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Mike Lupica: Jalen Brunson doesn’t get any help as Knicks season ends despite heroic effort vs. Heat

This was one of the great postseason performances any Knick has ever had ending on the right baseline in Miami late Friday night. This was Jalen Brunson running into a double team from Jimmy Butler and Max Strus that was the same as running into the ending to this Knicks season. It was only the second round. The Knicks still can’t make it past the second round. It doesn’t change what we just saw from the best point guard the Knicks have had since Clyde.

Brunson, the best free agent the Knicks have ever had, had done everything he could do on this night, the way he had done that all series long. He had scored 38 at the Garden on Wednesday night as the Knicks won Game 5 and won another night of season. Now he was on his way to scoring 41 in Game 6, keeping his team alive and the hopes of Knick fans alive throughout a rock fight of a basketball game.

And somehow, after the Knicks had been down six going into the last minute, they still found themselves just down two, and the ball was where they wanted it to be, in the hands of Brunson. He had no help on this night. It is why the longer the game went, this looked the way things looked at this time of year a hundred years ago when it was Bernard King against the world for the Knicks.

Julius Randle had three baskets in Game 6. RJ Barrett had one basket in 10 attempts. Other than Brunson, the only Knick to get a basket in the last eight minutes of this game was Josh Hart, who got a layup with 54 seconds left in the Knicks season.

So, it was Brunson with the ball one last time. It was all the chance the Knicks could have asked for when the season started, this chance, right now, to tie this game with a two or win it with a three and go back to the Garden on Monday night for Game 7, with a trip to the Finals on the table.

Only there was Butler on Brunson, and Strus there with Butler to take away the baseline on the double team. Brunson then threw the ball into the lane and into traffic. Throwing it away. Randle was there. At this point, after what we’d seen from Randle on this night, Brunson would have been better off trying to throw the ball to you or me.

Butler ended up with the ball. Got fouled. Made two free throws. It was 96-90. There would be no game on Monday night at the Garden, what would only have been the biggest game any Knicks team has played since that semifinal series against the Pacers in 2000.

“This is what we do better than anything,” Butler said. “We grind these wins out.”

He is the captain of the grinders, and a great, tough-minded, all-around player. When this series started, it was Butler who looked like the best player in the gym. But over the last two games, it was Jalen Brunson. On the last night of his season, he put 41 on the Heat, a night when Butler scored 24 to lead his team. It wasn’t enough. After Brunson essentially averaged 40 over the last two games, he ended up in the worst possible place in the world on that right baseline:

He needed help. He needed someone to whom he could throw the ball with the expectation of tying the game for the Knicks. And even though there were blue uniforms in the area, it seemed like some kind of mirage, because the reality was there was no one for Brunson.

“We made the final eight,” Tom Thibodeau said when it was over. “That wasn’t the goal.”   

The immediate goal was to get home, and maybe get to play the Celtics or the 76ers for a chance to go back to the Finals. But if the goal is to be something other than being a hardnosed team stuck in the middle of the conference, they need another star player now. Because the only star they have is Brunson.

The Knicks gave their fans some ride. They still had a game on the 12th of May and that ain’t nothing. Thibodeau talked about taking a step back now and looking at the totality of the season. OK. They can do that. But the totality of these playoffs is that they beat a Cavaliers team that was softer than soft ice cream, then lost in six to a team that found itself in a play-in game at the end of the regular season.

The other harsh reality is this: The Heat were better. And better coached in this series, just because there isn’t a better coach in the league than Erik Spoelstra. The Heat made more big stops and big shots and Butler did have help from Bam Adebayo, and an old guy named Kyle Lowry, who still remembers how to do it at this time of year.

Brunson did everything he could. Thirty-eight on Wednesday. Forty-one Friday night on the road. Scoring like King, running the show like Clyde. He just made a wrong turn at the end on the right baseline, and threw the ball into next season.


Jayson Tatum merely produced one of the great single-game comebacks in the history of playoff basketball against the Sixers the other night, Game 6 in Philly.

Tatum was 1-for-13, and well on his way to John Starksville when he gathered himself, outscored the Sixers in the fourth quarter (and on the road) with 16 points, made huge 3′s down the stretch, and only saved his team’s season.

At this point, the Yankees must be thinking about giving Shane Spencer another shot in leftfield.

Anthony Volpe is a lot of cool baseball things.

A leadoff man isn’t one of them.

The Mets only needed that win on Friday night against the Nationals the way the rest of us need oxygen.

You want to know something else:

That was a very big win for the Yankees, coming back in the 8th the way they did against the Rays.

Somebody catch me up on something:

How many titles has Kevin Durant won without Steph Curry at this point in his career?

A friend of mine suggested this must have been the questionnaire CNN used to screen audience members for that pep rally in New Hampshire the other night:

How much do you love Trump?

a. A lot

b. Tons.

c. More than anyone.

d. All of the above.

By the way?

Anderson Cooper locked up Employee of the Month the next night when he took one for the team, and tried to make CNN’s ratings grab sound like some kind of sacrament.

My pal Barry Stanton takes exception with all the people who say that “Game Seven” are the two best words in sports.

Stanton says he’s pretty sure those two words are “We win.”

Somehow Mike Breen manages to raise his game at this time of year, at a time in sports broadcasting when he’s got as much game as anybody.

When I heard on ESPN the other day that the weather in Miami might be affecting the Knicks, I started to think they must have been playing the games at Flamingo Park.

I think I will be able to clear time in my schedule for that first Monday Night Football game between the Jets and Bills in Mr. Rodgers neighborhood.

Gerard Gallant must be wondering where all his friends are at this point.

Or maybe just wondering how much he could have forgotten about hockey after his team gave the Devils those beatdowns in Games 1 and 2.

It was a few years ago when Jeff Van Gundy first started referring to Erik Spoelstra as a Hall of Fame coach.

But guess what?

JVG was right, as usual.

We need to have Coach Daboll be back in season.

I just feel as if things just go a lot better around here when he is.

At this point, you have to wonder what Bob Huggins would have to do to lose his job at the University of West Virginia.

Did St. John’s fire Mike Anderson with cause, or just because they were so hot to get Coach Pitino down from New Rochelle?

I liked Phil Mickelson a lot better when he was still wearing big-boy pants.

There are players in baseball about whom numbers don’t tell the entire story, and Mookie Betts remains one of those players.

What big basketball fun it is, though, to have one more Game 7, on Causeway St., Boston, between the Celtics and the 76ers.

If you have not yet seen the movie “Air,” about Michael Jordan and Sonny Vaccaro and Nike and how the whole Air Jordan thing began, you ought to.

Everybody in it — Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina — is terrific.

Just one of the most enjoyable movie experiences I’ve had in a while.

You’re welcome in advance.

And finally:

Happy Mother’s Day today to my mom, Lee Lupica, who is celebrated on this day by her six grandchildren and one great-grandson, and by my sister and me.

Mom keeps on keeping on, as she celebrates her first Mother’s Day without my Pops, who passed on at the end of March.

If you could, keep her in your thoughts today, the way she keeps him in her heart.

And, of course, all my love goes out to the former Taylor McKelvy, the mother of our four children, and now grandmother to Charles Michael Lupica.

This day really is like all the others, actually.

None of us in her world can imagine what we’d ever do without her.


Source: Berkshire mont

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