New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives against Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
NEW YORK (AP) — Jalen Brunson scored 22 of his 38 points in the first half, Josh Hart had 11 points off the bench in his Knicks debut and New York outlasted the Utah Jazz 126-120 on Saturday night.
Julius Randle added 31 for New York, which has won three of four to improve to 31-27. R.J. Barrett scored 20 points before fouling out, and Immanuel Quickley finished with 15.
“We have a lot of unselfish guys who are willing to do whatever it takes to win,” Brunson said. “As long as we’re keeping that our main priority, we’re going to continue to get better.”
Hart, acquired Wednesday night from Portland, made a quick impact on his new team while adding seven rebounds and four assists.
“Josh was huge. How many did he have? Seven? Seven rebounds, something like that,” Barrett said of his new teammate. “He brought a lot of effort, toughness.”
Lauri Markkanen scored 29 points to lead the Jazz, who lost for the fourth time in five games. Jordan Clarkson had 24, Talen Horton-Tucker added 23 off the bench and Collin Sexton finished with 15.
“Sometimes it’s just the game gets away from you and you struggle with some of the details on the defensive end,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “Situational basketball is something we talk about a lot.”
Hart snapped a 101-all tie with 6:44 left in the fourth with a corner 3 off a feed from Brunson — his former college teammate at Villanova. On the ensuing possession, Isaiah Hartenstein fouled Markkanen to prevent a dunk. After Utah’s power forward knocked down both free throws, Hartenstein’s follow dunk allowed New York to regain its three-point lead.
The teams traded baskets over the next two minutes, culminating with Clarkson’s 12-footer which tied it at 109.
“Madison Square Garden, it’s tied, four minutes left, the place is rocking,” Hardy said. “It’s a great environment for our team and we relish those moments. Obviously we wish we could have executed better down the stretch.”
Consecutive 3-pointers from Brunson and Barrett gave New York a 115-109 lead with 3:49 left. A few moments later, Randle’s third 3 extended the advantage to 118-109.
On New York’s next two possessions, Randle had a baseline dunk and found Hart with a cross-court pass that pushed the lead to 123-114.
“I like the way he’s attacking the basket,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of Randle. “He’s attacking the rim and it sets up everything else for him. He knocks down a couple 3s (and) now they come up on him. He uses his quickness and strength really well.
“When I see his aggressiveness, I know we’re (going) to be hard to beat.”
Jazz: Hardy said the next step in Markkanen’s development is to become a leader. “His presence has to change a little bit in the locker room,” Hardy said before the game. “It has to change a little bit at practice and shootaround and film sessions. Stepping into that leadership role a little bit more now with that void being there.” Markkanen is averaging 24.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, and as such Hardy thinks he can handle increased responsibility. “He’s ready for that,” Hardy said.
Knicks: About 3 1/2 hours before tipoff, Hart met reporters for the first time as a member of the Knicks. Hart, who was teammates with Randle with the Lakers to go along with his friendship with Brunson, believes he has found a home in New York. “Obviously on the court, there’s a lot of things I’m excited about, with teammates and Thibodeau) and the front office I’m familiar with,” Hart said. “It’s my third time getting traded, sixth year in the league, fourth team, sixth head coach. It’s been a whirlwind. I didn’t think that was how my first six years were going to be, but I’m looking for a home, and I think this could be it.”
Jazz: Visits Indiana on Monday.
Knicks: Hosts Brooklyn on Monday.