Jalen Brunson of the Knicks lays up a basket during the...

Jalen Brunson of the Knicks lays up a basket during the second quarter against the Pistons at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Through the chaos in the closing moments Monday night, with bodies colliding, coaches screaming and fans — and players — panicking as the Knicks embarked on a wild scramble as the clock ticked down, there was one place of calm in the storm.

Jalen Brunson ignored the bodies flying around and all of the noise and calmly picked up the loose ball, navigated through the Detroit Pistons defense as the clock headed to the final seconds and found Josh Hart heading to the rim as if he were running a layup drill in practice.

But when the Knicks took the court Tuesday, the challenge was different and far more difficult as they were without their on-court leader. Brunson was forced to sit out with cervical spasms, leaving the Knicks, already shorthanded without Julius Randle, OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson, to face the New Orleans Pelicans without their calming force.

“Obviously, you don’t replace Julius or Jalen with an individual player,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have to do that collectively. But when those opportunities do come, I think it’s good to get Deuce [McBride] more minutes. So take advantage of the opportunity that he’s getting to see him grow. Saw that with Precious [Achiuwa] when he came in. The one thing that when you get injuries, it’s an opportunity for you to get a better look at and develop some of the other guys.

“So that’s the way we look at it and then everybody’s a little different, different strengths. So get in there, play to your strengths. You don’t have to change the way you play. Don’t try to be Jalen, don’t try to be Julius, be you. And if we do that, if we defend and we rebound and we keep our turnovers down, we’ll be in position to win.”

The Knicks were also without Isaiah Hartenstein, who sat out with left Achilles tendinopathy, which has limited him at times over the last two months.

This was just the fourth game on the sideline for Brunson this season with only Hart and Donte DiVincenzo (58 each) playing more games for the Knicks. But even as the Knicks have been able to fill in the points and defense lost with their missing frontcourt, losing Brunson is something different because of the stability he provides to the team.

“That’s the thing, he’s always cool, calm and collected,” Hart said. “Never in a rush. He goes out there and he tries to make the right play. So I’m not sure if he had a shot or not, I don’t know. But he trusted me to make a play at that point in the game. That’s just the kind of player he is — he’s going to make the right play. Whether that’s shooting or making the right pass.”

“Yeah, he’s always at his best when his best is needed,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what I respect about him. He doesn’t get rattled. He can miss a shot. He’ll move on to the next play, make a play, find a way to win. I thought that Precious had the big offensive rebound, gave us really good minutes. Donte was terrific. We’ve got to be ready tomorrow.”

The Knicks are certainly hoping it’s nothing more than a short-term absence. On the second night of a back-to-back, Thibodeau indicated that Brunson attempted to get ready to play, but the team opted for caution.

“He took some hits in the game [Monday],” Thibodeau said. “When he woke up this morning, he had some spasms. He tried. He went through a bunch of treatments and stuff, so we tried to see where he was and just didn’t feel good about it.”

McBride was the player inserted into the starting lineup, but shooting and defense remain his primary skill sets and as far as playmaking, much of that responsibility would fall to Hart and DiVincenzo.

“I mean, it’s part of sports,” Thibodeau said. “I think people get hurt. Everyone deals with something. Most guys at this point of the season have something they’re dealing with.

“So it’s what happens, and the only way to guarantee nothing happens is don’t play. I know how lucky we are with the guys that we have. Jalen, Julius, Isaiah, those guys, they work their way through things, they give us whatever they have, they give it to us. And so we’re fortunate we have a whole team full of guys like that — Donte, Josh, you can go down the list.”

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