12 after the first quarter.

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