Knicks’ Jalen Brunson returns in marquee matchup vs De’Aaron Fox, Kings

Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks

Jalen Brunson is set to make his comeback Thursday night in Sacramento after skipping the New York Knicks’ last two games with a sore left foot.

Brunson tested his left foot during warmups and was subsequently cleared to play.

Brunson’s return couldn’t come at a perfect time as they start a daunting four-game road trip.

The Knicks are looking to bounce back after their nine-game winning streak came to a screeching halt Tuesday night at home at the hands of the lottery-bound Charlotte Hornets. The loss trimmed the Knicks’ lead for the fifth seed to just one game over their crosstown rivals Brooklyn Nets, who are severely undermanned in their Thursday night’s matchup against East’s top team Milwaukee Bucks.

All eyes will be on the marquee matchup at the backcourt between Brunson and De’Aaron Fox, who is also returning from a hamstring injury.

Fox and Brunson are neck and neck in the Clutch Player Ladder.

The Kings’ All-Star guard currently leads all players in total (165) and average (5.5) clutch points. Brunson trails Fox in total clutch points with 131, while his 4.1 clutch points average only lags behind Fox, Bradley Beal (4.4), and DeMar DeRozan (4.2). But Brunson has the least total turnovers (5) among the top five clutch players this season.

Equally intriguing is the face-off between All-Star forwards Julius Randle and Domantas Sabonis. The Kings’ big man is the league leader in double-doubles with 52. Randle is tied with Giannis Antetokounmpo at no. 4 with 38.

Another interesting sidelight is the chess match on the sidelines between Mike Brown and Tom Thibodeau, two of the top candidates for the Coach of the Year award.

Brown has transformed the Kings into an offensive juggernaut, leading the league with 118.7 points per 100 possessions. On the other hand, Thibodeau can no longer just be boxed as a defensive coach, with the Knicks having a top-5 offense this season, averaging 116.3 points per 100 possessions, while their defense is creeping into the top 10. They are currently tied with the defending champion Golden Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers at no. 11. The Kings’ defense left much to be desired as they are in the bottom six in the league.

If this game goes down the wire, who will be more clutch between Brunson and Fox?

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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