Behind a red-hot Jalen Brunson, the Knicks travel to the nation’s capitol and walk away with a 112-106 victory over the Wizards.

The New York Knicks (24-19) defeated the Washington Wizards (18-25) by a final score of 112-106. For Washington, Kyle Kuzma finished with 40 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists, while Kristaps Porzingis tallied 21 points and four made threes. Julius Randle finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds for the Knicks, while Jalen Brunson led the way, finishing with 34 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. The Knicks are now winners of five of their last six games.

The first half was a tricky matchup for New York. In their last game against Indiana, the Knicks got off to an excellent start – the ball was moving, shots were going up and the offensive momentum bled over to the defensive side of the ball. Tonight? RJ Barrett started off 2-of-6 from the floor, Jalen Brunson was 2-of-7 and Julius Randle was 3-of-7. That made things a bit sticky for the Knicks.

Washington didn’t get off to an electric start either, shooting under 40 percent for most of the half (and just 38.7% for the game), but Kyle Kuzma (18 points in the first half) was good enough to keep Washington in the lead for about the first 20 minutes. Guys like Delon Wright and Jordan Goodwin did well in assisting Kuzma with timely buckets, but it was the former Utah Ute that carried Washington’s offense. That was until New York got help from their bench players.

Immanuel Quickley, no pun intended, quickly entered the game and gave New York’s offense some juice, offering another floor spacer and ball mover. His early 11 first-half points were instrumental in keeping the Knicks close as they shook off the cobwebs. Despite an electric Quickley and an 8-0 run by New York, they still couldn’t muster the lead as Corey Kispert led a brief offensive barrage in the middle of the quarter, keeping Washington in the lead heading into the half.

The third quarter became the Jalen Brunson show for the Knicks, and thus, everything fell into place for New York, including getting their first lead of the night. Not only was Brunson putting the ball in the basket, slashing to the paint, and disrupting Washington’s interior defense, but his passing was on display as well, with a few key assists to both Randle and Barrett for some good looks. Randle himself followed suit, getting some timely put-backs off rebounds, as well as a few good finishes at the rim via those Brunson dishes.

With Brunson and Randle getting hot, the Knicks were not only able to build a lead early in the fourth quarter but push it to double-digits. Once Kuzma slowed down, Washington’s offense effectively went to sleep, allowing the Knicks to push their lead. Meanwhile, New York saw Immanuel Quickley get good looks attacking the rim and pushed the pace offensively. RJ Barrett, who struggled early, also got some nice drives in transition, helping the Knicks turn their defensive success into easy looks on the offensive end.

It wouldn’t be the Knicks if they didn’t make things interesting at the end of the game, but New York knocked down their free throws and moved forward. All in all, a weird game on both sides. Washington led for much of the first half, but none of their players outside of Kuzma had any juice. Even Porzingis, who finished with 21, didn’t stand out. On the other hand, the Knicks continue to show the formula for success – good defense generating successful looks in transition, while the likes of Brunson and Randle handle the offense in the half-court. A solid win and a great bounce-back in the second half.

Game Notes

  • Immanuel Quickley had a good game, enough to make you wonder whether he should get a look in the starting lineup. Tonight, he showed continued progress as a driver, made excellent passes as a secondary creator, and his defense was outstanding. Overall, Quickley was important in the first half for keeping New York in the game and in the second half helping secure the lead. It was another solid performance.
  • After a big first game back versus Indiana, RJ Barrett was a bit more pedestrian tonight. He was rough in the first half, chasing shots and getting beat on defense. However, he recovered late in the first half with a nice euro step and finish to end the quarter. That turned into Barrett getting a bit more downhill through the night and removing the jumper from his game. The defense improved in the second half, but part of that was due to Washington just lacking the scorers on the perimeter to do anything.
  • The Knicks need another bench scorer. Outside of Quickley and a rare Isaiah Hartenstein game (eight points, and seven rebounds in 19 minutes), the Knicks are lifeless when they have to go deeper into the bench. Deuce McBride is mostly defense at this stage, while Obi Toppin, who you hope can get back to scoring the ball, is still coming off a major injury. New York has a few movable salaries, and they have a ton of draft picks. They can go acquire a Malik Beasley-type who can help generate some offense when one of Brunson/Barrett/Randle struggles.
  • The Brunson/Randle duo can carry the Knicks far offensively. When both are working, you have two smart scorers who take good shots. It makes RJ Barrett’s drives a little bit easier, gives a bit more space to the Quentin Grimes/Immanuel Quickley threes, and a bit more gravity to the Mitchell Robinson lob. I wouldn’t be shocked if both ended up in Utah for All-Star Game.

The Knicks travel to the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan to face the Detroit Pistons (12-34) on Sunday, January 15th. Tip-off is set for 1:00 p.m.

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