WASHINGTON — New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is treating the NBA In-Season Tournament the same way he approaches other games.
“In season, out of season, any season, I love winning,” Thibodeau said. “That’s all that matters. Get the win. They’re keeping score. Try to win the game.”
Jalen Brunson scored 32 points and Immanuel Quickley added 27 to lift the Knicks to a 120-99 victory over Washington on Friday night, eliminating the Wizards from contention in this new tourney. Washington has dropped all three of its games so far in the in-season tournament. New York improved to 1-1.
Teams play four games apiece in the preliminary round, with the six group winners and two wild cards advancing. Point differential is a potential tiebreaker, so winning by 21 was a good result for the Knicks, but they didn’t make any special effort to inflate the margin at the end. Twelve players received court time for New York.
“I just want to make sure we have one more point than they do,” Thibodeau said.
New York has won five of six overall and sent the Wizards to their fifth straight defeat. The Knicks led by 21 in the second quarter, but Washington had the margin down to five on several occasions after halftime.
New York had an answer each time. It was 95-90 after Corey Kispert’s layup with 9:28 to play. Then the Knicks clamped down, holding Washington to two points over the next seven-plus minutes.
“I like how we kind of responded from their run when they cut it to five,” Brunson said. “That team can score the ball. Despite their record, they got a lot of talent over there.”
Brunson’s 3-pointer made it 105-92 with 4:44 to play, and it was smooth sailing from there for the Knicks, who led 115-92 after a 3 by Quickley.
Washington entered the game ranked No. 1 in the NBA in pace at 104.6 possessions per game. But the Wizards were held under 100 points by the defensive-minded Knicks.
“They want to slow you down, play physical basketball, especially on the defensive end of the floor,” Washington’s Tyus Jones said. “They want to play physical, hard-nosed, pack the paint, kind of wear you down throughout the night, throughout the game. That’s what they did.”
Julius Randle scored 22 points for New York. Kyle Kuzma led the Wizards with 19, and Deni Avdija added 18. Randle had eight assists and seven rebounds, and Brunson had seven of each.
The Knicks outscored Washington 31-15 in the fourth quarter.
New York was up 35-25 after one. An 11-2 run capped by Donte DiVincenzo’s 3-pointer gave the Knicks a 60-39 lead.
“I thought Donte gave us great minutes and then Quick gave us great minutes,” Thibodeau said. “So we got terrific wing play from those two guys. And then Jalen was Jalen and Julius was Julius.”
New York’s RJ Barrett did not play because of an illness.
Knicks: At Charlotte on Saturday night.
Wizards: Host Milwaukee on Monday night.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA