With an injured Julius Randle in the locker room, and Jalen Brunson playing at less than 100 percent, Tom Thibodeau turned to a rarely used quintet to close out the Knicks’ all-important victory Wednesday night over the Heat.
Thibodeau used the same five players — starters Quentin Grimes and RJ Barrett and second-teamers Immanuel Quickley, Josh Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein — for the entire fourth quarter as the Knicks reduced their magic number to clinch a playoff berth to one with a 101-92 win over Miami at the Garden.
Brunson, in his first game back after missing two with a sprained right hand, was called back from the scorer’s table about midway through the quarter.
“The game swayed right there, and so we had a lot of guys in, playing roles they’re not accustomed to, in positions, but we managed it well, I thought,” Thibodeau said. “We had just taken a five-point lead, so I wanted to see where it would go. And I felt we just got into a good rhythm.
“The things about Jalen is he’s always team-first, I said let’s see the next couple of minutes, how it goes, and we went on a run right there and just rode it out right there. Some nights that’s the way it is.”
Thibodeau said he was happy to hear that ESPN reported that Spurs coaching legend Gregg Popovich will be a part of the 2023 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class that officially will be announced this weekend at the Final Four in Houston.
“Just I think what he’s done in the league, and again, the mark of greatness,” Thibodeau said before the game. “We were just talking about [Heat president] Pat [Riley]. Same thing with Pop.
“To be at that level for as long as he has, and he’s obviously a great leader, and he’s done an incredible job. You know what they stand for, but also to do it with the humility that he has, I think that’s really stood out.”
Out-of-the-rotation veteran Derrick Rose was unavailable for the second straight game.