Knick Comeback Falls Short Without Brunson Down Stretch. Sacramento 122 NY 117

The Knicks came back from a 21-point deficit to tie the game 96-96 with 8 minutes left in the 4th, and went toe-to-toe with Sacramento down the stretch — but a couple of key turnovers late — and missed jumpers — doomed NY to the 122-117 loss. In Sacramento on a Thursday night.

The Knicks were without Jalen Brunson down the stretch and he was missed. He played in the first half — his first game back after missing 2 games with an ankle sprain — and scored 19 points in 19 minutes on 6-12 shooting (3-5 from 3). But Brunson pulled himself from the game early in the 3rd quarter as the ankle was still bothering him.

“We didn’t like the way we started,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “They’re a very explosive team. We had a shot at the end but we fell short.”

NY falls to 39-29; Sacramento improves to 39-26.

1. Couldn’t Hit the 3 Ball. Or Free Throws

Despite Brunson’s 19 points in the first half, the Knicks were getting torched because — besides Brunson — they couldn’t hit a shot. Or free throw. The Knicks would end the game 13-50 from 3 (26%) and 20-31 (64%) from the free throw line.

Immanuel Quickley had a second-straight poor shooting night — 1-11 (1-8 from 3) for 3 points in 27 minutes. He was 0-everything before finally hitting a 3 late in the 4th.

RJ Barrett had a strong 4th quarter to finish with 25 points, but was 1-8 from 3 and 6-10 in free throws.

Meanwhile, for Sacramento, Domantas Sabonis was having an All Star evening — 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, leading Sacramento to a 21-point, 2nd quarter lead.

2. Randle and Grimes Keyed Comeback in 3rd

Down 69-53 at the half, the Knicks tightened their defense and mounted a comeback in the 3rd quarter — led by Julius Randle and Quentin Grimes, who played great defense on De’Aaron Fox.

Grimes finished with 19 points on 7-13 shooting (4-10 from 3) and terrific all around play — defending well, moving without the ball, hitting 3’s and drives, and passing.

3. Knicks had Heart (& Hart & Hartenstein)

The comeback was also keyed by Isaiah Hartenstein — who ended up playing much of the 4th quarter the Knicks were playing so well with him in. Hartenstein was active and energetic, hit the boards (9 rebounds), set screens, passed, and hit his floater (5 points on 2-2 shooting).

And the Knicks had Hart — Josh Hart — who was ripping down secondary rebounds — tying a Knick record with 8 offensive rebounds as a guard (tying Micheal Ray Richardson and Ernie Grunfeld); he had 15 rebounds overall in 32 minutes.

4. Missed Jumpers and Late Turnovers Hurt

Hart, Hartenstein and the Knicks outrebounded the heck out of Sacramento in the 4th quarter — but NY kept missing shots.

With 8:56 left and NY down 96-93, the Knicks got 4 offensive rebounds — and missed the first 3 extra shots before finally tying the game:

  • Toppin missed a runner but got his own offensive rebound, and fed Miles McBride who missed a 3 from the left corner,
  • Hart got the offensive rebound and fed Toppin, who missed a 3 from the right corner,
  • McBride got the offensive rebound and fed Barrett, who missed a 3 from straight away, and
  • Hartenstein got the offensive rebound and was fouled. McBride inbounded to Barrett who HIT a 3 for tie game.

5. Guarding the Fox

But then De’Aaron Fox reeled off 7 points in a row — a 3 and two drives — to put Sacramento up 7 with 8 minutes left.

Fox was guarded by Hart — who is a great defender but didn’t have the quickness for Fox. Soon QGrimes was back in guarding Fox. Grimes defended Fox well, and hit back-to-back 3’s to pull NY back to within 3, but then fouled Fox, and lost the ball on a Fox steal and was subbed for Barrett with NY down 9 and 2 minutes left.

6. Could’ve Used Brunson Down Stretch

Just before that, NY was down 113-106 when Josh Hart threw the ball away on an inbounds play, expecting Randle to move to a position but Randle didn’t.

And then even down 9 with 2 minutes left, the Knicks came back again — fueled by Julius Randle drives and dunks — to pull within 115-113 with 47 seconds left.

But Fox hit a drive and with 21 seconds left and NY down 4, Randle was bottled up on a drive and lost the ball — and there went the ballgame.

Incredibly — Randle took heat on Knicks Twitter for coughing up the ball on that possession — even though he had just brought them back.

Down the stretch the Knicks could’ve used Brunson.


Mitchell Robinson had 9 points and 8 rebounds in 20 minutes but picked up 4 fouls early in the 3rd.

The Boxscore

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