It was a closely contested battle of the boroughs tonight between the the New York Knicks (27-17) and the Brooklyn Nets (17-26). The Nets’ Mikal Bridges shot a flames from his fingers, making a career high seven three-pointers on 13 attempts and finishing with 36 points; and Nic Claxton grabbed a career-high 17 boards to help keep his team ahead for most of the game. But New York’s top tandem of Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle once again combined for 30 points apiece, Precious Achiuwa added nine boards—and a team-high plus/minus of +11—and New York came from behind in the final frame to win, 108-103. Went like this.
Isaiah Hartenstein hurt his ankle in Saturday’s game against Toronto and tonight missed his first game as a Knick. Jericho Sims was taken out of mothballs to start in his place. Sims swatted a career-high four blocks in the first quarter alone. He finished the game with six points, four boards, two assists, and four blocks in 27 minutes.
Get that stuff outta here!
Make that 4 blocks this quarter from Jericho! pic.twitter.com/QenIOuKk06— KnicksNation (@KnicksNation) January 24, 2024
Those rejections stirred memories of a January 4, 2004 game versus the then-New-Jersey Nets in which Dikembe Mutombo blocked 10 shots. Twenty years gone, if you can believe it.
A Brooklyn game is always almost a home game for the Bockers. Jalen Brunson heard MVP chants when shooting free-throws, and the crowd oohed and ahhed whenever he navigated the lane for an acrobatic score. Like so:
Although New York was the better shooting team through the first quarter (48% - 41%), the Nets had taken six more shots and finished the frame ahead, 28-26. Cam Johnson scored 11 of the Nets’ first 16 points; Julius Randle had tallied nine, thanks to his perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the foul line. The Knicks had done nearly all their shooting within the arc attempting only three three-pointers in Q1.
In the second quarter, the Nets applied defense and hurried off a five-point lead. Their shooting still stunk (6-of-22 from downtown through two quarters), and the Knicks mounted an unanswered seven-point run to keep the game neck-and-neck. The Nets had missed 10 consecutive three-point attempts before Mikal Bridges connected late the half. As the Knicks tightened up their own defense, they inched ahead and entered halftime up, 50-49.
Brunson led New York through the first half with 18 points; Bridges had 15 for the opponent. Your first-half shot chart:
Coming out of intermission. the Nets scored seven straight points and circulated the ball with ease. Turnovers plagued the Knicks again tonight, with 12 through three quarters, and flakey defense allowed Bridges to keep raining threes. Brunson never quits, however, and OG Anunoby was good as ever, recording four steals and two blocks tonight. Here he puts his 7’2” wingspan to use:
OG SAID GET THAT OUTTA HERE pic.twitter.com/WgjRM6Tz4l— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 24, 2024
Nic Claxton finished the game with 17 rebounds, and Brooklyn stretched their lead to 10 points before finishing the third quarter, 85-76.
Spirited play by Anunoby and a five straight points from Deuce McBride chipped the deficit to four. Josh Hart had a rough night offensively, shooting 1-of-7 from the floor in 28 minutes. The Nets bench would outscore the Knicks’ reserves, 35-21, thanks to 14 points by Cam Thomas. How’s that Jordan Clarkson trade coming along, Leon?
New York shot a nearly perfect 18-of-19 from the charity stripe, which kept them in contention throughout. (Remarkably, the Nets took only five free throws.) Anunoby and Brunson led New York on a 9-0 run with slightly less than six minutes remaining. When Precious Achiuwa stuffed a Randle assist for a two-handed jam, Barclays sounded remarkably like MSG.
Knicks nation is loud and clear in Barclays! pic.twitter.com/PTwCjOPQ8w— KnicksNation (@KnicksNation) January 24, 2024
The two teams traded baskets before Randle took over down the stretch. He hit a dagger three—his second and a surprise, given that he’s shot 34% from downtown over the past 10 games. Then Julius played too fast and, as often happens when he goes full throttle, he lost control of the ball for his only misstep in the final minutes. We can forgive it for what he did next: a Josh Hart rebound and outlet pass found its way to Randle for a thunderous jam; Julius grabbed a defensive rebound that he subsequently dished to Josh Hart for another dunk; and finally, Ju snatched a huge rebound, was fouled, and hit two final free throws to call this one done.
Mr. Randle shot a perfect 8-of-8 from the line tonight, 2-of-2 from downtown, and 10-of-19 from the floor. A very nifty 30-point game to lead his team to victory. Respect.
The Champion Denver Nuggets roll into Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. Thanks for closing this one out—now rest up for the Nugs, Knickerbockers.