Knicks takeaways from Thursday’s 122-117 loss to Kings, including comeback falling short without Jalen Brunson

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Mar 9, 2023; Sacramento, California, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) drives to the basket against Sacramento Kings guard Kevin Huerter (9) during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center.

Mar 9, 2023; Sacramento, California, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) drives to the basket against Sacramento Kings guard Kevin Huerter (9) during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. / Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks erased a 20-point deficit without Jalen Brunson in the second half, but ultimately lost 122-117 to the Kings on Thursday night.

Jalen Brunson returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore foot. He was joined by Julius Randle, Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson in the starting lineup.

Here are the takeaways….

– The Knicks went out to a 5-1 lead, but the Kings would turn things around thanks to some Knicks turnovers. Sacramento, led by Damontis Sabonis, would take a 23-12 lead with five minutes to go when coach Tom Thibodeau called a timeout. The second unit of Josh Hart, Isaiah Hartenstein, Immanuel Quickley along with Brunson and Randle would lead a Knicks charge. However, the Kings held off the comeback to take a 30-23 lead after the first frame.

The story of the first quarter was the Knicks’ ability to get offensive rebounds (6 to 1) and second-chance points. But the buckets were not dropping for New York. Good looks from three and high-percentage shots were not falling. Randle was 1-for-7, Barrett 0-for-4, and Brunson 3-for-6. The Knicks were 3-for-11 inside the arc, 4-for-13 from three.

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The Knicks shot just 29 percent (7-of-24) while the Kings had an efficient 13-of-20 (65 percent) shooting in the first quarter.

-The unit of Obi Toppin, Barret, Hart, Quickley and Hartenstein started the second and attacked the paint. The Knicks were outscored 20-6 in the paint in the first quarter and they looked to rectify that. A 6-2 run forced a Sacramento timeout. The Kings would go out to a 10-1 run, mostly because the Knicks could not buy a shot. At one point, they abandoned shooting the three but even layups were rolling off the side. Hart’s hustle and defense kept the score close, but a 13-0 run — led by Malik Monk’s eight points — gave the Kings a 65-45 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the half.

The Knicks went into the half down 69-53. The Knicks shot a better 11-of-27 (41 percent) in the second quarter, but were just 2-of-11 from beyond the arc. Brunson led the Knicks with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Randle’s struggles continued as he went into the half with just seven points on 2-of-9 shooting. Hart’s efforts should be noted. He had seven points but eight rebounds (five offensive), four assists and two steals.

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-The Knicks announced prior to the start of the third quarter that Brunson would not return to the game after reaggravating his sore left foot. He had missed the two previous games with the same issue.

A 7-0 run helped chip away the Kings’ lead to 79-65 with 7:46 in the third. Offensive rebounds and timely threes helped New York cut the deficit to just 11 with three minutes remaining. With Robinson on the bench with foul trouble, the Knicks played small and cut the Kings lead to 89-84 with less than a minute to go. The Knicks had an opportunity to cut into the lead further, but Randle would miss three of four free throws down the stretch, and New York entered the fourth quarter down 91-84

The Knicks’ shooting improved in the third, going up to 48 percent. The Kings, on the other hand, shot poorly. They shot just 38 percent (9-of-21). Again, the Knicks dominated the boards (50-39) up to this point and got to the line more. The Knicks shot 18-of-29 from the charity strike while Sacramento was 13-of-17 to this point.

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– The Knicks started the fourth quarter on a 7-1 run to bring the Kings lead to 92-91 when coach Mike Brown called timeout. The Knicks’ ability, or Kings’ inability, to get rebounds helped them tie the game at 96. But De’Aaron Fox took over, scoring seven straight Kings points. The Knicks would keep it close with some improbable runs, but without Brunson leading the offense it was difficult for New York to complete the comeback. The game essentially ended when Randle — with the Knicks down four — dribbled and turned it over when he was double teamed. The Knicks dropped their second straight after losing 122-117.

Rough shooting night for the Knicks as Barrett led the Knicks with 25 points on 9-of-23 shooting. Randle had 23 points on 8-of-22 shooting. Quickley was 1-of-11 for three points. The Knicks also shot  13-of-50 (26 percent) from three.

One positive note was Hart’s performance. He tied a franchise record for guards with his eight offensive rebounds (since 1973-74). He finished the night with nine points, 15 rebounds, seven assits and three steals.


What’s next

The Knicks continue their West Coast road trip Saturday when they take on the Clippers at 4 p.m.

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