OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)Jalen Brunson scored a season-high 34 points while RJ Barrett and Julius Randle had 25 points each to lead the New York Knicks to a 129-119 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.
Just eight days ago, the Thunder beat the Knicks in Madison Square Garden, scoring 145 points including 79 in the opening half. But this time, New York held Oklahoma City’s offense in check for the bulk of the game.
Coach Tom Thibodeau couldn’t say his team made specific adjustments in the rematch, rather pointing to familiarity as a key to the better defensive performance.
”They’re a tough cover. I don’t know if we did anything differently, but they got everyone’s attention with last week’s performance,” said Thibodeau.
The Knicks took control in the second quarter with Immanuel Quickley coming off the bench to score 12 of his 18 points as New York built a double-digit lead, and they eventually stretched it to 16 when the starters returned.
Randle had 16 of his points at the half to lead the way as the Knicks were up 11 at the break. Randle finished with a double-double, leading all rebounders in the game with 11.
Brunson took over in the third quarter, scoring a dozen of his points as the Knicks maintained that halftime advantage heading into the final period. The off-season free agent signee reached his Knicks high total by hitting 13 of 14 of his two-point shot attempts, missing the only one in the final minute. He was more impressed with the way his teammates rose to the occasion.
”It was a total team effort. Julius got us going early and that helped open thing up for me in the second half,” said Brunson. ”I just tried to stay aggressive and take it at the defense and I was fortunate the shots were dropping tonight.”
With different players taking turns providing the offense for New York, Thibodeau was encouraged by the way his team played through all four quarters.
”I thought they played well off of each other and made a number of good plays to get everyone going and create quality shots for each other,” said Thibodeau. ”When you have that type of balanced attack, I think it’s hard to key in on one particular guy,”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 30 points and Lu Dort added 24. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Oklahoma City against the Knicks.
Knicks: Finish the five-game West road swing 3-2 after losing the previous two games.
Thunder: Had been leading the league in third quarter scoring differential (+4.2) but they failed to cut into the Knicks halftime lead tonight.
Knicks: Host Trail Blazers on Friday.
Thunder: Host Nuggets on Wednesday.
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