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Tom Thibodeau after loss to Kings: “Just soreness”

Speaking about Jalen Brunson’s injury, indeed.

New York Knicks v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The New York Knicks (39-29) couldn’t enjoy a full-time outing by Jalen Brunson for the third game in a row and lost for the second consecutive time, falling 122-117 to the Sacramento Kings (39-26) at the Golden 1 Center.

This victory tied Sacto with NYC in the win column, although the boys from Califas have a better record. They’re currently boasting three fewer losses for a .600 winning percentage compared to the Knicks’ .574 percentage.

Brunson started at the point but could only play throughout the first half of the game, leaving at the break with 19 points in 19 minutes.

“[Brunson] just re-aggravated [his foot injury], but I haven’t talked to the medical people yet,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game. “Just soreness.”

Nobody seems to know how or when Brunson suffered the injury in the game against Sacramento, as there wasn’t an evident moment when he showed any pain or anything of the like. He just sat out the entire second half.

Thibodeau said that he “will speak with the medical people, let them do their job,” and then address the availability of Brunson for the remainder of the West Coast trip. It is still unknown whether or not Brunson will get back to New York to undergo further tests.

“You gotta trust [the medical staff], and you trust Jalen. They’ll evaluate him, and whatever he needs, we’ll make sure he gets,” finished Thibs. Brunson had missed

The Knicks won nine games before losing their last two by a combined 12-point difference. On Thursday, at Sacramento, they pulled off a miraculous 21-point comeback but ultimately failed to capitalize on that effort because of, mostly, De’Aaron Fox catching absolute fuego in the fourth period.

New York put up a 7-1 run to get things going in the fourth and tied it all at 96, but the Kings blasted them on the glass and then let Fox take over as he went on to get 11 of the 26 points scored by Sacramento from that point on. New York never again tied or overtook the Kings after the homeboys took a 99-96 lead with 7:58 left in regulation.

Lots of jokes about the Kings, but we’re talking about the best offensive team in the history of the Association. Sacramento is scoring 119.4 points per 100 possessions, more than a full point above second-place Denver (118.1) this season.

The Knicks, who shot a putrid 13-of-50 from long range (26%) and nailed just 41.6% of their ridiculous 101 field-goal attempts, still fell only five points short of matching the final tally put up by the Kings. Not that bad if you ask me!

“We obviously didn’t like how we started the game, [...] I thought the second half was a lot better,” coach Thibodeau said. New York dropped the first quarter 23-30 and the second one 30-39 to enter the second half down 16. “We were able to get some stops and had a chance to win the game at the end.”

Immanuel Quickley shot 1-of-11 from the floor and 1-of-8 from three-point range scoring a meager three points in 27 minutes. RJ Barrett led all Knicks with 25 points, while Julius Randle was the only other Knickerbocker breaking the 20-point barrier with 23 of his own and 10 boards added to that to earn a double-double.

“Bad start, tough loss,” said Randle. “(We) didn’t shoot the ball well, it goes like that sometimes,” he added. “So regroup, get to L.A., get a win.”

The last New York went on a West Coast trip (five games from Nov. 15 through Nov. 21), they closed that span with a 3-2 record defeating Utah, Denver, and Oklahoma City on the road and losing games against the Warriors and the Suns.

None of those five squads are on this two-week trip, obviously, with a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Clippers (35-33) and the Los Angeles Lakers (32-34) next, followed by a trip to Portland (31-35) before returning home to host Denver a week and a day from today.

“I think what makes us successful is when we go on the road, we don’t really change too much with our preparation and stuff like that,” Barrett said before Thursday’s loss to Sacramento. “Guys are really locked in, [they] come ready every day and put the work in and are really focused on basketball, trying to win these games.”

Quentin Grimes had his best game in ages, scoring 19 points to go with two dimes, a rebound, a steal, and one swatted shot in 29 minutes. Mitchell Robinson had a short 20-minute outing in which he pulled down eight boards and bagged nine points, one from the charity stripe.

Off the bench, Josh Hart scored nine points but grabbed 15 boards, the most by a second-unit Knickerbocker in a no-OT game since IQ pulled down 16 last November hosting the Hawks. Hart’s eight offensive rebounds off the pine, though, are the most in a similar situation since Mitchell Robinson got nine back in March 2019.

Hart tied a franchise record (for guards, since the 1974 season) with his eight O-rebs and added seven dimes and three steals to that tally on Thursday.

The story of the game, though, was Brunson’s injury and part-time availability. Randle knows: “It’s obviously going to be tough to replace his production.”

That said, the All-Star forward felt confident enough to claim the Knicks will have enough to overcome this little problem going forward and successfully replace Brunson by putting up stronger collective efforts for as many games or time as JB misses.

“We’ll do it. We’re up to the task.”

The Knicks go to the Crypto Arena on Saturday to face the Clippers before facing the Lakers one day later. Tip-off at 4:00 ET. Don’t miss it.