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.”
Jalen Brunson (left) celebrates on the bench during the Knicks’ fourth-quarter run in their 101-92 win over the Heat. Robert Sabo for NY Post
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.