Turning Point Win. Knicks without Brunson Figure Out a Way. NY 107 Cleveland 98

Jalen Brunson went down with a knee injury in the first minute of the game that seemed to come out of nowhere — making it even more serious. With the entirety of Knick universe crossing fingers and sending up prayers, the Knicks proceeded to beat the red-hot Cavaliers in Cleveland — despite the fact NY is still missing its entire starting front line.

Cleveland was without Donovan Mitchell — but had the rest of their team in tact.

NY fought HARD from the opening bell — laying down a FRENETIC Defense, led by Josh Hart (who played 45 minutes), Donte DiVincenzo, Miles McBride (who played 47 minutes), Precious Achiuwa, Jericho Sims, and Isaiah Hartenstein.

Without Brunson (and Julius Randle and OG Anunoby), NY needed firepower, and DiVincenzo lit up the scoreboard for 28 points, shooting 11-22 from the floor and 6-14 from 3. Achiuwa was also more aggressive offensively (14 pts).

Bogan Bogdanovic had his best game as a Knick — 20 much-needed points off the bench, and Alec Burks did good too (8 pts).

All of that was nice but all night long the dreaded question hung in the air — what about Brunson? After the game, coach Tom Thibodeau said X-rays were NEGATIVE and it was a knee contusion suffered when “they banged knees; that’s how it happened.”

A HUGE SIGH OF RELIEF FOR ALL OF NY — making that development and this game a possible Turning Point in the season.

“It’s been the story of the season,” said Thibs afterwards. “We’ve been fighting short-handed since December. Just keep fighting; that’s all we can do. We had a number of people step up and play just as hard as they possibly could.”

“I thought the rebounding was terrific; the unselfishness — guys making plays for each other; 31 assists is a big-time number,” added Thibs. “And the defense — and they’re big — so when that ball’s up on the boards, and then the game changes when they put their shooting on the floor — we had to have an awareness of what was going on and I think our guys did a really good job with that.”

NY improves to 36-25; Cleveland falls to 39-21.

1. Brunson Injured in 1st Minute

The game had just begun, with Darius Garland scoring a bucket inside, when Brunson came up court, ran thru a pick, came around and went up for a shot against Garland and then fell to the floor his sneaker flying off. It didn’t appear his knee hit anything so the worst was feared. On replay it appears he may have bumped knees with Garland going thru the pick — and when he tried to jump that’s when he felt it.

Brunson had to be helped to the locker room.

2. Knicks Jump on Top; DiVo Lights Up 1st Quarter

With Brunson gone, Cleveland pulled out to a 12-7 lead and things were looking dim for NY early. But they snapped right back.

McBride hit a deuce, Hart hit a 3, DiVincenzo hit a 3, McBride hit a trey, and DiVincenzo hit a short jumper and NY had 13 straight points and was on top 20-12.

McBride and Hart made two more 3’s in the quarter and DiVincenzo hit a drive off a Hart assist and NY was up 28-19 heading into the 2nd quarter.

3. Cleveland Led by Merrill & Garland 3’s, Takes Lead at Half

NY played well in the 2nd quarter — McBride continuing strong point guard play and NY getting buckets from Bogdanovic.

McBride had the highlight of the game when he faked elite defensive big Evan Mobley out of his shorts for a drive.

Another look:

But Cleveland kept eating into their lead on the 3-point shooting of Sam Merrill.

The Knicks were containing Max Strus (only 6 points on 2-9 shooting) and Georges Niang (0 pts on 0-6 shooting) but Merrill was the fly in the ointment.

Merrill hit four 3-pointers in the quarter, helping Cleveland continue to slice away at the Knick lead.

Then Darius Garland started to get going — hitting a 3 — but Precious Achiuwa would have none of that:

Achiuwa blocked a Garland drive into Kingdom Come and the 2nd row — then on next play blocked a Garland 3-pt attempt, and down the other end hit a drive for a 51-48 Knick lead.

But Bogey turned the ball over, Jarrett Allen scored inside, and Garland hit a 3 as the 24-second clock was running out near the end of the quarter to give Cleveland a 53-51 halftime lead.

A bad-taste ending to the half, considering how well NY had played.

4. Knicks Take Command in 3rd

But NY was undeterred — and took command in the 3rd.

Precious Achiuwa again dominated on both ends — hitting a deuce and then a 3 early in the 3rd to give NY a 56-55 lead.

NY amped up its defense — Donte DiVincenzo was everywhere — picking up steals with a hounding defense and quick hands.

NY started owning the inside — with Hartenstein and Achiuwa and Josh Hart RIPPING down rebounds over the bigger Cleveland front line of Mobley and Allen — just as NY had done in last year’s playoffs.

Hartenstein dunked off a DiVincenzo pass, DiVincenzo hit a 3, and Achiuwa hit a drive-and-1 for 8 straight Knick points and a 63-55 lead.

Bogdonavic came off the bench providing offense late in the quarter and NY pulled out to a 15-point lead at 85-70.

But Cleveland got two 3’s late in the quarter from Strus and Merrill to douse the enthusiasm and pull the Cavaliers back within 9 entering the 4th.

5. 4th Quarter Gunfight

And then came the 4th.

  • Darius Garland came out firing — hitting two 3’s but Alec Burks made like the Knicks forgotten lawman — like Dean Martin in Rio Bravo — calmly hitting a huge deuce and then a 3 early to counter Garland’s scoring.
  • But Merrill that bastard hit another 3 and Cleveland was within 4 with 6:55 left.
  • Bogdanovic countered with a Huge 3-pointer-and-1 from the corner for a 4-pt play.
  • But Merrill came down on next play and hit Another 3 for a 96-91 game.
  • McBride immediately answered with a 3 on the next play; NY 99 Cleveland 91.
  • But Cleveland closed closer — a Jarrett Allen score inside and ANOTHER Garland 3 — NY 99 Cleveland 96 with 4:40 left.

Bogdanovic hit a CLUTCH pullup jumper to give NY a 5-pt lead with 4:10 left.

  • Both sides clamped down the D and went 2 minutes without scoring until a Mobley drive pulled Cleveland within 3 with 2 minutes left.

And then Josh Hart made the shot of the game — getting the ball in the right corner from Bogdanovic — hopping to his right — and hitting a HUGE 3 to give NY 104-98 lead with 1:36 left.

Hart finished with 13 points, 19 rebounds, and 10 assists. He was EVERYWHERE in the 4th making BIG PLAY after BIG PLAY.

“Josh Hart never cheats you of effort/activity and needs no plays called for him to keep him engaged,” noted NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “He beats you on the glass by just outworking u and wanting it more, defends, can create, finds the open man, gets 50/50 balls, fearless and plays for the name on the front not the back.”

Merrill missed a 3 with 56 seconds left and McBride HIT a 3 with 33 seconds left for the ballgame — Cleveland did not foul they gave up.

Final Score NY 107 Cleveland 98.

And then the good news about Brunson afterwards.

A possible turning point win.

The Boxscore



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