The New York Knicks have been perpetually searching for a star. But after another summer of failed pursuit — with Westchester native Donovan Mitchell traded to Cleveland instead of his hometown team — the Knicks settled for Jalen Brunson as their prized offseason acquisition.
On Wednesday night, Brunson once again proved the Knicks already have it in him. And Mitchell tweeted with a stamp of approval in the midst of another Brunson big night at the Garden.
Against Tyrese Haliburton, who is well ahead of him in the All-Star voting, Brunson showed out with 15 first-quarter points and helped the Knicks build a 25-point lead in the third quarter.
Haliburton limped to only 15 points before going out with a sore knee.
And when the Haliburton-less Pacers made a crazy run in the fourth quarter to cut the Knicks lead down to two, Brunson came to the rescue anew.
The Knicks starting point guard responded with seven straight points to keep the Pacers at bay before Quentin Grimes sealed the win with a clutch three-pointer in the final 25.6 seconds.
“I think we stayed poised and finished out the game. We obviously wanted to keep a lead and win comfortably, but that team wasn’t going to quit. I have to give them a lot of credit. For us, we have to continue to hold leads better. Keep our foot on the gas with the lead. That is a work in progress for us. But, a win is a win.”Jalen Brunson postgame via MSG Network
What the Knicks lacked in the past, Brunson is ably filling it.
When the stakes are higher, Brunson kicks his game into another gear.
“When you look at clutch points, I think he’s third in the league. He plays with poise. He’s going to make big shots. He’s going to make big plays. He shoots a high percentage from the floor, over 50%, the same thing from three, the same thing from the line. I think there’s a whole other level he can go.”Tom Thibodeau postgame via NBA.com
Brunson is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.
This is only his first season running his own NBA team after emerging from Luka Doncic’s shadows in the Dallas Mavericks’ postseason run last season.
This season, Brunson has been everything for the Knicks, delivering when it matters most.
He is at his best in the clutch, defined as the last five minutes of a game with a five-point or less margin, averaging 4.8 of his career-high 21.9-point average this season. Only DeMar DeRozan (5.2 points) and De’Aaron Fox (5.0) are scoring better than him in the clutch this season.
Brunson is shooting at a high level under pressure — 55.2 percent from the field (up from 47.2 percent for the season) and 55.6 percent (up from 39 percent for the season) from deep.
“He’s our finisher, our closer, a big-time shot maker. You saw it in the playoffs all of last year. Just him coming to the team really gives us a boost that we really need from a leadership standpoint, a shotmaking standpoint, so he kind of brings it all. Especially late in the game, we can rely on him to go get a bucket for us.”Quentin Grimes postgame via MSG Network
Brunson has yet to command the respect of general NBA fans. But his coach, other coaches, and peers around the league know he is every inch a star for the Knicks since he arrived.
And that’s what truly matters.
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