Jalen Brunson gave a historic performance in the Knicks’ 139-122 victory against the Phoenix Suns last night, but even still, the victory was a team effort. For your consideration, here are the player grades for the game:
Jalen Brunson (A+): Brunson deserves all the stars. Not only did he record a career-high 50 points–including a perfect 9-for-9 from the 3-point range and 17-for-23 shooting overall–but he dished nine assists, logged the best defensive rating of the team (115), and grabbed five steals and six rebounds. Easily, one of the most remarkable Knicks’ performances I’ve watched, this game stands as a testament to his will to win. Brunson, who logged only 15 points through the first half, saw the Knicks fall behind by double-digits before lighting the burner to salvage victory. One to tell the grandkids about.
Julius Randle (A-): A quintessential Julius game: 23 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and five turnovers. He owned the paint through the first quarter and most of the second, and was a big reason why the Knicks held a lead over that stretch. Then, toward halftime, he played slow-footed defense on Kevin Durant, which allowed the perennial All-Star to catch fire. Julius became preoccupied with arguing missed calls. Familiar stuff. Then in the third frame, he tried to take over the game as Phoenix pushed the lead, and the results weren’t pretty. Even Mike Breen griped about him. To his credit, Julius regained his composure after Q3 timeout, and he was a perfect running mate with Brunson down the stretch.
BONUS: This is worth watching, and I found it by way of the great Rit Holtzman.
Through the first couple weeks of the season, Julius Randle was arguably the single-worst player in the NBA. But over the last month, Randle has been back to his All-Star-caliber self.— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) December 15, 2023
What changes did he and the Knicks make, and why are they working so well?
SOUND ON pic.twitter.com/pwvXT9OLrY
RJ Barrett (B+): RJ was the third Knick to break twenty points, scoring 21. He had a perfect night from the free-throw line, going 8-of-8, but surprisingly, only two rebounds, and attempted only two three-pointers (making one). During the early stage of the fourth quarter, he accompanied the bench players in a comeback while Jalen Brunson recharged on the bench. Without his efforts, this game might have gone too far out of reach, and we might not have seen Brunson return to achieve career-best glory.
Isaiah Hartenstein (B+): Hartenstein, man, what a security blanket. His 11 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one block, and two steals showcased his all-around impact on the game. He had a +29 rating and played 31 minutes to Jericho Sims’ 17. I can’t tell if he catches a second wind, or if it’s one continuous wind, but he was a beast down the stretch when New York needed to put a lid on the game.
Immanuel Quickley (B+): I.Q. put up 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. He took only three long-range attempts (making one), but he was key to the comeback, played 24 minutes, and had the team’s third-best defensive rating on the night. He was also the team’s third-best rebounder, going by total rebound percentage.
Quentin Grimes (B): QDot got nine points, two boards, and a dish in 15 minutes off the bench. While not impactful on defense, he did shoot three of six from deep, and at opportune times, resulting in a +12 rating. Much improved from the Utah game!
Josh Hart (B-): Hart’s six points, two rebounds, and two assists belie a solid performance in which he committed no fouls or turnovers. He had a team-high rating of +34, but a sub-par defensive rating.
Donte DiVincenzo (C): Donte managed five points on two-of-three shooting in 19 minutes, while being a fouling machine and finishing with a -12 rating.
Jericho Sims (C-): The third-string starter had five points and three rebounds in 17 minutes, with a -12 rating. It’s a tall order to ask a deep-bench back-up–who until recently had only appeared in nine games this season (and averaged 2.8 minutes)—to step in and play big minutes against NBA starters. The third-year big showed positive flashes but mostly looked overwhelmed by the moment. More Taj Gibson minutes incoming!
On to Los Angeles for a game against the Clippers tonight! Go Knicks!