NBA: Jalen Brunson scores 30 in return to help Knicks trip Rockets
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NBA: Jalen Brunson scores 30 in return to help Knicks trip Rockets

/ 04:10 PM January 18, 2024

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New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson reacts in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK— Bruised and beaten after a rough outing without Jalen Brunson two days earlier, Julius Randle said he told his teammate to get back out on the floor.

The New York Knicks looked totally different once Brunson did.

Randle scored 31 points, Brunson added 30 in his return from a two-game absence and the Knicks beat the Houston Rockets 109-94 on Wednesday night.

“JB being back adds tremendous value to our team, so having the head the snake, our PG back just helps us get a little more organized,” Randle said.

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Brunson missed two games because of bruised left calf and Randle struggled without his point guard in a loss to Orlando on Monday, shooting 5 for 18 for 15 points. But the offense was flowing nicely again in the second half Wednesday, when the Knicks pulled away after leading by two at halftime.

“When you’re not able to be out there, it’s tough mentally, but you’ve got to do obviously what’s best for you,” Brunson said. “But obviously I want to be out there and be able to help my team win, but it’s tough watching that. But I have the utmost faith in my teammates whether I’m out there or not.”

OG Anunoby had 15 points for the Knicks, who with the victory on coach Tom Thibodeau’s 66th birthday reached the halfway point of their schedule at 24-17. Josh Hart finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Fred VanVleet had 24 points and 12 assists for the Rockets. They went 1-5 on a six-game trip. The lone victory came against NBA-worst Detroit and was followed by losses in Boston, Philadelphia and New York.

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“We’ve just got to find a way to keep pushing and get back home and get some home cooking,” forward Dillon Brooks said.

Alperen Sengun added 18 points and 10 rebounds in Houston’s eighth straight loss to New York.

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VanVleet, who had been held in single digits in the previous two games, scored five straight points to cut New York’s lead to 54-53 early in the third quarter. Anunoby then made consecutive 3-pointers and the Knicks outscored the Raptors 20-9 over the next 7 1/2 minutes to open a 74-62 lead.

New York eventually blew it open when Brunson scored, Anunoby was converted a three-point play after a nice feed from Randle and Hart maybe a layup in a 7-0 spurt that gave the Knicks a 98-81 with 4:48 remaining.

The Knicks are 1-1 on a four-game homestand this week. They host Washington on Thursday before a visit Saturday from the Raptors, the first between the teams since their trade last month that brought Anunoby to New York and sent RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley to Toronto.

Though the Knicks are 7-2 with Anunoby, the trade left them vulnerable to scoring slumps whenever both Brunson and Randle don’t have good nights. When they both play well like Wednesday, there is more than enough offense for a team that has improved defensively since the deal.

The Knicks led 48-46 at halftime. Brunson scored 20 points in the second half and Randle had 17.

NEXT SCHEDULE

Rockets: Host Utah on Saturday night.

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Knicks: Host Washington on Thursday night.

TAGS: NBA, New York Knicks

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