Studs and Duds: Knicks pick up dominant victory in Jalen Brunson’s return

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) gestured after making a three point shot in the first quarter against the Orlando Magic at Madison Square Garden
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The second half of the season has dealt with numerous injuries, yet the New York Knicks consistently persevere. Jalen Brunson returned to the lineup to face the rival Orlando Magic in a crucial game for the postseason standings.

Putting the pedal to the metal, New York blitzed Orlando to the tune of a 24-point victory while allowing only 74 points, the lowest Orlando had scored all season. The Knicks ultimately won with a final score of 98–74.

Studs: Jalen Brunson was elite in his return from injury

In his first game back, the returning Jalen Brunson was on another level. Setting the tone out of the gate, Brunson scored 10 points in the first quarter. An array of offensive blows saw Brunson attack effectively from all three levels, dominating Orlando while setting the tone for them never to gain leverage in the contest.

Brunson finished with 26 points on 57.9% from the floor. A deep three from Brunson in the first quarter ballooned the lead to 12, and Orlando never sniffed a lead the entire game.

The best defense New York has played in over a month occurring with a returning Brunson is no coincidence. The absence of the All-Star saw an over-exertion of offensive reliance on less skilled players, thus bringing a greater appreciation for what Brunson brings every night out. 

Studs: The Knicks played phenomenal defense 

Holding an opponent to 74 points in 2024 is like watching a cow jump over the moon. The Orlando Magic didn’t know what hit them and had no expectation for New York to blitz them out of the gate while displaying better execution and intensity from the opening tip.

Paolo Banchero had words regarding the Knicks in the post-game, stating, “I think they did a good job…being physical…You could feel the intensity from the tip from them.” A huge block on Banchero from Isaiah Hartenstein in the third quarter while up 17 points demoralized any chance of a comeback.

The short-handed Knicks have recently been ranked bottom three in the league for defensive rating while also being 0-3 entering this game against the Magic this season. With Brunson back, the defensively skilled players can lock in instead of over-exerting on offense. Holding Orlando to 34% from the floor and 23% from three, OG Anunoby will elevate this defense back to another stratosphere upon his return. 

Studs: Avengers Assemble 

The New York Knicks have one of the best rotations in the entire NBA. The work put in by the role men in the absence of premiere players has given them experience, comfortability, and maturation in their games within the game. The added intangibles maximize once health is restored at the top of the rotation, trickling down to a blend of great variety against opponents.

Josh Hart led the way, logging 42 minutes and finishing with 19 points on 60% from three. An emphatic put-back dunk sealed the deal for New York as Hart has been integral all season to elevating New York in its time of need.

Precious Achiuwa has loved his time playing for New York and shows it every time he’s on the floor. Totaling 15 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks against Orlando, Achiuwa’s level of play has solidified New York as the best frontcourt rotation in the NBA.

Miles McBride’s emergence has been straight out of a movie. Capitalizing on his extended minutes on every occasion, McBride has averaged 13 points in his past five games. Playing well above his season averages, McBride continues to improve and impress. Ensuring a permanent rotation spot will keep elevating his game every time out. 

Duds: The Knicks’ questionable deadline trade 

In the game with fewer minutes from Bogdanovic and Burks, the Knicks played the best defense they had in months. The addition of both players was indicative of an extra-scoring punch in the absence of Julius Randle. Randle returns soon, and New York wants to maintain stellar defense, but the acquisition of both Burks and Bogey becomes questionable.

Both players are willing but not consistent defenders, coming from an unbalanced team in the Detroit Pistons. Looking ahead, maximizing both sides of the floor will be fundamental in what success New York cultivates in the postseason.

Playing Burks and Bogey extended minutes shouldn’t take place unless both players show prominent consistency on the defensive side of the ball. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ win over the Magic

Momentum is building following such an impressive victory over the Orlando Magic. Brunson looked back to himself, while injured players Mitchell Robinson and OG Anunoby have shown promising signs of a near return. Speculation surrounding Julius Randle will make the most headlines.

Ahead of New York’s most recent win over the Cavaliers, Randle was seen going through the motions in preparation for a comeback to game action. TNT’s Allie LaForce stated it would be “At least a week to 10 days before anyone is back––but hope is in sight.” 

New York has upcoming back-to-back games against a 76ers team without Joel Embiid. Wins in both would keep New York out of the play-in, but maintaining momentum has been easier said than done for a Knicks team with a 4-6 record over the last ten games. 

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