NBA

The Knicks are now Jalen Brunson’s team

The Knicks are now Jalen Brunson’s team

The Knicks are Jalen Brunson’s basketball team. This is true today, it was true Wednesday night, and it will be true for the next 3 ¹/₂ years and beyond.

RJ Barrett will be by his side and Julius Randle will be there for at least part of the trip. But until the Knicks land a megastar, if the Knicks ever land a megastar, Brunson will be the money player in the Garden. He will be the best quarterback on the market, better than the two guys probably behind center at MetLife Stadium, Daniel Jones and Jimmy G.

Brunson showed why again against the Pacers, making the two plays that mattered most when the walls were collapsing the Knicks. Two nights after blowing a 17-point lead and squandering a 44-point masterpiece by Brunson, the Knicks were doing everything they could to make the Milwaukee loss look like a stroll through Central Park. They were trying to blow a 25-point lead on an opponent that wasn’t quite in the Bucks’ league.

Buddy Hield got hot for the visitors, making it a 105-103 game with just over three minutes to play, forcing a worn-out Tom Thibodeau to call a timeout. Off that huddle, Brunson made a play in the lane and then nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner to regain control. He extended the lead to seven points again with 94 seconds left on a slow-motion floater that reminded again how he never lets the game go too fast.

Things got crazy again in the closing sequences, with a near miss on Brunson and a missed shot in the lane. But Quentin Grimes hit a dagger and the returning Barrett drained a pair of free throws, and soon the Knicks cruised to a 119-113 victory in the books Oh, and Brunson also had 34 more points in the books, giving him an average of 33.2 points in the five games he’s played since returning from a hip injury.

Jalen Brunson shoots during the Knicks’ win over the Pacers on Wednesday night.
Robert Sabo

“I think my job is to be a great teammate,” Brunson said, “to be the best version of myself, help my team win games and be a part of something special.”

He is doing his job. In fact, there’s no way the recent meltdown in Dallas would have happened if Brunson wasn’t in street clothes.

His four-year, $104 million deal is looking more and more like a steal. Knicks fans haven’t had a point guard in forever, in a city that positively adores point guards, and Brunson has been worth the wait.

“I feel like I strive to be the best player every time I step on the court,” Brunson said, “first and foremost.”

He’s the best player on the Knicks right now, and it’s not close.

The home team needed him on a pretty significant midseason night. The Knicks and Pacers had played 41 games each, meaning they were starting the second half on opposite sides of the border that separates playoff teams from play-in teams. The line is as thin as that between genius and insanity, or in this case, something that is legitimate and something that isn’t.

Hey, someone at the Garden should have been enterprising enough to put this on the marquee with the brightest lights:

The Knicks are now Jalen Brunson’s team
Jalen Brunson drives to the basket for the Knicks against the Pacers on Wednesday night.
USA TODAY Sports

Knicks & Pacers: See Sixth-Seed Smackdown.

Barrett’s re-entry added an extra layer of significance to the event, and in the moment Thibodeau threw the wing and his messy finger for 41 volatile minutes, leaving Barrett with 27 points on 23 shots, 14 of them failed

“I did what I could, man,” he said.

The effort was clearly appreciated. What did the Knicks lose to him while he was out for nearly seven full games?

“Just the complete game,” Thibodeau said. “The versatility, the ability to score, [getting] down low, get in the paint, make plays, good size, wing defense”.

knicks
Jalen Brunson of the Knicks pulls up a jumper against the Pacers.
AP

Nothing, in other words.

As it turned out, the Knicks looked whole in the first half with Barrett opening the scoring with a 3-pointer 18 seconds into the game and eventually helping his team build a 23-point halftime lead. He had 16 at the half, and Brunson had 19, and the Knicks held a 62-41 lead that looked even bigger than that.

Meanwhile, Indiana star point guard Tyrese Haliburton took the opportunity to settle a score from last month’s loss to the Knicks in Indy. This is not often a studio analyst can inspire the need for revengebut it was MSG’s Wally Szczerbiak who called Haliburton “Mr. Supposed Wannabe Fake All-Star,” which is saying a lot.

Haliburton didn’t forget, and it wouldn’t have been surprising if he torched the Knicks with another reminder of why they should have drafted him, and not Obi Toppin, eighth overall in 2020.

But Haliburton limped off the floor and down the Garden tunnel late in the third quarter with a sore knee, opening the door for Brunson to make his own All-Star statement.

“I think there’s a whole other level he can get to,” Thibodeau said of his quarterback.

And that’s why the Knicks are Jalen Brunson’s team today, tomorrow and for a long time.



#Knicks #Jalen #Brunsons #team

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