NEW YORK — Jalen Brunson scored 25 points in a 108-101 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Sunday, but after it was over, the New York Knicks guard took responsibility for his team’s downfall and failure to close the game.
“They finished the third quarter strong, finished the second quarter strong,” Brunson said of the Heat. “They had key moments in the game where we needed to finish strong, be strong, and that starts with me. Today I was horrific. Just very uncharacteristic by me — and this one’s on me. I got to be better. And we’ll go from there.”
What Brunson was referring to most was the fact he was 0-for-7 from the 3-point line and could not find any rhythm once the Heat’s tough defense got him away from the paint.
“I think inside the 3-point line I was pretty efficient,” Brunson said. “Outside the 3-point line, I was terrible. They’re a good team, great defense, well coached, experience, so you got to give them the credit, but for me I have to be better.”
It wasn’t just Brunson who was having issues from long range Sunday. The Knicks finished 7-for-34 from beyond the arc, missing multiple open looks that would have changed the game.
“The game tells you what to do, so if you’re open, you got to let it go,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They’re going to collapse and we got to make the right reads. And that’s it.”
Despite the loss, the Knicks remained upbeat about their chances in the series, especially given that they believe they will shoot better heading into Game 2 on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
“We can’t be discouraged,” Brunson said. “Playing in the NBA, a lot of it’s all confidence, and you got to stay confident, you got to stay poised and you got to stick together as a team. We just got to come back hungry, be better, fix our mistakes and move forward from there.”
Knicks guard Josh Hart echoed a similar sentiment.
“I don’t think there’s an opportunity that we let slip away,” Hart said. “This is going to be a tough physical series and every game’s different.”
The Knicks also remain optimistic that All Star forward Julius Randle will return to the floor at some point in the near future. Randle missed Sunday’s game because of a sprained left ankle, but got a workout in before the game and appears to be making progress towards a return.
“I don’t know how close [he was],” Thibodeau said after the game. “I know he worked out before, I just trust him and the medical staff to make that decision. So if he could go — I planned both ways, I planned with him going and planned if he didn’t go. Once they make a decision, that’s it and you live with it and you get ready with what you have. And so we have more than enough.”