Julius Randle added 15 points for the Knicks, who have not made it to the conference Finals since 2000.
Miami will play either the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers for a place in the NBA Finals. The Celtics host the Sixers in Game 7 of their conference semi-final series on Sunday.
Knicks coach Thibodeau was proud of his team despite defeat.
“Congratulations to the Heat,” he said.
“They played tough in this series and hats off to them. But I’m proud of our guys. There’s always disappointment at the end of the season and in the end, there’ll be one team standing. Proud of the way this team worked all year.” AFP
MIAMI – It has been a difficult journey for the Miami Heat this National Basketball Association (NBA) season.
They had to toil in the regular season, survive the play-in tournament, and face up to the mighty Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the play-offs.
But grinding it out has been working for them, and on Friday, they punched their ticket to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals with a 96-92 home victory over the New York Knicks to win their semi-final series 4-2.
Jimmy Butler scored 24 points and Bam Adebayo added 23 to lead the Heat, who are in the conference Finals for the second straight year and the third time since 2020.
Miami are also the first eighth-seeded team to reach this stage since the 1999 Knicks.
“I like it,” Butler told broadcaster ESPN. “What we do better than anything is grind these wins out.
“We’ve been in games like this all year long. We’re prepared for it, we stay with it till the end.
“The win means we’re one step closer to our goal.”
The Heat withstood another stellar performance from Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, who scored 41 points but was harried into a crucial turnover with 16.4 seconds remaining and the Heat up by just two.
Facing elimination, New York had to come out strong and they led 31-24 after the first quarter.
Brunson scored 22 points in the first half, but the Heat had edged ahead 51-50 at the break and the Knicks never regained the lead.
Adebayo scored 17 points in the first half, his 11 points in the second quarter helping turn the tide.
He pulled down nine rebounds with two steals and a block, his dunk putting Miami up by six with 1min 5sec to play.
Kyle Lowry added 11 points with nine assists and two steals for the Heat, who made just seven three-pointers but were 23-of-25 from the free-throw line.
Lowry, like Butler, felt that victory was all down to the grit that the team had.
“It was a battle,” he said.
“A Tom Thibodeau-coached team, they’re always going to play hard. This was a grind and we found a way.”