Brunson Matches Multiple NBA Records in Career Night
Jalen Brunson cemented himself in NBA history on Friday night, carrying the New York Knicks to a 139-122 road win over the Phoenix Suns with a career-high 50 points on incredible efficiency. Brunson went 15-of-16 from the floor, including a perfect 9-of-9 from three-point range to tie multiple long-standing league records.
His flawless shooting display from deep matches the NBA record for most threes in a game without a miss, tying Latrell Sprewell (2003) and Ben Gordon (2006). Brunson is also the first player in NBA history with 50+ points on 90% shooting or better.
Brunson scored 27 consecutive points for the Knicks bridging the third and fourth quarters, the most by any Knicks player over the last 25 seasons. He scored 50 points in just 34 minutes of play, as New York pulled away late thanks to his takeover.
Surging Knicks Notch Signature Victory
The win marks the Knicks’ eighth victory in their last nine games, pushing their record to 16-13 on the season. More importantly, it gives New York a signature victory over a Western Conference contender, proving they can compete with the NBA’s best.
Phoenix entered the contest at 16-11, though injuries have hindered stars like Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton at times. This game marked just the second with all three back healthy, but the Suns had no answer for Brunson.
The Knicks also snapped a nine-game losing streak against Kevin Durant after he was traded to Phoenix last week. New York hadn’t beaten a Durant-led team since 2013. Though Durant had his shot working for 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting, the Knicks contained the rest of Phoenix’s stars en route to the wire-to-wire victory.
“It’s a great win for us,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau. “Any time you can beat a team like Phoenix, that’s saying something. But we can’t get too high off this one. It’s important but there’s a lot more work left to be done.”
Perfect Shooting Propels Knicks’ Hot Stretch
Brunson has been playing the best basketball of his career over the past month, averaging 34.2 points per game in December on elite 58/46/89 shooting splits. He earned back-to-back Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors in late November and early December.
His three-point shooting, in particular, has reached new heights all season. Brunson is converting 46.3% of his 5.9 attempts per game from deep in 2022-23, more than five percentage points better than his previous career-high last season.
Brunson credited his teammates and coaches for putting him in positions to succeed. “The spacing by our guys is great, and the way Coach [Thibodeau] is scheming things up gets me to my spots,” Brunson said. “My teammates have a lot of confidence in me taking and making big shots.”
With Brunson spearheading the attack and Randle providing 20 points and 11 rebounds, the Knicks led wire-to-wire for the convincing 17-point road win.
New York Looking to Build Momentum
The Knicks will look to use this victory as a springboard through the remainder of this road trip, with upcoming games against Utah, Denver and Dallas over the next week.
Julius Randle emphasized the importance of not becoming complacent, saying, “We can be happy about this one but we better bring it tomorrow in practice. We’ve got a lot of tough games ahead and we can’t take our foot off the gas.”
If New York continues trending up behind Brunson’s MVP-level play, they could emerge as a dark horse contender in the East. But Randle knows as well as anyone this team still has much to prove.
“There’s ups and downs during an NBA season and we aren’t where we want to be yet,” Randle said. “But this is big for our confidence. With our defense and Jalen playing like an All-Star, I like where we’re headed.”
Up next, the Knicks will face the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night. Utah has been a surprise success story so far at 19-12 but has dropped three of four games. After that lies a matchup with the two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.
Knicks Snaps and Highlights
“Every time I shot it, I thought it was cash.”
— NBA (@NBA) December 16, 2023
Poetry in motion. pic.twitter.com/VvtTnzXaT3
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 16, 2023
Suns’ Defensive Struggles Continue
While New York left the desert riding high, Phoenix finds itself searching for answers on the defensive side of the ball after this embarrassing performance. The Suns have given up 130+ points in three straight games, leading scoring margins of +25 by Boston, +29 by New Orleans and now +17 by the Knicks.
New additions like Durant and Terence Ross have provided more offense, but disrupted the defense-first identity Phoenix established over the past two seasons. The Suns own a 110.5 defensive rating in nine games since acquiring Durant, significantly worse than their 4th-ranked mark (108.1) before the trade.
Head coach Monty Williams emphasized the need to reconnect defensively entering this contest, especially with the whole “Big Three” finally healthy again. But the Suns made the red-hot Knicks look unstoppable all night long.
Phoenix allowed New York to shoot 59.3% from the field and hit more threes (16) than two-pointers (15). The Knicks’ 139 points were the most Phoenix has given up in regulation all season.
Devin Booker, in particular, has seen his defensive efforts lapse since Durant arrived. Opponents are shooting over 10% better when Booker is the closest defender since the trade compared to before (62.8% vs. 52.5% eFG).
With the Jazz, Clippers and Grizzlies on deck, Phoenix needs to right the ship quickly before this losing skid spirals out of control. “I’m not sure what needs to change except we need to care more on defense,” Booker said. “The offense hasn’t been the issue at all.”
The Suns hope playing at home against a struggling Utah team can help stop the bleeding before a daunting seven-game road trip.
More NBA Scores and News
While the Knicks and Suns commanded the spotlight last night, plenty more action filled Friday’s NBA slate:
The Detroit Pistons fell to 0-11 without Cade Cunningham, dropping their 22nd straight game in a 135-106 loss to the Heat. Miami jumped ahead 77-38 by halftime as Detroit heard boos in the first half for the second straight home contest.
Ja Morant posted 35 points, eight rebounds and five assists to lead Memphis past Cleveland 115-114. The Grizzlies held off a late Cavs rally after leading by 16 midway through the fourth quarter.
Nikola Jokic had 21 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists as Denver rolled Minnesota 124-111. Seven Nuggets scored in double-figures as they cruised despite missing two starters.
That wraps up last night’s NBA action. Stay tuned to [Outlet] as we provide continuing coverage of all the latest news, scores, highlights and storylines across the league.
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