Knicks guard Jalen Brunson drives to the basket past Spurs forward...

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson drives to the basket past Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan during the first half of an NBA game in San Antonio on Friday. Credit: AP/Eric Gay

SAN ANTONIO — Put Jalen Brunson and Victor Wembanyama on the floor opposite each other and it might be hard to believe that they play the same sport. Wembanyama stands at least 15 inches taller than Brunson, who even at 6 feet might be a more accomplished force in the paint.

But for one night, in a game that stretched into overtime, the common denominator was greatness. It was a night that Wembanyama would celebrate — throwing the ball into the stands when it was over — and Brunson would choose to forget for now, even as he pushed his way into the upper echelon of Knicks history.

With the Knicks in danger of being blown out of the game early, Brunson scored 24 of his career-high 61 points in the third quarter, dragging his team back into the game. He had 59 through regulation. But Wembanyama’s 40-point, 20-rebound effort led the Spurs to a 130-126 overtime victory at Frost Bank Center.

Brunson’s 61 points marked the second-highest point total in franchise history; Carmelo Anthony had a 62-point game in 2014. Brunson also became the fourth player in franchise history to score at least 50 points twice in the same season.

“It’s great, but this [expletive], excuse me, that stuff is washed out the window with a loss,” Brunson said. “So it doesn’t really matter.”

“I guess because you see him every night and you see what he does,” coach Tom Thibodeau said when he was asked if any of this surprised him. “We started off the game, got in a big hole, came back, got in a big hole again, came back again, came out to start the third quarter and got out of the hole and fought all the way to the end. We had two chances to win it. We fell short.”

The Knicks needed all of Brunson’s 61 points just to stay in the game, as they trailed by 21 early and 17 at halftime. In the end, they needed one more basket from him.

They had the ball with 12.8 seconds left in overtime and the Spurs leading 128-126, but his three-point attempt with 5.4 seconds left hit off the back iron. Precious Achiuwa grabbed the offensive rebound in the lane, but with the clock ticking down, rather than put it back up, he tried to pass it out and threw it out of bounds with 3.1 seconds left.

The loss dropped the Knicks to 44-29, a half-game behind third-place Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers beat the 76ers on Friday, 117-114.

When Brunson sat for just under three minutes to start the fourth quarter, the Spurs extended their lead to 12. The Knicks finally got the lead on Donte DiVincenzo’s three-pointer with 4:39 left.

Wembanyama tied the score at 121 with a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left in regulation. The Knicks then had a chance to win it. Brunson made the correct play — dishing off as the defense converged on him — but Deuce McBride missed a three at the buzzer to send it to overtime.

Brunson, who shot 25-for-47 from the field and 5-for-13 from three-point range, scored his 61st point on a layup over Wembanyama to cut the deficit to 125-124, but Wembanyama answered with a three-pointer to put San Antonio up 128-124 with 1:12 left in the extra session.

Mitchell Robinson followed Brunson’s miss with 53 seconds left to cut it to 128-126.

Wembanyama became the first rookie since Shaquille O’Neal (46 points, 21 rebounds on Feb. 16, 1993) to record a 40-point, 20-rebound game.

“I’ve never seen so greatness before,” Wembanyama said. “The season has been going on for just some months and I’ve just witnessed so much greatness and I want to be a part of it. I always wanted to, but more and more seeing that I’m already able to compete with those guys and I’m not near, but I’m on the right path. I know it and I’m going to get there one day soon.”

“He’s going to be one of the greatest players this game’s seen,” Brunson said. “Just the way he’s built and what he’s been able to do so far. So I’ve got a lot of respect for him and it’s definitely tough to get a shot up and in over him.”

With 1:44 left in the first half, DiVincenzo hit his third three-pointer of the night, putting him at 242 for the season and making him the Knicks’ single-season leader, surpassing Evan Fournier, two games after hitting 11 three-pointers to break Fournier’s single-game record. DiVincenzo finished 6-for-12 from three-point range and had 20 points.

Thibodeau was unhappy about the free-throw disparity, with the Spurs attempting 32 to 12 for the Knicks. Brunson had only six despite his constant drives into the paint.

“A foul is a foul,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what I do know. And what I’m hearing, I don’t really like. I don’t know what else you could do, what else you can say. It’s clear as day. It really is that simple.”

Asked what explanation he is hearing, Thibodeau said, “Not a very good one. I’ll leave it at that.”


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