April 13, 2024

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Jalen Brunson scored 42 points to lead the Knicks to victory over the Kings

Jalen Brunson scored 42 points to lead the Knicks to victory over the Kings

NBA

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Jalen Brunson should have played with rubber gloves and a surgical mask the way he dissected Kings.

The point guard tore through the Kings with precision, dropping 42 points as the Knicks won Saturday night, 98-91, compounding his All-Star physicality and trademark defense in front of a capacity crowd.

Bronson was the engine, steering wheel and tires. He knocked down 17 of 28 field goals in 36 minutes, including the biggest shot of the evening — a floater off a quick dribble that gave the visitors a 96-91 lead with 37 seconds left.

Jalen Brunson, who scored a game-high 42 points, nailed the ball over DeAaron Fox during the Knicks' 98-91 win over the Kings. Kyle Terada – USA Today Sports

Sacramento's Leon Ellis, who was the primary defender on that play, glanced at the incoming screen and that split second was all Brunson needed to get to the basket to dagger the Knicks (40-27).

He became the first Knick since Carmelo Anthony in 2014 to record back-to-back games with 40+ goals, and only the fourth player in franchise history with Bernard King and Patrick Ewing as the other players on the list.

“This is elite company,” Josh Hart said.

The performance came after a 45-point game for Brunson two nights ago in Portland, when teammate Donte DiVincenzo declared, “He's an All-Star point guard, that's what they do.”

Except Brunson was more than just an All-Star this season. He's on pace to become the first Knick point guard to be named All-NBA since Clyde Frazier in 1975, nearly 50 years ago.

Brunson also moves up the list of top players at his position across the league. If there was an adjustment to remove the hybrid ball-handling giants from the conversation — namely Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luka Doncic — Brunson could be a top-3 point guard.

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It depends on where he ranks between Steph Curry, Dame Lillard, Tyrese Haliburton, Jamal Murray, Trae Young, and Deron Fox.

Josh Hart, who scored nine points and grabbed 13 rebounds, beat Keon Ellis during the Knicks' victory. Kyle Terada – USA Today Sports

On Saturday, Brunson edged one of the players on that list, Fox, who had 20 ineffective points on 5-of-19 shooting.

Meanwhile, Brunson served the Kings with scoring from an eclectic list, and a variety of 3-pointers, floaters, pivots, and drives.

He found angles that shouldn't have been there, such as with 5:46 remaining when he drilled a pass-and-1 under two defenders with swinging arms.

It was even more impressive considering Brunson was constantly driving the ball but only took four foul shots.

“To push the ball as many times as he does, the physicality, he's boxed in, they're getting after him, they're hitting him, and he only had four free throws,” Thibodeau said. “But that's what I like about him. He's strong-minded, he can figure it out and he knows what the game is called. He knows he's on the road, that it's going to be tough, and that doesn't slow him down. He doesn't let the officials influence him in any way.”

Bojan Bogdanovic, who had nine points off the bench, shoots the ball while Alex Len (far left) and Malik Monk defend during the Knicks' win. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Conn

With DiVincenzo still out of sorts, OG Anunoby out on Saturday and Julius Randle in street clothes, Thibodeau once again relied on his point guard.

Brunson had 43% of his team's points, two nights after he had 43% of his team's points in Portland.

The Kings, like the Knicks, are achieving success after decades of corruption.

They are still not considered contenders, but the combination of Fox and Domantas Sabonis has elevated them into playoff contention.

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They're also young and fast, with Fox being among the fastest in the NBA, which the Knicks have fought hard against.

“For a defender like me, I like to be physical, so I enjoy it,” Hart said.

Sabonis was still a handful.

The shifty big man, who leads the league in triple-doubles, hammered the paint and dropped 21 points with 14 boards.

But the Kings couldn't stop the surgically meticulous Brunson.

“You're about to expect what Jalen did,” Thibodeau said. “It's every night and it's big play after big play.”

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