Knicks’ Jalen Brunson drops 61 points in OT loss, 1 shy of Carmelo Anthony’s franchise record

It was a night of almosts for Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks.

Brunson fell one point shy of the organization’s single-game scoring record Friday, finishing a loss to the San Antonio Spurs with 61 points. Longtime Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony went for 62 points in January 2014.

Of course, Anthony’s historic performance, which came during a 125-96 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, was a greater cause for celebration than Brunson’s landmark, even if 61 points means a new career high for the point guard.

The Knicks fought back from down as many as 21 points Friday but fell in overtime 130-126, a disappointing defeat for a team fighting for Eastern Conference playoff positioning. And they nearly won it on the same play that Brunson could have eclipsed Anthony’s record.

With only five seconds to go in overtime and New York down two points, a Brunson step-back 3-pointer clanked off the back of the rim.

Knicks big man Precious Achiuwa grabbed the offensive rebound and jumped again, seemingly as if he was about to shoot. But instead, Achiuwa passed the ball back out to the perimeter. The errant throw grazed off the fingertips of an outstretched Donte DiVincenzo and deflected out of bounds. The Spurs then hit two free throws to ice the game.

Of course, the Knicks wouldn’t have been in a position to win it if it weren’t for Brunson.

After a hot but not out-of-the-ordinary first half, Brunson revved a comeback in the third quarter. The Spurs led the Knicks by 17 at halftime. Brunson went for 24 in the period on 10 of 13 shooting. By the end of it, San Antonio’s lead had dwindled to just two.

The individual statistics are jarring.

Thirty-eight of Brunson’s points came just in the second half. He paired his 61 points with four rebounds and six assists. He did it on 25 of 47 shooting and 5 of 13 3-point accuracy. He sank all six of his free throws. Thirty of his points came in the paint.

He is the first Knicks player ever to make 25 shots in a game and also the first to take 47. No NBA player has chucked so many field-goal attempts since Kobe Bryant famously put up 50 during his final game in 2016. Brunson’s scoring performance now ranks as the second-best in the organization’s history — one point behind Anthony’s and one ahead of Hall of Famer Bernard King’s 60-point outburst in December 1984.

Sixty-one is Brunson’s personal best, surpassing his previous career high of 50 points, which he set earlier this season during a win at the Phoenix Suns. But he had more help on that night.

On Friday, the Knicks were dominant with Brunson and a mess without him. They outscored San Antonio by 22 points during the 43 minutes that their All-Star point guard was on the court. During the 10 minutes he rested, the Spurs crushed the Knicks by 26. That’s a 48-point swing in one game — and it made the difference in the final score.

It didn’t help that the Knicks were staring at a mammoth in black and silver.

Rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama churned out a career night as well, going for 40 points (his most ever), 20 rebounds and seven assists. He shot 13 of 22 from the field and 4 of 9 from deep.

History didn’t end there. DiVincenzo, Brunson’s only teammate who was hitting jump shots Friday, sank six 3-pointers, giving him 245 on the season, officially breaking Evan Fournier’s franchise record of 241, which Fournier set in 2021-22. DiVincenzo broke the Knicks’ single-game record for 3-point makes earlier this week, when he hit 11 against the Detroit Pistons. Fournier and J.R. Smith, who each drained 10 in a game, were the previous record holders.

Brunson becomes the seventh player in the league to post a 60-point performance this season, joining the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns, the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker and the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.

The loss brings the Knicks to 44-29 and drops them to fourth in the Eastern Conference, half a game back of the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose Friday night victory vaulted them into third place.

Required reading

(Photo: Scott Wachter / USA Today)

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