PHEW… Brunson Carries Knicks in Nail Biter. NY 117 San Antonio 114

Jalen Brunson made clutch shot after clutch shot down the stretch, and San Antonio muffed their final 2 tries at scoring — a 5-second-inbound violation, and inability to get a final shot up in time on the final play — inbounding with 3.5 seconds left — as Quentin Grimes with outstretched arms flew past Keldon Johnson causing him to double clutch his 3-pt attempt as the buzzer sounded.


Brunson finished with 38 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists to carry the Knicks on his back and allow them to escape with the 117-114 win over the Spurs on a Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

“I thought he made really good reads, and he got into the paint,” said coach Tom Thibodeau about Brunson afterwards. “He did a lot of stuff that we needed to find a way to win the game. The bottom line is getting the win. We just got to scratch wins out.”

NY is now 21-18, having won 3 in a row. San Antonio falls to 12-26 — one of the worst records in basketball but they don’t look it, having given NY all they could handle in this game and having beaten NY in San Antonio last week.

“McDermott is a starter who comes off the bench. Richardson is a starter who comes off the bench,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “You have to be ready. They’re hard to guard; they move well without the ball; they play unselfishly; their big guys are great with screens and dribble handoffs.”

“I liked our defense at the start but I didn’t like it after the 1st period,” continued Thibodeau. “I liked our rebounding. The difference in the game was probably the rebounding. Our offensive rebounding really helped us.”

1. NY Couldn’t Shake the Spurs

When the Knicks played San Antonio last week they were coming off the devastating loss to Dallas, where NY blew a 9-pt lead with 30 seconds left only to lose in overtime. The Knicks came out disheartened against the Spurs, allowing San Antonio to get out to a double-digit lead in the 1st and 2nd quarters. NY woke up late but it was too little too late, as NY lost by 7.

NY was without Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett in that game. In this game they had Brunson back, and got off to a much better start — up 39-29 at the end of the 1st quarter.

But NY could not shake the Spurs.

All night long, Tre Jones, San Antonio’s quick 6’1 point guard, sliced the lane and hit floaters or layups the way Brunson does.

Keldon Johnson hurt the Knicks with 26 points at the small forward position, and the San Antonio bench punished NY — Josh Richardson (20 pts), Doug McDermott (15 pts) and the 6’11 Zach Collins (16 pts) scored outside and inside and any which way. NY’s defense could not contain them.

Every time the Knicks pulled ahead by 7 points, San Antonio would come right back and be down by 3. San Antonio finally tied the game with 5 minutes left on a Keldon Johnson 3, and took the lead, 109-107, on Tre Jones free throws with 4:20 left.

2. Brunson Carried Knicks on His Back

But Brunson brought the Knicks back — his dribble penetrations, shake-and-bake moves, and precise mid range jumpers in the lane carried NY all night and especially down the stretch.


  • Made a driving layup with 3 minutes left to put NY back on top,  112-111,
  • Hit a step-back 17-foot jumper in the lane with 1:55 left to make it NY 114-111,
  • Hit a step-back 21-foot jumper with 1:17 left to make it NY 116-112.

After that it was free throws:

  • Keldon Johnson made 2 to make it 116-114,
  • San Antonio’s Jeremy Sochan made a rookie mistake of not inbounding the ball within 5 seconds, with NY up 116-114,
  • Evan Fournier made 1 of 2 free throws after the Spurs were forced to foul, and then
  • The final play with QGrimes defense causing the Keldon Johnson double clutch and not get the shot up in time.

3. Randle Played Great — 25 Pts, REBOUNDS, DEFENSE, BLOCKS

Julius Randle played well — he continues to play like an All Star every night. In this one he had 25 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks. Randle had a tough night from the free throw line: 6-11. But his rebounding, defense, and shot blocking were Huge.

Randle made a huge 3 to end the 3rd quarter on a set play that ended up being important, as every bucket was.

4. Quickley & QGrimes Double Trouble

Immanuel Quickley played another terrific game alongside Jalen Brunson — Quick had 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists.

And Quentin Grimes put up another tremendous performance of offense, defense, and perpetual motion — always in the right place at the right time, moving the ball, and contributing to the rhythm. Grimes had 14 points on 5-8 shooting (3-4 from 3).

5. Mitch Early Foul Trouble vs Poeltl Again

Mitchell Robinson got into early foul trouble against Jakob Poeltl again, just as he had last week. This time Mitch picked up 3 fouls in 4 minutes early and only played 13 minutes on the game — 4 points and 5 rebounds.

Jericho Sims (22 minutes) and Isaiah Hartenstein (19 minutes) played ably in his absence — combining for 12 pts, and 12 rebounds.

Miles McBride played 10 minutes, going 1-2 for 3 points (hit a 3), and provided his usual brand of on-ball defense.

The Boxscore

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