Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Julius Randle returned and the Knicks overcame an inconsistent performance and performed when it mattered in the third quarter, beating the shorthanded Miami Heat 111-105. The East Semifinals are tied 1-1.

It helped that Randle performed well too. He was in prime point-forward form with 25 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists. Josh Hart was an assist shy of a triple-double. Jalen Brunson added 30 as the Heat lost and Jimmy Butler could only watch from the bench with a sprained ankle. Game 3 is set for Saturday in Miami.

Some takeaways:

The Heat bring the heat. You’d never know that Miami was playing without Butler. The Heat’s overall effort had the team in the game from start to finish. Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, and Max Strus combined for 60 points with 11 threes instead of the Knicks rolling.

Miami’s Game 2 lineup might not have looked great on paper, but they still outplayed and outpaced the Knicks at many points throughout the game. It just goes to show that with or without a superstar, Erik Spoelstra is an elite coach. New York must prepare to adjust to whatever adjustments he has up his sleeve.

RJ rolls on. Let’s not forget the efforts of RJ Barrett, who continued his hot streak with 24 points and five three-pointers. He’s averaging 23.2 points in his last five games and Game 2 marked the first time since Dec. 23 that Barrett had five threes in a game.

We said in our series preview that Barrett was the X-factor in this series. That hasn’t changed and now his three-point stroke came back for a night. Let’s see him keep it up the rest of the way.

Hartenstein stands on his head. The Knicks outrebounded the Heat 50-34 and Isaiah Hartenstein had nine of them. However, the boxscore doesn’t quite explain how critical his efforts were in Game 2. If he wasn’t crashing the glass for a rebound, he was putting his body on the line another way. Hartenstein also never stopped communicating on the court, be it rallying his teammates or dishing out trash talk.

And let’s not forget, Hartenstein played 26 minutes to Mitchell Robinson’s 21. Remember, Robinson got into foul trouble early and otherwise played pretty recklessly. He played in the fourth quarter, but not until the game was practically sealed.

Hartenstein isn’t as strong a rim protector as Robinson, but he did what the Knicks needed him to do in Game 2. He stayed focused, played tough interior D, and did his best to avoid dumb fouls. Sometimes, especially down the stretch, that’s more than enough.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.