Brunson Clutch Again Down Stretch. NY 112 Toronto 108

Jalen Brunson hit a HUGE drive-and-1 with 22 seconds left to turn a 108-106 Knicks lead into a 5-point cushion and lead the Knicks to the win, 112-108 on a Friday night in Toronto.

Brunson also made 1 of 2 free throws with 13 seconds left after Toronto pulled to within 3 and then fouled him coming up court. The clutch plays warded off a huge Toronto run that had cut a 16-point Knick lead with 4:37 left in the game, down to 2.

Brunson also scrapped for and came up with two HUGE secondary rebounds in the closing minutes

In the air was the fact that in Toronto’s prior game, they came back from 14 points down with a minute left (and 9 points down with 30 seconds left) to send a game against Milwaukee into overtime, and the Knicks lost that game to Dallas two weeks ago when they were up 9 points with 30 seconds left.

Not this time.

The Knicks had Brunson — who was out injured against Dallas down the stretch.

“I thought it (Brunson’s play) was huge,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “I thought the whole 4th quarter — at the start of the 4th the bench was terrific — Quick, Evan, Isaiah — Mitch was in there with them — they were getting blitzed; Quick got going with the pick and roll; they played very unselfishly, and sort of bought us some time but also gave us also a cushion. And then when the starters came back — Jalen and Julius — they were terrific down the stretch.”

NY has now won 4 in a row and is 22-18; Toronto falls to 16-23.

1. Brunson

The Knicks do not win this game without Jalen Brunson playing a gritty, clutch, undefeatable brand of basketball down the stretch.

2. Randle Came Out On Fire

The Knicks jumped on Toronto from the start and led throughout the game. A big part of that was Julius Randle who came out with Fire and was ON FIRE.

Randle scored 19 points in the 1st quarter, hitting 5 three pointers (there was a 6th that was later taken away as refs said his foot was on the line). NY jumped out to a 7-point lead early and led by 3 at the end of the 1st quarter.

“I thought that was huge,” said coach Thibodeau. “It gave us a lot of confidence, When a guy comes out like that, it sort of sets the tone for the game. And if you couple that with the defense and the rebounding…”

Randle was also huge in the 4th, helping NY to the 16-point lead, grabbed important rebounds, and hit a big free throw (1 of 2 from the line) with 48 seconds left.

Randle had 32 points (10-22 shooting, 6-11 from 3, 6-9 in free throws), 11 rebounds, and 3 assists.

3. Knicks Led Throughout

NY was in control for the entire game despite the late challenge by Toronto. They led by 4 after 1 quarter, 10 at the half, 3 at the end of 3 quarters, and won by 4.

The Knicks DEFENSE and rebounding were key, and their in-rhythm offense.

4. Robinson BEASTED Inside

Mitchell Robinson dominated inside — with 18 rebounds, 2 blocks, and scoring 10 points on 4-8 shooting (2-4 in free throws).

Robinson fouled out late in the game and was replaced by Isaiah Hartenstein. Thibs said he put in Hartenstein over Sims at the end because he wanted another guy comfortable handling the ball as Toronto was blitzing and playing high-pressure D at the end.

5. Quick, Grimes, & McBride Excelled

Immanuel Quickley took control at the start of the 4th as the point guard with Brunson taking a breather, and helped NY build its 16-point lead. Quick had 13 points on 4-8 shooting.

Miles McBride hit two HUGE 3’s in the 4th quarter that were also part of NY’s run to the 16-pt lead.

Quentin Grimes had 16 points on 6-13 shooting (4-10 from 3) but finished with a -19 as he was on the court during the late Toronto run — evidence that plus/minus numbers can be suspect.

6. Knicks Stopped Siakam

Grimes played excellent defense on Pascal Siakam all night. In the previous game against Toronto, Siakam destroyed the Knicks for 52 points and looked unstoppable. In this game, Siakam looked awkward and uncoordinated.

Grimes — giving up 4 inches to the 6’9 Siakam — defended him well and the Knicks kept throwing up a quick wall in front of Siakam whenever he had the ball, causing him to cough up the ball when driving against that wall.

Siakam finished with 18 points on 4-14 shooting.

“Sometimes he was on their guards, who are quick and dynamic with the ball,” said Thibodeau about Grimes. “Other times he was on Siakam, Anunoby, Barnes — and those guys pose different problems. I think he held his ground; battled.”

On the defense against Siakam, Thibs added: “You’re not guarding those guys individually; you’re guarding them with your team. The guy on him has the challenge of competing for everything — the catch, the dribble, the shot. And the team has to also help. I think we got in and out — and that was huge — we know VanVleet is a big shot maker; Trent is a big shot maker.”

7. Fournier Terrific!

Evan Fournier continues to get minutes and looks better and better. In this game, Fournier was a difference maker at the start of the 4th quarter, and a reason why NY made a 3-pt lead into a 10-pt lead — with a couple of key rebounds, good ball handling and passing, and hitting a key shot.

8. VanVleet Similar to Brunson

Toronto can make big comebacks because they can play a stifling defense (coached by Nick Nurse), they have shooters like Gary Trent Jr (27 pts on 8-17 shooting, 4-8 from 3, 7-8 in free throws), and Nick VanVleet as their point guard — who is similar in skills and grittiness to Jalen Brunson.

But at the end in this game, Brunson took it to VanVleet and carried NY to the win.

The Boxscore

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