Knicks Hold Court. NY 115 Orlando 102

The Knicks were 7-pt favorites and easily beat that spread — doing what they needed to do: beat Orlando on their home court, Madison Square Garden.

That wasn’t necessarily a done deal last year or most recent years.

But now the Knicks have Jalen Brunson — who steadies the team and navigates it through any rough spots. A closer.

The Knicks had a single-digit lead throughout most of the game until a late 3rd quarter run led by RJ Barrett got them up by 14. The Magic made a run in the 4th — pulling to within 6 points with 4:25 left. But there was Brunson — taking over — weaving into the lane for a heady jumper and 1 — putting NY back up by 9.

And then the Knick defense took over — stifling Orlando down the stretch for only 4 points. Mitchell Robinson hit the offensive glass, and RJ Barrett finished with a flurry — a 3 and a drive — for the easy win.

“You can’t say enough about what Jalen does for the team,” said coach Tom Thibodeau about Brunson. “He’s in complete control at all times. You hit some tough spots and he has such a strong demeaner; and a strong face; it’s one of determination. It gives your team belief that you can do this; we can play well and get out of this.”


1. Brunson Makes the Knicks a Much Better Team

It was yet another early season game where it became so clear how much Jalen Brunson makes the Knicks a better team. He razzle-dazzled, penetrated, dished, scored on drives when he needed to, hit 3’s when he needed to, and made big defensive plays when he needed to. He always seems to be doing the right thing at the right time to help the team win.

By the second half, he was blowing by Cole Anthony any time he felt like it.

2. Randle Played Like an All Star

Brunson’s play makes Julius Randle so much more effective. Randle does not need to play point forward anymore; he gets the ball at the right time. And he is playing a relaxed, confident game.

“Julius was terrific from start to finish,” said Thibodeau afterwards. “I love the way he’s diversifying his game; running the floor. Sometimes he’s the pace guy; he’ll push it up and he’ll create movement; sometimes he just beats people down the floor. I think him getting easy baskets is huge for us; huge. Puts a lot of pressure on the D.”

3. Bol Had Great Game

Bol Bol had a terrific game. The 7’2 string bean is in his 4th season — his first with Orlando after 3 years in Denver — and he has gotten better and better. He showed off excellent ball handling skills, excellent shooting skills (from 3 and the free throw line), and at 7’2 he can block a shot or two.

Bol had a career game of 19 points on 8-10 shooting (1-2 from 3, and 2-2 in free throws), with 5 rebounds and 4 blocks in 20 minutes.

4. Mitch Owned the Offensive Boards Even with Bol On Court

But even with Bol there, Mitchell Robinson owned the offensive glass. Robinson had 14 points on 6-7 shooting, including 6 rebounds — 5 of them offensive boards — with 3 blocks in 30 minutes.

After Brunson hit the big jumper and 1 (above) to steady the Knicks, Robinson grabbed a huge offensive rebound and put back for a 109-98 Knick lead with 2:18 left — almost securing the win.

“They have some guys who are really hard to guard,” said Thibodeau. “Sometimes the initial part was very good but we didn’t finish our defense. But I thought Mitch was a monster at the rim, and that was huge for us.”

5. Barrett Started Bad; Had Great Finish

RJ Barrett got off to a horrid shooting start again — and was 1-9 from the floor at one point. But he had a big second half as he has done many times before. He took over late in the 3rd to lead NY to a 14-point lead, and then had the flurry at the end of the game (a 3 and a drive) to finish 7-19 from the floor (3-7 from 3; 3-4 in free throws) for 20 points, 6 rebounds and a +22.

“RJ kept working the game. Kept working the game,” said Thibodeau. “Not a great first half, and then found his rhythm in the second half.”

6. Obi Electrified Garden As Usual

And Obi Toppin electrified the Garden as usual when he was out there — on hookups from Immanuel Quickley. Obi finished with 10 points on 4-6 shooting in 14 minutes. Quickley had 8 assists to counter a poor shooting night — 0-5 from the floor (0-4 from 3).

The Knicks 2nd team of Obi, Quickley, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Cam Reddish played well.

7. For Orlando

Paolo Banchero — the #1 pick in last June’s draft — played well: 21 points on 6-13 shooting.

Bol Bol‘s play put Mo Bamba to the bench: Bamba had 2 points in 14 minutes for a -18.


The Knicks were able to contain players who killed them last year:

Wendell Carter Jr played well, and Cole Anthony did well offensively — he was able to weave inside and connect on off balance shots as is his game.

The Boxscore

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