Jalen Brunson’s vintage Knicks night makes 50-win dream realistic

The Garden waited, waited, and waited for the Knicks to defeat the lowly Wizards. Mama Thibodeau, who celebrated her own birthday the day after her son Tom's birthday, said she wouldn't expect another night like this.

The Knicks, who won 113-109, would be better off not playing with the lack of grit, desperation and will to win that they showed against the Wizards on Thursday night against a better opponent.

One man, and only one man, did so.

Jalen Brunson did that.

Jalen Brunson refused to let the Knicks lose when the game was on the line.

He missed two games due to a calf injury and was tired from back-to-back games. he didn't care. He is the ultimate warrior. Fearless. He scored 20 points in the fourth quarter. He finished with 41.

My calves aren't bad.

“Whatever it takes to win,” Brunson said. Of course he was wearing a Villanova jacket. “I have to have the same offensive mindset, but I also have to be smart. I have to be aware of the time, the score, the situation, etc.”

Jalen Brunson scored 20 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter of the Knicks' victory. charles wenzelberg

He always seems to know.

Donte DiVincenzo said, “What makes him special is that he makes the right play every time.”

It would be a crime if he was left out of the All-Star Game again.

The Knicks have reached 50 wins only twice in the past 24 seasons. In the 2012-13 season, the Mike Woodson Knicks won 54 games and lost to the Pacers in the conference semifinals. Then you have to go back to the 1999-2000 Knicks, where Jeff Van Gundy's Knicks won 50 games before losing to the Pacers in the Conference Finals.

The only other Knicks coaches in the 50-win club are Red Holtzman (five), Pat Riley (four) and Rick Pitino (one). Van Gundy also won 57 games in the 1996-97 season.

Jalen Brunson “makes the right play every time,” teammate Donte DiVincenzo said. charles wenzelberg

It's a high-class club, and there's no reason Tom Thibodeau won't join it this season.

“I think the 50-game number has always been a marker in the league for a really good regular season team. Unfortunately, people underestimate the challenge of the regular season and the consistency it takes to play high-level basketball. “I think they do that every night in the NBA, and I think the Knicks do that,” NBA on TNT analyst Stan Van Gundy told the Post.

“If I were a New York fan, I'd be excited about this team, but look, I don't think they're as good as the other three teams.” [Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia], but I'll be honest with you that last year's Miami wasn't as good as the current Knicks and ended up making it to the NBA Finals. In boxing, there are opportunities for punchers.

“I think New York has a better chance than ever to take another step or two in the playoffs. But I still think they need a few breaks to do more than win in the first round.” I think they need to, otherwise they will probably do well and continue to improve.”

With 23 home games remaining, it's not unreasonable to expect them to go 25-15 and reach 50-32, regardless of whether they move before the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“But I think there’s a story to it.” [Thibodeau]”Everyone thinks he's a good coach, they think he's old-school, they think he's all about defense,” SVG said. This is his second year in a row with a top-10 offense, but when you look at the roster, it's a roster that doesn't look like it's a great offense last year or now.

Trading OG Anunoby would change the complexion of the Knicks' defense, especially if Mitchell Robinson returns before the end of the regular season. “[Anunoby] You get to play against the best players from every other team in the league,” SVG said. “This makes them a much more formidable playoff team than they were before.”

Jalen Brunson refused to let the Knicks lose in a close game
Thursday's game against the Wizards, charles wenzelberg

More than anything, Brunson's presence alongside Julius Randle is better than a 50-50 proposition.

“I think what New York did in the trade with OG was a step forward,” SVG said. “I think they gave themselves a puncher's chance. If they can somehow add a bench scorer to that group, they'll have a little bit more of a chance. But they don't have the kind of roster that I can look at and say. I don't see a route that would create, “Yeah, I think their roster is as talented as Milwaukee or Boston,'' I don't think that's going to happen. Or maybe Philadelphia.

“Right now, I think I'd put the Knicks in the same group as Miami and Cleveland, 4th to 7th. However, it's important to note that Miami has fallen even further than they were a year ago, making it to the Finals. So if you get to those places, put things together at the right time, get the right combinations, have the right health, you can run away from the horses coming at you from outside. But it's still something. It's a long shot.

“Brunson and Randle are good players, but are you going to take over Brunson and Randle?” [Joel] with embiid [Tyrese] Maxie? Are you taking over? [Jayson] with tatum [Jaylen] brown? Are you taking over? [Damian] Lillard and Giannis [Antetokounmpo]? You're not, you're just not.? So I think they're still on the outside. They certainly have a chance if things go well, but a lot of things will need to align right for them to flourish. ”

The Knicks remain in the market for bench playmakers/facilitators, including Dejounte Murray, Malcolm Brogdon, Jordan Clarkson, DeMar DeRozan, and most recently the recently traded Bruce Brown (12.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg). ) and others are rumored. From the Pacers to the Raptors in the signing of Pascal Siakam. They're making calls against Quentin Grimes.

“I think a player like Clarkson, a player who can add some offensive punch off the bench, is the player they need most. That's just me looking at it from the outside,” SVG said. “They're all great names. I don't think the Knicks have a lot of trade value left, and that's the problem.”

The Garden knows the Knicks couldn't hope to win 50 games without Brunson. “MVP,” they kept shouting. “MVP”