When the buzzer at Madison Square Garden sounded, signaling the end of the New York Knicks’ 123-113 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night, there were not the usual cheers from the sellout crowd.
The Knicks faithful’s thoughts shifted to the status of All-Star guard Jalen Brunson, the team’s leader in minutes, points and assists per game this season. Brunson had 27 points and eight assists before he exited New York’s 16th victory in their past 19 games with an apparent right-ankle injury when he landed wrong while being fouled by G.G. Jackson with 5:31 left, and did not return.
New York did not provide an update postgame, with coach Tom Thibodeau saying only “I don’t think so” when asked if he thought Brunson could have returned. Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein said the injury “looked like an ankle sprain from my view,” when asked about it postgame.
The injury also resonated in the Memphis locker room.
“I hope he’s healthy,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “He’s obviously having an unbelievable season.”
Brunson reportedly left the Knicks locker room without a boot or a noticeable limp. When asked if he was worried about Brunson missing substantial time, New York guard Donte DiVincenzo, who also played with Brunson in college at Villanova, was confident in his longtime teammate.
“I saw him go down, and I saw him rocking back and forth,” DiVincenzo said after the game. “Playing with him for so long, I don’t worry about Jalen at all. He’s one of the toughest guys in the league.”
Brunson has missed just two of New York’s first 51 games. He has proven especially valuable over the past three weeks, averaging 32.3 points and 6.8 assists in roughly 36 minutes per game while helping New York go 10-1 in that span despite losing fellow All-Star Julius Randle and starting guard OG Anunoby to injuries.
If Brunson joins those two, along with center Mitchell Robinson, who is also out with an ankle injury and potentially forward Josh Hart who was being treated for a leg injury after the Knicks’ win, New York’s top-five players by minutes per game could be absent until at least the All-Star Game on Feb. 18.
“You have so many games, so you’re going to have times, especially right before All-Star, where you’re banged up,” Hartenstein said. “That’s why you have a team of guys ready to step up. We have the luxury of multiple guys that can step up. But yeah, we’re a little banged up.”
But according to DiVincenzo, don’t write off Brunson just yet.
“In my mind, he’s playing. I don’t question that at all,” DiVincenzo said. I’m not worried about him.”
With injuries come opportunities, and DiVincenzo took his Tuesday by scoring eight of New York’s final 10 points after Brunson exited, finishing with 32 points.
“Whatever the lineup is, guys are in the NBA for a reason,” DiVincenzo said. “(Thibodeau) has a blueprint for us to play out and a game plan, and you follow that and everybody be aggressive, and you’ve seen guys have big nights, so I’m not too worried about that.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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