NEW YORK (AP) — Whatever Jalen Brunson and Tom Thibodeau were discussing before bumping fists near the end of the game, it wasn’t the point guard’s brilliant play.
“He don’t care about that,” Brunson said. “He cares about wins.”
The New York Knicks are racking them up lately.
Brunson scored 30 of his 39 points in the first half and the Knicks rolled to their seventh straight victory, routing the Brooklyn Nets 142-118 on Wednesday night.
The Knicks made nearly 80% of their shots in a 47-point first quarter and coasted to their second victory over the Nets since their city rivals traded Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Brooklyn had won the previous nine meetings, including the first two this season.
Quentin Grimes scored 22 points and Julius Randle added 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as the Knicks opened a two-game lead over the Nets for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“I like where we are in the season in terms of, we know the intensity is getting different now,” Thibodeau said, “so we have to respond accordingly and this should bring the best out in us.”
It did for Brunson, who scored 16 points in the first quarter and went 6 for 6 en route to 14 more in the second. He scored 40 in a 124-106 victory over the Nets on Feb. 13, but took only four shots in the second half of this one, finishing 15 for 18.
The Knicks made 10 of their first 13 shots, going 6 for 7 behind the arc, and led by double digits before the first quarter was halfway over. It was 47-29 by the end of the period, with the Knicks shooting 18 for 23 (78.3%) and 9 for 11 (81.8%) on 3s.
Brunson, who was briefly limping early in the game after banging knees with Mikal Bridges while defending a drive, had his perfect second quarter as the Knicks extended it to 81-54.
Cam Johnson scored a season-high 33 points for the Nets, who have lost four straight.
The Knicks won eight in a row in December, but followed immediately with a five-game skid that dropped them to .500. They seem much more stable now, having gone 9-2 in February. At 37-27, they have matched their win total from last season, when they finished 37-45.
They came in averaging 120.7 points during their winning streak and were already past that barely four minutes into the fourth quarter, when fans had already begun chanting for seldom-used veteran Derrick Rose.
Bridges added 21 points for the Nets, who are in dire need of a break in their schedule. They lost on Tuesday to the Bucks, winners of 15 in a row. After this loss to the second-hottest team in the league, Brooklyn next travels to face the Boston Celtics, who are just behind the Bucks for the best record in the NBA.
“I tried to use all those timeouts pretty early to somehow get our group to think about the challenge,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “The way I’m built, I just look at it as part of the schedule and a tough part of the schedule, but you’ve just got to deal with it.”
Nets: Vaughn said Ben Simmons will miss a fourth straight game Friday with left knee soreness. … On the night Durant made his debut with Phoenix, Vaughn said he’s pulling for his former player to do well and will watch some games. “I love basketball, so I’m a basketball fan, so when I go home I turn on League Pass and I see what’s going on,” Vaughn said. “He’s a West Coast team, so I’ll probably watch and see if they’re still playing, so I’ll turn it on just like I turn on any game.” … Seven of the Nets’ next eight games are on the road.
Knicks: Brunson arrived wearing a blue Patrick Kane No. 88 jersey, a day after the New York Rangers acquired the forward from the Chicago Blackhawks. ,,, Duane Washington Jr., signed to two-way contract Tuesday, made his debut with the Westchester Knicks of the NBA G League on Wednesday in a 147-125 loss to Delaware. Mac McClung, who won the slam dunk contest at the NBA’s All-Star weekend, scored 31 for Delaware.
Nets: At Boston on Friday.
Knicks: At Miami on Friday.
New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) dribbles up the court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)