Jalen Brunson scored 34 points, including a couple of crucial free throws with 13.9 seconds left, and the New York Knicks held off a furious Washington rally in a 112-108 victory over the Wizards on Friday night.
Julius Randle had 23 points and 16 rebounds for the Knicks, who won for the sixth time in seven games. He also provided the game’s biggest highlight with his left-handed dunk in the third quarter over Washington’s Daniel Gafford.
The Knicks went on a 14-0 run early in the fourth and held a 15-point lead with over eight minutes to play. They still led 105-94 with 2 minutes remaining before suffering yet another late-game collapse which allowed Washington to nearly take the game back when a layup by Kyle Kuzma cut the lead to three with 27 seconds remaining, and then Randle made just one of two free throws.
Kuzma was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left, but he made only two of three attempts from the line to cut the Knicks’ lead to 108-106.
It seemed like another potential game given away by New York when Brunson stepped up, as he has so many times before this season. He made both of his free throws to make it 110-106 and give his team the cushion it needed.
Kuzma and Rui Hachimura missed at the other end, and two more free throws by Brunson made it a six-point game with 3.5 seconds to play. Kuzma then made a shot at the buzzer to finish with 40 points on the night.
“Jalen Brunson. He just took over the game,” Kuzma said. “He’s an All-Star this year. He’s been playing phenomenal basketball. … You can just tell from the team last year to this year, they have more poise and patience, and they look for him, and he delivered tonight.”
Kristaps Porzingis contributed 21 points for Washington, which lost for the fourth time in five games.
The Wizards trailed 80-79 early in the fourth before they went about 3 1/2 minutes without scoring. A three-point play by RJ Barrett put New York up by eight, and Isaiah Hartenstein followed with a dunk for the first double-digit lead by either team.
A jumper by Brunson and a three-point play by Immanuel Quickley made it 94-79.
The Wizards are still without Bradley Beal because of a hamstring injury.
In the third quarter, Randle dunked over Gafford, who ended up on the floor and was also whistled for a foul on the play. Randle’s free throw put New York up 69-64, although the Wizards scored six straight after that.
The Knicks held the Wizards to 39% shooting from the field.
“It’s very difficult to guard guys individually in this league. So you need everyone tied together,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There’s five guys guarding the ball.”
In addition to Randle’s dunk, the Knicks had a handful of other plays in which they scored while being fouled. They ended up with a 50-28 edge in the paint. “Everybody was being aggressive. That’s what we need from our team,” Quickley said. “When we attack the rim our 3s open up.”
The Knicks will next play at Detroit on Sunday.