Knicks guard Jalen Brunson reacts after scoring a three-point basket...

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson reacts after scoring a three-point basket against the Nets in the second half at Madison Square Garden on Friday, April 12, 2024. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Knicks seized home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 111-107 win over the Nets on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks (49-32), who came back from several 17-point deficits, clinched at least fourth place in the Eastern Conference and still are in the running for the No. 2 seed. If they beat the Bulls at the Garden on Sunday in their final game of the regular season, the lowest they can finish is third.

The teams had a skirmish with 4.3 seconds left in the game after Cam Thomas, intent on fouling Jalen Brunson, pushed him hard and out of bounds. OG Anunoby, usually one of the more even-keeled players on the Knicks, had to be separated from Thomas by officials, prompting the crowd at Madison Square Garden to chant “OG! OG!”

“I thought it was an excessive push,” Anunoby said. “I don’t ever want to see a teammate pushed.”

Thomas’ foul was ruled a common foul, and Brunson made both free throws to cement the final margin of victory.

Brunson finished with 30 points (all in the final three quarters) and 11 assists. Anunoby scored all 15 of his points in the third quarter and held Thomas (41 points) scoreless in the period.

The Knicks are 19-3 when Anunoby plays.

The game was shockingly close down the stretch, considering the Nets are a lottery team and the Knicks were playing for playoff positioning.

Donte DiVincenzo’s driving reverse layup gave the Knicks a 94-83 lead with 8:38 left, but the Nets got within one twice after that. Brunson scored the Knicks’ final eight points, hitting four free throws in the final 11.6 seconds.

Mitchell Robinson, who entered the game hitting 37.9% of his free throws,
hit two big ones with 2:03 left to give the Knicks a 103-100 lead. He also grabbed a huge offensive rebound with 40 seconds left and fed it to Brunson for a jumper that gave the Knicks a 107-102 lead.

“It felt good,” said Robinson, who played the entire fourth quarter for the first time since coming back from ankle surgery. He shot 5-for-8 from the line and scored nine points in the quarter.

Trendon Watford had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Nets (32-49).

It was Anunoby who turned the game for the Knicks, who had fallen behind 11-0, 24-7 and 45-28. His steal-turned-dunk tied the score at 63. Minutes later, Brunson gave the Knicks their first lead of the game, 71-69, when he hit a pull-up three with 7:30 left in the third quarter. They never trailed again, outscoring

the Nets 30-13 in the third quarter to erase a nine-point halftime deficit.

Brunson, who missed his first five shots of the game, was instrumental in the comeback, Tom Thibodeau said.

“The thing is, he never panics,” Thibodeau said. “We started the game really in mud. We’ve had a heavy schedule. But the thing that I like is that we’ve responded. We didn’t stay down. We fixed it. And we found a way to win in the end, and that’s the bottom line. But the thing about Jalen is he’s never satisfied. He’s always gonna get better. Whatever you need, he’s gonna provide, so clutch free throws at the end.”


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