Knicks Stay Hot in Brunson's Return, Top Denver
Saturday was the fifth straight game in which Hart has tallied at least eight rebounds, eight points and four assists off the bench. That's the longest such streak by a Knick in franchise history.
The Knicks, playing their first home game since returning from a West Coast road trip earlier this week, welcomed Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets to MSG on Saturday afternoon.
Jokic, who is averaging a triple-double (24.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 10.0 assists) on the season, has a chance to capture his third straight MVP award. He's the driving force for the Nuggets, owners of the best record in the Western Conference. The Joker is the hub of nearly everything they do, especially on the offensive end.
New York, on the other hand, doesn't have an MVP favorite or a "top-tier superstar" on their roster. They've beaten teams this season via excessive effort and collective contributions from starters and reserves alike; by out-rebounding and out-working opponents. And that's precisely what they did Saturday, overcoming a 13-point second-half deficit to defeat Denver 116-110.
Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, and RJ Barrett each reached the 20-point plateau (the 12th time this season where each player scored 20+). New York grabbed ten more rebounds than the Nuggets, blocked twice as many shots and had three times as many steals.
Brunson scoring a team-high 24 points was an incredibly welcomed development for New York. JB had missed five of the Knicks' last six games due to left foot soreness before being cleared to return to action just before tip-off. He came storming out of the gates, seemingly looking to make up for lost time, scoring 16 points on eight FG attempts over the game's first eight minutes. He finished the contest with 24 points (9-of-20 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), two rebounds, five assists, and two 3-pointers in 31 minutes.
Most importantly, he said he was pain-free afterward. Speaking with MSG's Rebecca Haarlow on the court after the buzzer, Brunson was asked how his foot felt in his first game back. "I feel fantastic," replied the point guard. In his post-game presser with reporters, Brunson said, "I was a little worried going into the game, but you know everything was according to plan, so I didn't feel anything and kept playing."
When Brunson and the Knicks' other starters sat on Saturday, New York's second unit again got to work. And once again, it was Josh Hart leading the charge. Mr. Everything Everywhere All At Once racked up 13 points (4-of-5 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), eight rebounds, five assists, three steals, and one 3-pointer.
I've detailed how well the Knicks reserves have played since the trade deadline, and while IHart and IQ and McBride and Obi all deserve credit, the common denominator of this dominant unit has been Hart.
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