The New York Knicks got a glimpse at what life was like without guard Jalen Brunson on Saturday night.
Even in victory, they didn’t like what they saw.
Brunson may be back in the lineup Monday afternoon, when the Knicks host the Orlando Magic in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee.
Both teams were off after playing on the road Saturday, when the Knicks outlasted the depleted Memphis Grizzlies 106-94 and the Magic fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-100.
Despite the Grizzlies being without most of their optimal lineup — guard Ja Morant (shoulder) and center Steven Adams (knee) are out for the season while leading scorers Desmond Bane (ankle) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) were out Saturday — the Knicks trailed the hosts 57-53 at the half.
New York took control by outscoring the Grizzlies 30-15 in the third quarter, but the absence of Brunson — sidelined with a bruised calf — still echoed after the game. Brunson is averaging 25.8 points, 6.4 assists and 2.3 turnovers per game, but without him on Saturday, the Knicks committed a season-high 22 turnovers.
“It was awful — I was terrible, I’m not going to lie,” said Julius Randle, who posted a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds but finished with six turnovers. “It was just a sluggish game, all around sloppy. But we found a way to get the win. That’s what matters.”
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who earned his 500th career win Saturday, said he’s hopeful Brunson can return Monday. Brunson worked out before the game against the Grizzlies before being scratched.
“He felt better,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll see (Sunday), another day of treatments and stuff, and then see if he can go on Monday.”
The loss to the Thunder continued an extended slump for the Magic, who have lost three straight games. The skid is their third losing streak of at least three games since Dec. 15, a span in which Orlando has gone 5-11 to fall into eighth place in the Eastern Conference, two games behind the sixth-place Knicks entering play Sunday. The top six teams in each conference are guaranteed a playoff berth.
Seven of the Magic’s last 11 losses have been by 12 points or fewer. Orlando led only briefly in the first quarter Saturday but cut a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to six points with two minutes left before going 0-for-3 from the field with a turnover down the stretch.
The Thunder’s game-ending 7-1 run began with Jalen Williams putting back his own miss with 1:44 remaining.
“When we had it down to six, there was a turnover here, an offensive rebound there,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “We talk about not beating ourselves and those were the things that it came down to in those moments. We battled, we fought, but you’ve got to take care of the little things in those situations.”
The Knicks are the only NBA team to play on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in all 38 seasons in which games have been played on the holiday. Due to the owners’ lockout, the 1998-99 season didn’t begin until Feb. 5, 1999.
New York is 23-14 on the holiday while Orlando is 7-11.
–Field Level Media
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