MIAMI (AP) — Jimmy Butler had 27 points and 10 assists, Bam Adebayo finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds and the Miami Heat moved a win away from their third trip to the Eastern Conference finals in the last four years by topping the New York Knicks 109-101 on Monday night.
Max Strus scored 16 points, Kyle Lowry added 15 and Caleb Martin had 10 for the Heat. Miami, the No. 8 seed, leads the East semifinal series 3-1, with Game 5 — and the first potential clincher — awaiting in New York on Wednesday night.
Jalen Brunson finished with 32 points and 11 assists for fifth-seeded New York, while RJ Barrett had 24 points and Julius Randle scored 20 for the Knicks before fouling out with about three minutes left.
Miami missed 12 of its first 15 shots of the fourth quarter, but the Knicks didn’t take full advantage — trimming only three points off the Heat lead in that span. It was nine entering the fourth, and a pair of free throws by Brunson with 4:40 left got New York within 99-93.
But a slam by Martin breathed some life into an antsy building, and the roars got a bit louder about a minute later. With the Knicks down seven, Randle went into the lane — but Strus beat him to the spot, drawing contact that became the New York star’s sixth foul with 3:08 left, and the Heat held control the rest of the way.
The Knicks never led in Game 3, then held the lead twice in Game 4.
They had a pair of one-point leads in the opening quarter, for a combined 33 seconds, and with Miami erasing the deficits with immediate baskets on its next possession.
But unlike Game 3, when Miami’s lead was double digits for nearly the entirety of the final three quarters, this one remained in some doubt much of the way. Miami didn’t get its first 10-point lead until a 3-pointer by Strus with 3:23 left in the half, and whenever the Heat seemed poised to pull away New York had an answer.
The Knicks cut what was an 11-point deficit down to 67-65 on a 3-pointer by Barrett with 7:07 left in the third, but never got all the way over the hump. An 8-1 spurt over a two-minute stretch late in the third restored the 11-point lead, and Miami’s cushion was 90-81 going into the fourth.
Knicks: Immanuel Quickley, who sprained his left ankle late in Game 3, was out. His status for Game 5 isn’t clear, and he’s listed as day-to-day. … New York changed its starting lineup, with Quentin Grimes — who was celebrating his 23rd birthday — in for Josh Hart. … The Knicks gave up six offensive rebounds in the first three quarters combined, then gave up six more in the fourth alone.
Heat: Adebayo had seven field goals in the first half. Five were dunks, marking the first time in his 473 NBA games that he had that many before halftime. … The 7-2 start to the postseason matches the fifth-best in Heat history. They were 8-1 in 2005, 2013, 2014 and 2020 — getting to the NBA Finals in the three most-recent instances. … Butler was questionable with his right ankle, even though he played in Game 3, and wasn’t announced as playing until about an hour before tip-off Monday. … Miami missed four 3s on one possession early in the fourth quarter.
The win was the 103rd playoff victory for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. He becomes the third coach with that many playoff wins with one team; Gregg Popovich has 170 with San Antonio, and Phil Jackson had 118 with the Los Angeles Lakers and 111 with Chicago.
Pat Riley — the Heat president, Spoelstra’s boss and his predecessor as Heat coach — won 102 with the Lakers.
The Heat have a chance to reach the East finals on Wednesday — and so does South Florida’s NHL team. The Florida Panthers lead their second-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0, with Game 4 of that matchup in Sunrise, Florida on Wednesday night.
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Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press