The Knicks Have a Point Guard (and a Three-Game Winning Streak)
Brunson is the first player in Knicks franchise history to average at least 20 points, eight dimes and four boards over the first four games of a season since… some guy named Walt "Clyde" Frazier.
Last week I talked about how important it was for the Knicks to protect home court and take advantage of their three-game homestand before hitting the road.
Well, by beating the Hornets 134-131 in overtime Wednesday night, the Knicks finished their homestand with a perfect 3-0 record. It's the first time the 'Bockers have won each of their first three home games since 2012 - when New York would shockingly go on to win 54 games and advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first and only time this century. Before the 2012-13 campaign, the last time the Knicks won three consecutive games at MSG to start a season was in 1994.
On Tuesday, I talked about how last year's team would have likely fumbled away a winnable contest against an overmatched Magic squad but how this current group took care of business.
And in Wednesday's matchup with the Hornets, things got uncomfortably tight down the stretch. In 2021-22, New York was unable to close out games. In 154 "clutch" minutes last season (classified by NBA.com as games that are within five points or less in the last five minutes), the Knicks were outscored 291-387. Their scoring differential (-76) in such situations was the second-worst mark in the entire league, with NY shooting a putrid 36% from the floor.
Unquestionably, the single most significant factor in the Knicks' success in turning the page this season has been the presence of a pure point guard.
I'll admit, over the summer, I was a bit uncertain about the Knicks trading away draft picks and veterans to clear the cap space to sign Brunson, especially when it was rumored they might pay him north of $125 million, especially when it seemed like it was a lock they'd add Donovan Mitchell. Yet, when New York inked him to an affordable $104 million contract (with a de-escalating salary structure to boot!), the Knicks were set up wonderfully.
Still, even some of the most ardent of Brunson supporters would not have been bold enough to predict he'd play this well, this early on in his Knicks career.
Brunson racked up a whopping 27 points, seven rebounds and a career-high 13 assists in Wednesday's win over Charlotte. He was insanely efficient from the floor, converting 10 of his 15 FG attempts and all five of his free throws. On the season, he is now averaging 20.0 points, 8.5 assists (vs. just 1.5 turnovers), 4.5 rebounds, and 1.8 treys, while shooting 51.7% from the floor, 41.2% from downtown and 84.6% from the charity stripe. I mean, c'mon.
The only other player in the NBA currently averaging at least 20/8/4 and shooting over 50% from the floor this season is the reigning two-time MVP, Nikola Jokic.
As we have already highlighted multiple times over the past two weeks, Brunson's production really stands out when contrasted with the previous players that have manned the PG position in New York.
For instance, Brunson is the first player in Knicks franchise history to average at least 20 points, eight dimes and four boards over the first four games of a season since… some guy named Walt "Clyde" Frazier in 1970.
And while the numbers are incredible, that doesn't tell the whole story. Brunson's impact as a leader on the court and in the locker room may be just as valuable.
Here's what his teammates and his head coach had to say after Wednesday's win:
RJ Barrett: "[Jalen] played an amazing game for today. We really needed it. He made some big shots for us today too. He was all over the place tonight, and he really did keep us poised, especially there in the fourth and overtime. He was huge for us."
Julius Randle: "It's amazing, I have said all along, he just makes the game easy. He hits big shots, timely shots. He gets me good looks, and he's great."
Mitchell Robinson: "It's amazing to watch him go out and play, just like he did in the playoffs last year, so having the same energy from him is amazing."
Coach Tom Thibodeau: "That's who he [Jalen] is. Whatever the game needs, that's what he does. They were blitzing him, he made a number of good plays, good reads, he scored when we needed big buckets… I like the look of determination, and I think a lot of that comes from Jalen's look, his demeanor is terrific for our team."
In summary, it's very difficult to overstate Brunson's impact on this franchise thus far.
Other notes from last night:
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