Jalen Brunson was brought in to do just what he did in the fourth quarter.
Brunson scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and gave the Knicks exactly what they needed down the stretch in a 118-111 win over the Jazz. It was Utah’s first home loss and it was a nice bounce back win for a Knicks team that was thoroughly embarrassed on their home floor by Oklahoma City two days ago.
Head Coach Tom Thibodeau went with a nine man rotation so Evan Fournier and Quentin Grimes did not play.
Cam Reddish continues to thrive after he was inserted into the starting lineup. Reddish scored 19 pts, made some clutch plays down the stretch and his defense was outstanding in this one.
The Knicks defensive effort was like night and day compared to Sunday’s debacle as they held the Jazz to 43% from the floor. “Trying to help each other out, great will, determination, unselfishness. It was a good road win for us,” Thibodeau said.
The Knicks came up big in some key categories as they scored 22 points off of 20 turnovers. They also grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and had 19 second chance points to go along with 21 fast break points. The Knicks dominated inside with 60 points in the paint as they were able to exploit Utah’s lack of an inside presence.
The Knicks went up 107-93 with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter but the Jazz would not go away quietly. This is where Brunson’s presence made all the difference because the lack of a legitimate point guard is what has cost the Knicks a number of wins in recent seasons. “We started slowly offensively, we picked it up as we went along,” Thibodeau said. “Jalen made a bunch of big plays down the stretch.”
Brunson’s leadership was front and center. He made the right plays with the lead as he was able to milk the clock and finished some really good offensive possessions with a bucket off of one of his eight assists on the night. Brunson was also able to utilize his size and strength in some isos against the smaller Mike Conley, who was trying to guard him. “It was great, Julius Randle said after the game. “He took advantage of the mismatch. Made some tough shots, put some pressure on the defense.”
Randle scored 15 points but was shutout in the fourth quarter. R.J. Barrett had a rough shooting night (5 for 18, 0 for 5 from three) but finished with 18 points
With less than ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Knicks trailed 89-88 but Immanuel Quickley connected on two consecutive three pointers to make it a five point lead, 94-89.
Brunson’s shot in the lane capped off an 11-0 run that gave the Knicks a 99-89 lead with less than eight minutes left. After Kelly Olynyk (27 pts, 10 rebounds) ended the Knicks run with a hoop, Brunson fed Barrett for an easy lay up to keep the Jazz at bay.
Reddish continues to thrive as one of the starting five. The former first round pick scored 19 points and made some big plays in the waning minutes. With a little over three minutes left, Brunson found Reddish for a lay up that made it 111-98.
With less than two minutes left, Reddish got to the line and canned two big free throws to make it a 113-105 lead. With 32.9 seconds left, Reddish completed an alley oop on a nice feed from Barrett and that sealed the deal.
The Knicks were sluggish in the first quarter as they turned the ball over during a pair of three on one fast breaks and committed four turnovers, but Jericho Sims came off the bench to spark the club with a career high 13 rebounds and some nice alley oop dunks.
“Big minutes out of Jericho, I thought Isaiah [Hartenstein] was really good in the second half but I thought the lift that Jericho gave us,” Thibodeau said. “His activity, the pressure on the rim, the rebounding. It sort of like stabliized us where It was a little rough for a stretch there.”
Quickley scored 13 points and was a defensive factor with four steals while Obi Toppin gave the Knicks 18 solid minutes and was a +23 on the night.
The Jazz were off to a surprising start this season with a revamped roster after the trade of Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland, but Thibodeau knew what to expect from their current roster. “They [the Jazz] put a lot of pressure on you,” he said. “They got guys that can break you down off the dribble. They got catch and shoot, they move, they’re unselfish. You have to make two and three efforts and I thought we did that.”
It was a good win to start this key five game road trip but tonight the Knicks will try and snap a drought in Denver. The Knicks have not won in the Mile High City since 2006 and they’ve lost nine in a row overall to the Nuggets, but they get a break. Denver’s two time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic will miss the game as he was placed into the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Even without Jokic, the Nuggets will be tough to beat so it will be interesting to see how the Knicks respond in this back to back.