MIAMI: Jalen Brunson returned from injury on Saturday and led the New York Knicks to a 116-110 NBA victory over Western Conference leader Denver. The Memphis Grizzlies beat the Golden State Warriors 133-119 while the Chicago Bulls defeated the Miami Heat 113-99 and the Orlando Magic defeated the Los Angeles Clippers.
A foot injury had limited point guard Brunson to just one appearance in the Knicks’ past six games but he was influential in handing two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets their fifth defeat in their past six games. Brunson scored 24 points and delivered the key assist, with an alley-oop pass, to Mitchell Robinson that secured the triumph with 24 seconds left.
“I feel good, I’m happy to be back and glad we got the win. Everything feels good when you win,” said Brunson. “I was a little worried going into it, but I mean, everything was according to plan. I didn’t feel anything, so I just kept going and kept playing. “We kept fighting. It’s a game of runs, and they’re the number one seed in the Western Conference for a reason and Jokic is a two-time MVP for a reason. We kept our composure down the stretch.” Serbian Jokic finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists but also gave up six turnovers.
Markelle Fultz scored a career-high 28 points and Wendell Carter Jr. produced 27 points and 12 rebounds as the Orlando Magic beat the Los Angeles Clippers 113-108. The Clippers, who were without the injured Kawhi Leonard, made a slow start and were eight points behind within two minutes. The Clippers who ended a four-game winning streak, paid the price for 15 turnovers.
In the last three minutes, Fultz drove in to put the Magic ahead 111-106 before Eric Gordon scored to make it a three-point game only for Fultz to drain two free throws. Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley was full of praise for Fultz, who has overcome serious injuries in his career, and the way he is playing. “The kid, I am so proud of this young man, just for the fact of everything he has constantly endured, he never walks in the building without a smile on his face,” said Mosley.
Fultz was 10 for 17 from the field and also snapped up six rebounds. “You see such a level of joy in his heart for playing the game of basketball and that’s what shows up,” Mosley said. “You can take the numbers out, just the way he plays the game, the passion he has for his teammates. No matter what it takes to win, he is going to try to do it and I think that’s what is so special about him and how his teammates feel about him.”
Paul George led the Clippers with 30 points. Saturday’s home game against the reigning champions Golden State was the final game of Ja Morant’s suspension after he streamed a video of himself brandishing a gun in a strip club. Jaren Jackson Jr stepped up with 31 points while Desmond Bane contributed 26 points in a game which Memphis dominated from the outset. Golden State got within one possession twice in the fourth quarter but Memphis went on a 21-3 run to secure their fourth win in the last five games.
It was the 11th straight road loss for Golden State. Morant is eligible to play again Monday’s game against Dallas but Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins indicated that Wednesday’s game with the Rockets is a more realistic return date. “Good chance he is probably out for the Monday game, because that’s going to be his first day back with the team,” he said. “It’s an ongoing dialogue. We’ll see when he gets back in the team environment on Monday, but our anticipation is that he’s at least out for Monday, then we’ll cross the bridge on Wednesday when we get a little bit closer,” he said.
The Bulls, who had come off a double-overtime win the previous evening, held off a late rally from the Heat with DeMar DeRozan scoring 24 points. Miami’s loss ensured playoff qualification for the Boston Celtics even before they took court and lost 118-117 to the Utah Jazz. The Celtics had a 19 point lead at one stage in the second quarter and fall to third in the East with the loss. The Philadelphia 76ers picked up their eighth straight win with a 141-121 win over the Indiana Pacers with Joel Embiid top scoring with 31 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. – AFP