New York Daily News
BRUNSON MAKES NETS SEE STARS
Jalen scores 40 as Knicks beat depleted Brooklyn for first time in three years
The departures of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving left a star void in New York.
Jalen Brunson has stepped into that space. The point guard continued to demonstrate that the NBA snubbed him for the All-Star game, dissecting the Nets defense to give the Knicks their first victory over the crosstown rival in over three years, 124-106.
Brunson finished with 40 points and is averaging 31.9 points over his last nine games, a stretch of offensive dominance that has the Knicks (3227) nearing the All-Star break with a close view of the top-6 in the East.
“MVP, MVP,” the Garden crowd chanted as Brunson went to the foul line for his 40th point, the third time he’s reached that mark in the last 18 games.
Boosted again by the presence and energy of newcomer Josh Hart, the Knicks bulldozed through the fourth quarter to snap a nine-game losing streak against the Nets. Hart dropped a season-high 27 points in just 28 minutes off the bench, exciting the crowd with his pace and animated celebrations.
Brunson shot 15-for-21 with zero turnovers and five assists. Julius Randle, who was named an All-Star, had 18 points and 10 rebounds. The Knicks took a double-digit lead with seven minutes remaining and never looked back.
Of course, the major difference in Tuesday’s matchup was who wasn’t playing for the Nets. With Durant in the outer borough, the rivalry was more lopsided than the sugar-veggie ratio on a 7-yearold’s preferred plate. To this day, Durant personally hasn’t lost to the Knicks since he was a member of the OKC Thunder in 2013.
So it’s safe to say the Knicks were thrilled to see Durant go back to the Western Conference, where they only have to face him twice a year (or probably fewer based on his injury history). Not that Tom Thibodeau would admit happiness.
“We’ve had some really good games against them,” Thibodeau said. “Most of the games have come down to the last shot. They’re a terrific team. They have very talented players and they’ll have very talented players now. We have to be ready to play strong on both sides of the ball.”
Indeed, the Nets (33-24) are still less of a rebuild than a restocked roster. They have the look of playoff potential with a surplus of 3-and-D wings (Mikal Bridges, Royce O’Neale, Dorian Finney-Smith), a rim-protecting center (Nic Claxton) and a few scorers (Spencer Dinwiddie, Cam Thomas and Joe Harris).
Ben Simmons lingers as the stinky remnant of Sean Marks’ great mistakes.
None of the current Nets players carry the offensive excellence of Irving or the greatness of Durant. They’re not winning a title. But could they make the playoffs? Sure. Could they stay ahead of the Knicks in the East? Yeah.
So the Knicks didn’t bully a slouch Tuesday. They dominated a decent squad.
Brunson also showed why he’s the new toast of the basketball town.