Cease me should you’ve heard this earlier than however the Knicks blew another large lead on Wednesday night time. Nevertheless, this time, they had been lucky sufficient to be bailed on by Jalen Brunson, who responded with massive performs down the stretch to assist the Knicks escape with a 119-113 win over the Pacers.
With 7:50 left in the third quarter, the Knicks had been up by 25 factors. With 9:13 to go in the fourth that lead had shrunk to two factors, and the groups had been in a battle down the stretch.
It appears to be a nightly incidence with the Knicks. They play nice basketball in the first half and go up massive, solely to see their lead collapse in the second half. We’ve coated it time and time once more on this web site, highlighting how Tom Thibodeau fails to use his bench and gasses the starters out by the fourth quarter, and likewise how his overly aggressive defensive ideas come again to hang-out the workforce late in video games after they’re not as exact.
In some respects, it was extra of the identical on Wednesday.
The New York bench performed simply 50 complete minutes and 26 of them had been performed by Immanuel Quickley. Thibodeau performed 4 of his starters for 38 minutes or extra, together with RJ Barrett, who hadn’t performed in two weeks after which was tasked with taking part in 41 minutes in opposition to the Pacers.
Whereas Barrett was strong on the day, scoring 27 factors with eight rebounds and 4 assists and hitting two clutch free throws with 18 seconds left to assist seal the win, he was additionally 0-2 from the discipline in the final six minutes of the recreation, dedicated a turnover, and was typically a step gradual on the defensive finish. All of which is to be anticipated when requested to carry a lot of the load after that lengthy of a layoff.
In the meantime, Obi Toppin, who was in his second recreation again after lacking a month with a leg damage, performed simply 9 minutes and has performed 17 complete minutes in these two video games. Miles McBride and Isaiah Hartenstein had been additionally held to single-digit minutes as New York performed basically six gamers all recreation.
Fortunately for them, a type of six gamers was Jalen Bruson, who has emerged as one in every of the higher late-game performers in the league.
On Wednesday, Brunson completed with 34 factors on 11-of-20 from the discipline and 3-of-4 from deep with 4 assists and three rebounds. He additionally turned the ball over simply as soon as and stepped up for the Knicks a number of instances when their backs had been in opposition to the ropes.
When Indiana reduce the lead to three with 9 minutes left, Brunson discovered Quickley for an open three to give New York some respiration room. When the lead was reduce down to two factors with three minutes left, Brunson knifed by way of the Pacers’ protection for a driving layup, after which on the very subsequent possession he buried a 3 to put his workforce up 110-103 with simply two minutes to play.
These sorts of late-game heroics have been par for the course this season for New York’s level guard.
According to NBA.com’s Clutch Stats, which is outlined as “when the score is within five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime,” Brunson is sixth in the lead with 4.8 clutch factors per recreation. He’s additionally taking pictures 55.6% from past the arc in clutch conditions and averaged the 4th-most clutch discipline objectives made per recreation in the NBA.
“I feel like I strive to be the best player every time I step on the court,” Brunson mentioned after Wednesday’s win “first and foremost.”
For a lot of the season, he has been the finest participant on the courtroom for New York, however that has particularly been the case since the calendar flipped to 2023. In the six video games in which the Knicks have gone 5-1, Brunson leads the workforce with 33.2 factors per recreation to go together with 5.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds per recreation. He’s additionally taking pictures 52.6% from the discipline and 50% from past the arc and is placing up numbers that New York hasn’t seen from a guard in over virtually twenty years.
Jalen Brunson is averaging 21.9 PPG this season.
The final Knicks’ guard to common 22+ PPG in a season was Allan Houston (22.5) in 2002-03. Earlier than that? Clyde Frazier (23.2) in 1971-72.
It has been 20 years. Useless to say the Knicks do not often have guards scoring like this.
— Max Wildstein (@MaxWildstein) January 12, 2023
On account of the win, New York has now moved into sixth in the Jap Convention and has a winnable recreation with Washington on faucet for Friday night time. So whereas there are nonetheless points to repair and collapses to keep away from, the Knicks could have lastly discovered the participant that may rescue them from heartbreak.