NEW YORK (AP) — Jalen Brunson must make opponents miserable.
The New York Knicks point guard doesn’t beat them with size or speed. He just finds a way to beat them.
Brunson had 41 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, leading the Knicks to a 113-109 victory over the Washington Wizards on Thursday night.
Brunson scored 18 of the Knicks’ 21 points during a lengthy stretch of the fourth quarter, helping them push a one-point lead to 105-97 with 1:26 remaining. Time and again it would appear the Wizards had blocked his lane to the basket, and Brunson would spin away from trouble to get a shot up or draw a foul.
“It is frustrating and to his credit he’s a hard one to guard,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Very shifty.”
Teammate Donte DiVincenzo has been watching it since he and Brunson were teammates at Villanova.
“That’s what great players do to teams, is they get you frustrated, they get you upset,” DiVincenzo said. “You do everything you can defensively and they still make a tough shot. But I think Jalen, what makes him special is he makes the right play every time.”
Brunson finished 14 for 27 from the field and scored at least 30 for the second straight night after missing two games because of a bruised left calf. He had 20 in the fourth quarter, though said he doesn’t try to play differently then than during the first three periods.
“You’re at the end of the game, you’re trying to win, so it’s a little different,” Brunson said. “But I mean, the approach stays the same. I think I had the same attacking mindset.”
Julius Randle added 21 points for the Knicks, while DiVincenzo and OG Anunoby each had 19. The Knicks improved to 8-2 since Anunoby joined the lineup Jan. 1 after being acquired from Toronto.
The Knicks host the Raptors in the first meeting between the teams since the trade Saturday when RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley return to Madison Square Garden.
Jordan Poole scored 24 points for the Wizards, while Marvin Bagley III had 20 points and 11 rebounds in his first start for the Wizards. Deni Avdija and Kyle Kuzma each scored 15 points.
With center Daniel Gafford out with a concussion, Bagley moved right into the lineup in his first appearance for the Wizards since last week’s trade in which Washington also acquired Isaiah Livers and a couple future second-round picks for Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala.
The Knicks played without key reserve Josh Hart because of knee soreness. Coach Tom Thibodeau even tried Evan Fournier, out of the rotation for much of the last year, in the first quarter — he missed all four shots — but played all his starters at least 38 minutes after a victory over Houston on Wednesday.
Brunson made sure they were good enough to win a game in which the Knicks were ahead just 84-83 with 7:50 remaining and never led by more than 10.
Randle scored 12 points in the first quarter, but Washington finished the period with a 12-2 run to tie it at 22, despite missing all eight 3-point tries. There were six lead changes and five ties in the second, with Brunson’s basket with 31 seconds remaining giving the Knicks a 46-45 edge.
Wizards: Host San Antonio on Saturday night.
Knicks: Host Toronto on Saturday night.