NEW YORK (AP) — Julius Randle was not ready to play in a basketball game following the death of his grandmother earlier this week.
He was feeling her presence on the Madison Square Garden floor on Sunday.
Randle scored 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, RJ Barrett chipped in 23 and the New York Knicks rallied to beat the Miami Heat 124-121.
“My grandmother left an incredible legacy and mark on my life and my family, so it has been tough. It’ll still be tough, but tonight was special and I really felt her out there the whole time,” said Randle, who missed New York’s previous two games.
“It’s tough when somebody loses someone who is important to them. A couple of things have happened to us, and as a group. It affects everybody. You know, I cried when teammates lost their family members, it’s tough and I feel the same compassion now, losing my grandmother.”
Kevin Knox had 17 points off the bench and Reggie Bullock added 16 for the Knicks, who snapped a five-game losing streak.
Jimmy Butler had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who blew a lead down the stretch for the second time during their weekend stay in New York. James Johnson scored 19 points for Miami, which has lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
Randle had an impressive two-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter with eight points. He stole the ball from Johnson and made a three-pointer to give New York a 116-114 lead with 2:16 to go.
Randle later answered Johnson’s three with a pair of free throws and then a layup to extend the lead to 122-119 with 34 seconds left.
Interim coach Mike Miller credited the organisation for giving Randle as much time as possible to be with his family.
“The biggest thing is the players know that as a group collectively we respect their privacy and the things they need to do individually to take care of their families,” Miller said. “I think organisationally everybody does a great job stepping up. We are here for you, and we will do anything they need.”
The Heat led by 12 points at halftime of Friday night’s game in Brooklyn before the slumping Nets beat them.
“This is not our first rodeo. We do not need to panic,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We know how to do it. We’ve done it, and personnel has done it.”
Miami went up by 14 on Derrick Jones Jr’s three-pointer with 3:33 left in the third quarter and appeared to be on its way to an easy win over a New York team whose last three losses were by a total of 66 points.
The Knicks then scored 40 fourth-quarter points, though Butler had a chance to tie the game twice in regulation.
Trailing by two points with 21 seconds second left, Butler was fouled by Bullock on a three-point shot attempt but only made two of three free throws to cut the lead to 122-121.
Barrett was then fouled and made one for a two-point lead. On the ensuing possession, Butler missed a layup but Miami was credited with the possession after the ball went out of bounds. Butler then turned the ball over on a bad pass intended for Bam Adebayo.
Barrett was fouled again and made one to make it 124-121. Miami then gained possession after a replay review after the referees confirmed a loose ball following Barrett’s missed free throw went out of bounds off a Knicks player.
Miami called timeout and a desperation three by Adebayo was waved off because it came after the buzzer.
Butler was six of seven from the field and five of six from the free throw line to finish the first half with 17 points as Miami led 60-55.