Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

No Immanuel Quickley again meant winning Game 5 at Madison Square Garden would be even tougher for the Knicks.

It took an awful first quarter but the rest of the way, the Knicks’ starters entered a second gear and carried the team to a decisive 112-103 victory. Jalen Brunson’s 38 points led the way and New York’s star point guard also had nine rebounds and seven assists.

The Knicks are two wins away from doing what their MSG co-resident New York Rangers have done all too often in the playoffs: come back from being down 3-1. Game 6 is slated for Friday in Miami.

Some takeaways:

Julius Randle returns. In case you missed it, New York sports media’s talking heads weren’t too happy with Randle after his low effort showing in Game 4. One bad quarter later, the Julius Randle of old showed up and finished with 24 points. Randle also hit the dagger putback near the end of the game.

Granted, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Randle’s net +/- for the night was an even 0. He’s played well against the Heat all season and must double his effort in Game 6.

Defense back on board. We said before this series even started how the Knicks’ ability to control the glass would play a key role. Miami, sure enough, out-rebounded New York in both Games 3 and 4.

Mitchell Robinson got the memo and led the effort in the paint. His 11 rebounds led all players and the Knicks also dominated with 14 offensive boards. In fact, the team owned the paint so much that their 50 total rebounds dwarfed the Heat’s 34.

The Knicks’ overall defensive effort was also much stronger on their home court. Jimmy Butler was held in check for much of the game and had just 19 points, and Miami shot just 30.2% from three. This is the effort that wins Game 6 on the road.

Help on the way? Immanuel Quickley hasn’t been much of a factor in this series and missed the last two games with a sprained ankle. Even so, his three-point prowess would be a welcome boost in a must-win Game 6.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game that Quickley is “improving” but stopped short of commenting on his future availability. This makes sense. The Knicks were down 3-1 heading into Game 5 so Game 6 wasn’t even on anyone’s mind.

However, Game 6 being on Friday night gives Quickley more time to heal from an injury originally suffered back on Saturday. He hasn’t played well this series, practically vanishing.

But even then, the Knicks are that much better a team just for having Quickley available. If the threes aren’t falling, maybe his floaters will. The starters can’t carry the load again like they did in Game 5. Having Quickley back on Friday would mean a great deal.

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.