Why Jalen Brunson’s All-Star case looks a lot stronger after the Knicks’ near-collapse against Heat

Jalen Brunson received bad news on Thursday. The catalyst behind New York’s surprisingly successful season was snubbed for an All-Star spot when the reserves were announced, and while Brunson was probably glad his teammate Julius Randle got the nod, his own case was seemingly stronger. Randle may average more points, but Brunson scored more efficiently and was a better playmaker. His presence has allowed Randle to play more like the All-Star he was in 2021, but he wasn’t recognized for his standout season.

In a sort of silver lining for Brunson, the basketball world got to see what the Knicks would be like without him on Thursday as a non-COVID illness kept him out of New York’s game against the Miami Heat. The Knicks ultimately managed to win the game, but one of the craziest final minutes of the 2022-23 regular season was a testament to how badly this offense needs Brunson up front.

With 56 seconds remaining, let’s dive in. Tyler Herro just made a jump to reduce New York’s lead to 102-99. The Knicks timed out. Typically, Brunson found a way to create space during inbounds play, got fouled, and made his free throws. Nobody could do that for RJ Barrett so his passport is stolen by Bam Adebayo. He is fouled by Randle and sinks both free throws.

What followed was one of the more chaotic end-of-game sequences you’ll ever see. Herro misses a game-defining 3-pointer. Barrett turns the ball around. Herro turns it around again. Randle somehow finds his way to an open dunk to give the Knicks a 106-101 lead with less than six seconds remaining.

Game should be over…right? Well… not exactly. Max Strus quickly sinks a 3-pointer, forcing the Knicks to time out and the inbounds dance again. Once again, Barrett struggles to find a pass. He makes a desperate throw at Randle, who was initially saved with a foul phone call. However, upon verification, he actually traveled.

And so the Heat has an unlikely chance of winning the game on the buzzer. Unfortunately, Herro can’t pull off a relatively clean look from deep for Miami.

In the end it worked. The Knicks won the game. Beating a defending Eastern Conference finalist with no two starters is unreservedly positive. But three ugly turnovers on the stretch showed how critical Brunson is of this late-game offense. Randle, who went 8-for-21 in the game and only attempted two shots in the fourth quarter, needed some luck to lead the Knicks to victory in that quarter.

https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/why-jalen-brunsons-all-star-case-looks-much-stronger-after-knicks-near-collapse-vs-heat/ Why Jalen Brunson’s All-Star case looks a lot stronger after the Knicks’ near-collapse against Heat

Chris Estrada

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