Strong Knicks contingent among curious crowd in Jazz Game 1 win over Mavs

Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks drives to the basket against Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz in the second quarter at American Airlines Center on April 16, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Trade target Donovan Mitchell and free-agent target Jalen Brunson went mano-a-mano in a riveting showdown in front of a strong New York Knicks contingent.

Mitchell scored 30 of his 32 points in the second half to power the Utah Jazz to a 99-93 win over the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks Saturday in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series.

Brunson kept the Mavericks competitive even without Doncic, pouring in 24 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Mitchell added six rebounds and six assists. The Jazz star shot 10 of 29 from the field and made 10 of 11 free throws in a productive outing after starting cold, missing all his four shots in the opening quarter.

Among the curious spectators were executive VP William Wesley, assistant general manager Allan Houston and director of international and pro scouting Makhtar Ndiaye.

Dallas native and enigmatic Knicks star Julius Randle huddled with them at halftime. Former Mavericks and Knicks guard Dennis Smith, Jr. also joined them.

They got what they bargained for as Mitchell and Brunson showed out. Both players have been linked to the Knicks for quite some time now.

In January, Fox Sports’ Ric Bucher reported a buzz around Mitchell’s murky future with the Jazz, who have been disappointing in the playoffs after strong regular-season campaigns in recent years.

“They’re a first-round exit from Donovan being in New York,” an Eastern Conference scout told Bucher.

Mitchell, a Westchester native, and son of a New York Mets executive, still has four years left on his rookie max extension after this season.

On the other hand, Brunson is set to become a free agent this summer. The former Villanova star has deeper ties within the Knicks organization than Mitchell. Brunson’s father was Knicks president Leon Rose’s first client and also played for the franchise. He was also part of Tom Thibodeau’s coaching staff in Minnesota.

After a disappointing season that ended in a return trip to the NBA Lottery, the Knicks’ moves in Rose’s third offseason will be heavily scrutinized.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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