NEW YORK (AP) — Jalen Brunson fired the ball ahead to Obi Toppin, who dropped it behind him to a trailing RJ Barrett for a dunk that capped what may have been the highlight play of the New York Knicks’ early season.
Tom Thibodeau’s team is off and running, and No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero and the young Orlando Magic couldn’t keep up.
Julius Randle had 25 points and 12 rebounds, Brunson scored 21 points and the Knicks kept Banchero and the Magic winless with a 115-102 victory Monday night.
Thibodeau and the Knicks say they want to play faster after being near the bottom of the league in pace last season, and so far the results look promising.
“I think the fun part is, our defense is getting better — still a lot better we can get to — but once we get stops, it’s fun getting in the open court, running the floor, playing fast and everybody touches the ball,” Randle said.
Barrett added 20 points for the Knicks, who have won two straight since a season-opening overtime loss in Memphis. Mitchell Robinson scored 14.
Banchero scored 21 points to become just the third No. 1 pick to open a career with four consecutive games of 20 or more points, but the wait continues for his first win as a pro.
“It’s a process. We’ve got 78 more, so we’ve just to got come with a higher level of focus, higher level of urgency,” Banchero said. “We play again Wednesday, so look to get that first win and move on with it, but it’s not going to be easy. No team is going to hand us a win, so got to go get it.”
Bol Bol added a career-high 19 points off the bench and Wendell Carter Jr. had 17 points and 11 rebounds, but the big guys didn’t get enough help from the perimeter. Orlando was 7 for 35 (20%) on 3-pointers.
The Knicks led by three midway through the third quarter before Randle’s three-point play started a 15-4 burst. It ended when Brunson picked up a loose ball and threw a long pass ahead to Toppin, the high-flying crowd favorite who won the slam dunk contest at All-Star weekend. Instead of trying to dunk it himself, Toppin dropped a bounce pass behind him to a trailing Barrett, who slammed it down to make it 94-80.
“We’re trying to follow things we know we can do well,” Brunson said. “Thibs is going to put us in position to be successful and he thinks playing in the open court is a good thing for us. So if we’re able to get easy baskets and trust each other and share the ball in the open court, it’s going to make the game easier for us when it gets to crunch time.”
Orlando cut it to six with about 4 1/2 minutes remaining, but Brunson was fouled while knocking down a jumper for a three-point play, and Robinson’s follow shot restored a double-digit lead at 109-98.