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Knicks 108, Nets 103: “Home game on the road”

Was that the Center or was it the Garden?

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

30 for 30: Batman and Robin — The Story of Jalen and Julius, Brunson and Randle.

The New York Knicks (27-17) crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on their way to Barclays Center, and seemingly so did around 17,000 of the 17,732 souls attending the game and watching live on location on Tuesday judging by the soundbites heard and felt inside the Nets arena.

Unsurprisingly, Knicks fanatics filled the Brooklyn seats and suffered but eventually did enough on offense and put the clamps on the hosts to win a fourth consecutive basketball game, 108-103.

It took the Manhattanites more than it should and the Knicks struggled to contain mighty Mikal Bridges’ furious shooting prowess for most of the game. The villain of the evening, however, did encounter a couple of superheroes wearing blue and orange capes and putting him to the sword when all was said and done, starting in the fourth.

Brunson and Randle bagged 30 points each, and in doing so they put up the 524th and 525th such scoring outings (30+ points) in a single game by a New York Knicks player starting to count on Jan. 1, 2000.

That might sound like nothing remarkable (it isn’t, even less in the current scoring economy), but if you dig a bit deeper it is an extraordinary achievement. Why? Because we are talking about Brunson and Randle doing it in the same game and sharing the court.

This century, in Knicks history, not many teammates have scored 30+ points each in the same game. Excluding teammates that have done it just once, here is the leaderboard:

  • Brunson + Randle: 8 times
  • Melo + JR Smith: 4
  • Randle + RJ Barrett: 4
  • Toppin + Quickley: 3
  • Randle + Quickley: 2
  • Sprewell + Allan Houston: 2

That’s it, that’s the list. JB and JR have scored 30+ points each in the same game eight times through their time together, which is to say through a season and a half as Brunson just arrived in New York in July 2022.

More impressively, the couple has done it seven times this season, and five in January alone.

If we’re not watching the best, most unique Knicks team in the past 25 seasons (we are) then we must be as close to it as I could imagine.

“It starts with me and [Brunson],” Randle said after the game. “We know we get a lot of attention so we have to make the right plays. We didn’t play the first and third well, but, like coach said, we played our best when it mattered.”

If you watched the game or even just the clip above, then you already know: “The crowd,” Randle said, “was lit.”

If not, go ahead and do so.

“It felt like a friggin’ away game when they made their run,” said Nets star Mikal Bridges.

Now you understand Bridges’ bad vibes.

The Nets are this team that doesn’t play bad basketball but clearly needs a closer, or at least a collective effort and better coaching in order to finish games while on the lead.

Brooklyn did the unthinkable last Sunday when they gave up a ridiculous 22-0 run to the Clippers on their way to losing a game they had nothing but won before that mind.

On Tuesday, hosting the Knicks, they surrendered a 10-point lead and ate another L fed to them by their neighbors of all gentlemen. Brooklyn entered the fourth quarter clearly in the lead, 85-76, but all they could do in the final frame was score 18 points to their foes’ 32.

After hitting three field-goal attempts in the first, three more in the second, and a game-high seven after the break, Bridges’ tank emptied in the four with the leading man bagging just one while misfiring on four occasions.

Not even Nic Claxton’s career-high 17 boards could save the poor Nets. Not even Cam Johnson’s out-of-left-field 19 points or Cam Thomas’ microwavy 14 pops were enough.

All of that, on a day in which the Knicks couldn’t count on any of their two best big men: Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein.

The former has been out since December and won’t return until one or two or three months from now. The latter was ruled out before the game.

Your starter? Jericho “Young Hercules” Sims, he of the four boards, four blocks, six points, and two assists outing in 27 minutes.

Your reliever? Precious “I’m Here Too” Achiuwa, he of the six points, nine rebounds, two assists, and a game-high +13 on the plus/minus column.

Not bad!

OG Anunoby had his usual impactful contribution (+11) without flashing on the stat sheet but committing four thefts while swatting a couple of shots.

Donte DiVincenzo was reasonably cold (considering what he’s known to do more often than not) shooting 3-of-8 from range but grabbing five rebounds and stealing one possession.

Josh Hart was mid (two points, five rebounds, two steals, one assist, one block), but showed his best OG-Lite version through 28 minutes.

Deuce and Grimes combined for 13 points, two rebounds, four assists, one steal (the former), and one block (the latter) committing no turnovers.

“I didn’t think we played particularly well but I loved how we responded in the fourth quarter,” Thibodeau said. “It says a lot about who we are. Winning when you’re not at your best is huge.”

Brunson reached 30 on 11-of-22 shooting but only added six points to his tally in the fourth quarter (three from the line, three from range).

“We just kept grinding. Obviously, they were pretty much beating us all game. They were playing well. They started the game pretty well,” Brunson said. “We couldn’t do anything about what we did in the past, we could only just be better going forward, and the best quarter was the fourth tonight.”

With Brunson doing the damage early and keeping New York in the fight, it was Randle who took over late and during the final minutes of the game.

Julius had one of his most efficient games on his way there, going perfect from the charity stripe (8-for-8), the three-point line (2-for-2), and hitting 10-of-19 field-goal attempts through 37 minutes of play.

He scored the basket to put New York ahead, 98-97, then did the same a few minutes later with a trey to put the Knicks on top once more, 101-100, with 2:19 remaining. Randle broke a 101-101 tie with a smooth dunk as the clock hit 1:00, and applied the final touches to his 30-point masterpiece with two freebies bringing the score to the final 108-103.

“[The crowd] was lit,” said Randle. “It was special. We came back. Crowd really got into it. It was good to hear the New York Knicks chants in Barclays. That’s always fun.”

Fun it was, Julius, fun it was.

The Knicks return to MSG on Thursday to host the reigning champions coming from Denver. That’s one of eight games New York will host from now through Feb. 10 before going on a road trip taking them to Houston and Orlando before the break.

Don’t get it wrong, folks. On the schedule, among others, are the Nuggets, the Heat, the Jazz, the Pacers (x2), and the Mavs. It’s not going to be easy, but your boys are 10-2 with OG in place and more reinforcements via trade (we have to assume) on the way.

Let’s go grab those dubs. Tip-off on Thursday scheduled at 7:30. Don’t miss it.