Home News Shai Gilgeous-Alexander game-winner sinks Knicks

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander game-winner sinks Knicks

Jalen Brunson got a bucket to fall.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit the game-winner.

A wild sequence capped a frenetic end of the game for the Knicks, who lost in a 113-112 nail-biter against the Western Conference’s No. 1-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder on Easter Sunday.

After missing three free throws with the game on the line, Brunson got a floater to fall off the glass to put the Knicks up, 112-111, with 4.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Out of the Thunder timeout, Oklahoma City got the ball to its MVP candidate, Gilgeous-Alexander, who hit a turnaround fading shot over Miles McBride to put the Thunder up for good.

The Knicks held Gilgeous-Alexander, who is averaging 30 points per game this season, to just 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field — but the Thunder star had the last laugh.

Oklahoma City has now won eight of its last 11 games.

Meanwhile, the Knicks have lost two in a row in gut-wrenching fashion.

A lack of offense in minutes Brunson spends on the bench is to blame.

The Knicks put forth a dominant defensive performance, holding Gilgeous-Alexander to just 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field through the first three quarters.

Brunson, who had 20 points and six assists through the first three periods, sat on the bench for the first 4:18 of the final period.

And after the Knicks took an 85-75 lead over the Thunder into the final period, they lost the minutes Brunson spent on the bench, 17-8, including a 7-0 Thunder run to start the quarter and a 13-3 run before the Knicks found their footing.

Just like their three-point deficit at the top of the fourth quarter in San Antonio ballooned to 12 in the 3:18 Brunson spent on the bench in Friday’s overtime loss to the Spurs.

The Knicks hoped the combination of Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks would give their bench a spark — so much so, they traded Quentin Grimes, Evan Fournier, Ryan Arcidiacono, Malachi Flynn and a pair of second-round picks to the Detroit Pistons for the pair’s services.

Burks and Bogdanovic combined to score 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field in the loss to the Thunder. Bogdanovic shot two-of-seven for four points in the loss to the Spurs, when Burks sat with a shoulder injury.

Brunson’s minutes are critical. One game after his 61-point masterpiece, he finished with 30 points and seven assists on 11-of-25 shooting from the field.

It’s no wonder the fans at Madison Square Garden cheer so loud when the All-Star guard steps foot on the court.

And it’s why you could hear a pin drop at The Garden when Brunson came up hobbled not once, but twice in the second quarter against the Thunder on Sunday.

The only thing worse for a Knicks team down three starters is the thought of losing a fourth.

Brunson — who has only missed five games this season — drove baseline against Oklahoma City defensive stopper Lu Dort with just over two minutes left in the second quarter then attempted to spin back toward the free throw line before turning his left ankle and falling to the ground on the play.

The Knicks’ All-Star guard sat on the ground for several moments until Oklahoma City concluded its play on the other side of the floor. Head coach Tom Thibodeau immediately called a timeout, and Brunson gingerly walked over the sidelines.

Brunson, however, did not check out of the game, and moments later, he landed on Dort’s foot after attempting a three in the final minutes of the first half.

The star Knicks guard limped to the sidelines, then returned to the court to shoot three free throws before gutting through the rest of the period.

Brunson emerged from the tunnels with two-and-a-half minutes left during the halftime break and played 17 of 24 possible second-half minutes.

At times, the star guard dazzled fans with crafty footwork and finishing around the rim.

On one play early into the third quarter, Brunson drove baseline then reversed in a layup with English high off the backboard over OKC’s seven-footer Chet Holmgren.

On the following possession, Brunson used a series of hesitation dribbles before stepping back to shoot a three over Thunder guard Cason Wallace.

Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault had seen enough. He called a timeout after Brunson’s back-to-back buckets gave the Knicks a 60-55 lead with 9:09 to go in the third quarter.

Daigneault detailed the issues Brunson presents to the defensive game plan ahead of tipoff on Sunday.

“Every good team has a guy like that. That’s why they’re good. And he’s certainly a handful,” he said. “He’s so crafty. He’s got answers for everything. He’s played at this size his entire life and has a solution for literally everything. You can’t cheat against him. You’ve got to be really solid on him. You’ve got to do it as a team. He’s obviously the head of the snake. He’s got total control of the game. Tough shotmaker, gets fouled. Does all the stuff that the great players do. He’s a great player.”

With the loss, the Knicks have now fallen behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed.

New York remains one game ahead of the No. 5 Orlando Magic and 2.5 games in front of the No. 6 Indiana Pacers.

The Knicks are now three games behind the second-seeded Milwaukee Bucks with eight games left on the schedule.

Next up: a trip to South Beach for a date with the No. 7 Miami Heat on Tuesday.


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