NCAA Tournament, Knicks, Nets, Rose

Knicks Struggle Without Brunson, Fall Back To 6th

Coming off of a magical 9-game win streak, a bit of bad luck struck against the Knicks as Jalen Brunson went down with a left foot injury. Brunson would miss all but one game, but even in the game he played he was removed at halftime due to the foot issue.

The Knicks capped off their 9-game win streak without Brunson in a double overtime thriller in Boston, but that trend would not last much longer. New York proceeded to lose their next three games to the Hornets, Kings, and Clippers. Brunson played 19 minutes against the Kings but had to be removed at halftime.

The only saving grace came Sunday night against the Lakers, as New York pulled out a hard fought win without Brunson. Even with the win, New York fell back to 6th place as the Nets have retaken the 5th seed. Brooklyn sits at 39-29 while New York is 40-30.

The Nets are in the midst of winning five out of their last six games as they have stormed back in front of the Knicks. Just a few days ago, New York was only a half game back from the 4th seed. But one injury and a few losses later, it is now the play-in that is one spot away, not a home court playoff series.

Randle Without Brunson

Throughout the long win streak, Brunson and Julius Randle were both playing some of the best basketball of their careers. The addition of Brunson had made Randle a completely different player than he has been throughout his Knick career. After Brunson went down, fans were probably reminded of the Randle pre-Brunson.

Randle struggled mightily in the three straight losses to start the week. He averaged only 19 points on a dreadful 28.6 percent from the field and only 22.6 percent from behind the arc.

The last game of the streak against the Clippers was especially difficult. Randle had 19 points while shooting a mere 5-24 from the field. The Clippers' stout perimeter defenders like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George exposed the issues that exist without Brunson.

All too often when Brunson is not on the floor, the Knicks become far too reliant on Randle playing one on one with his defender. Randle certainly has the ability to win his matchups, but relying on him to do this for the majority of the game is what caused New York to fall short of expectations last year.

For Randle, there was no time to dwell on his performance against the Clippers, as the Lakers were due the next night. To this point, Randle has definitely had better box score performances, but his play tonight was arguably his best of the year.

Coming off of the back-to-back, Randle scored 33 points on 11-24 from the floor, while chipping in eight rebounds and five assists. Randle scored 19 of his 33 from in the paint or at the free throw line, as he was much more decisive tonight in taking the ball inside the paint.

Putting on this type of performance the night after probably his worst of the year shows an incredibly high level of commitment to the team. Randle clearly understood the importance of ending this streak tonight. He gave it about all he could tonight, and it paid off for him and the Knicks with a much needed win.

Knicks Bench Provides Bright Spot

A 1-3 week leaves little to be pleased with, but the play from the New York reserves should not go unnoticed. Although the Knicks lost three straight games, they were in all three of these games until late in the 4th quarter because of the bench.

Against the Hornets, every New York starter had a negative plus/minus while all but one bench player had a positive plus/minus. This trend continued precisely against the Kings. Against the Clippers, every player was negative or even, but the worst bench negative was only a -3 plus/minus.

The unit of Josh Hart, Isaiah Hartenstein, Miles McBride, and Obi Toppin provided the Knicks some really solid minutes and kept New York in striking distance in all three of their losses. When Brunson returns, Quickley will go back to the bench and add even more fire power to one of the better benches in the league.

Brunson Injury Update

Brunson's X-Rays came back negative early on Saturday, but Brunson is still day-day to this point. He was seen in a boot Sunday night against the Lakers. ESPN reported it is unlikely for Brunson to return Tuesday in Portland, so his next chance to play would be Saturday versus the Nuggets.

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