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Knicks 126, Hawks, 120: Scenes from a Jalen Brunson career night

Brunson sets a new career high for threes in a game and RJ Barrett adds 26 points in Knicks win over Hawks.

NBA: New York Knicks at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

In their opening tilt against the Boston Celtics, the New York Knicks lost by four and missed a dozen free throws. Two nights later, they were in Atlanta, GA to take on Trae Young and the Hawks. In a game of gluttonous offense, New York shot 46% from downtown, 80% from the line, and Jalen Brunson had gunpowder on his fingers. He scored 31 points and canned a career-high eight three-pointers to seal the win,126-120.

First Quarter

RJ Barrett started the scoring with a seismic slam, and dunks were pretty much all that went at first. The teams combined for 3-of-12 shooting early; both had shot 0-of-8 from downtown before Quentin Grimes finally cashed in from beyond the arc. The shoddy shooting wouldn’t last long. Once the Knicks found their rhythm, their shooting improved, and they would finish Q1 having shot 52% from the floor and 50% from downtown.

The Hawks are stocked with gunslingers, too, and shot 48% and 40% in the quarter. When the Knicks opened up a 10-point advantage, the Hawks erased it with three consecutive threes.

New York closed the quarter ahead, 35-31. No lethargy from Jalen Brunson tonight, and he rolled with RJ. The only notes of concern so far: Julius Randle had a quiet first frame, with zero points on 0-of-3 shooting, and Quentin Grimes took one shot in his first eight minutes.

Second Quarter

Brunson and Barrett continued to sparkle in the second frame. Donte DiVincenzo showed his scoring ability, too, sinking all of his first four shots. The hot shooting continued, luckily, because sloppiness set in. The Knicks coughed the ball up six times in the half and surrendered 16 points off those turnovers. Deandre Hunter proved the most problematic Hawk, shooting 6-of-8 through two quarters.

(Dear Adam Silver: Trae Young flopped at the 3:50 mark. Please collect $2000.)

To bookend the half, RJ dunked on a Randle assist to make the score 69-61. Almost 70 points in the half! After shooting poorly on Wednesday, tonight the Knicks provided great reassurance. By intermission, they had shot 53% from the field; Atlanta, 52%. New York had drilled 10-of-20 from deep; Atlanta, 7-of-16. Brunson ate up Trae Young, recording 14 points and canning four of his seven three-point attempts. RJ looked fantastic.

Third Quarter

On offense, Barrett and Brunson poured more hot sauce on those Atlanta chickens; on defense, RJ picked up the ballhandler often, to mixed results. The teams traded buckets, and both got winded—but not Jalen. Midway through the quarter, Brunson set a new career-high for threes in a game by drilling his eighth triple. Clyde dropped a “Brunson Burner,” and I got a little misty, realizing how much I’ve missed the GOAT.

New York shot 19-of-35 (54%) from deep through three quarters. Unbelievable. Here’s a long-range bucket from RJ, but note the ball movement:

Fourth Quarter

The scoring cooled off, and the Knicks missed their first eight three-pointers. Trae Young and Hawks went on a 10-0 run to narrow the score to 105-104 with roughly eight minutes left.

Here’s a highlight for ya: Hartenstein drilled one free throw, missed the second, caught the rebound in the air and crushed a one-handed dunk. Like so:

With the game close and four-ish minutes left, Thibs rolled with Brunson, Quickley, Grimes, Randle, and Robinson. Jalen and RJ played more smart, efficient offense, and Randle contributed five timely points to put them ahead by six with under a minutes left. Hunter kicked in another three, however, and Grimes bungled a pass—which he then further blundered by fouling Young in pursuit of the loose ball.

With 30 seconds left, the Knicks clung to a two-point lead . . . and then Brunson threw the ball away. Fortunately, Capela blew a bunny, Randle recovered, and iced the win from the free throw line. The Hawks could have cut the lead to two with 10 seconds or so remaining, but Young choked on a clear-path layup. More freebies for Randle, and a win for your Knickerbockers.

Note the quiet night for Quickley. His misses clanged hard in the fourth, when he shot 0-of-5. On a night when the other Knicks couldn’t miss, he could and did, finishing 1-of-9 from deep.

Though quiet offensively through the first three quarters, Randle played well and came up big in the clutch. He finished with 17 points on 10 shots, plus 10 rebounds, nine assists, and three turnovers. Rather than dribbling the air out of the ball, he kicked out quicker than usual and resisted his iso-ball tendencies. Great stuff from him.

And for as terrific as Brunson was, don’t overlook RJ. Barrett had 26 points and shot 9-of-15 from the floor, 3-of-5 from deep, plus six assists, three boards, and a steal. Hat’s off to him, too.

Up Next

The Knicks sail on to New Orleans for a 7pm match-up with the Pelicans tomorrow. We’ll have you covered. Safe travels, Knickerbockers.

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