CLEVELAND (AP) — Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 48 points and the New York Knicks moved closer to a playoff berth while waiting for All-Star Julius Randle to get healthy, outrunning the Cleveland Cavaliers 130-116 on Friday night.
The Knicks reduced their magic number to one in their first game without Randle, who sprained his left ankle Wednesday and will miss the rest of the regular season. New York hopes he’ll be back for the postseason and a potential first-round matchup against the Cavs.
New York won the season series 3-1 and denied Cleveland a chance to lock up home-court advantage in the first round.
Leading by three, the Knicks outscored the Cavs 14-2 to open the fourth and some breathing room in a game played at a frenetic pace. The teams combined for 89 points in the first quarter and 151 in the first half.
Donovan Mitchell scored 42 points to lead Cleveland, which closed within 123-116 before Brunson, who had seven 3-pointers and nine assists, put the Cavs away with a layup and 3-pointer. Brunson missed a floater in the final seconds that would have given him 50 points.
The Knicks needed someone to step up offensively with Randle out, and Brunson more than made up for his absence — and his 25 points per game.
Brunson, who averages 23.6 points, scored 33 in a wild first half without much defense.
The teams combined for 89 points in the first quarter, tying the third most in the first 12 minutes of a game in NBA history. The record of 91 is shared by Utah and Denver (1982), and Miami and Washington (2021).
Also, Cleveland’s 47 points in the first quarter were the most in the franchise’s 53-year history.
The Cavs were without two of their top defensive players, center Jarrett Allen (groin) and Isaac Okoro (knee).
Randle remained in New York to receive treatment on his injured ankle. The Knicks will re-evaluate him in two weeks, ahead of the playoffs, which start on April 15 or 16.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said the 30-year-old forward, who started the Knicks’ first 77 games, is in good spirits and working toward his return.
“He’s dealing with it fine,” said Thibodeau, “He’s done all he can to prepare himself to play in every game, which is a credit to him. He doesn’t miss practice. He doesn’t miss games. I’m actually surprised it doesn’t happen more than it does.”
Knicks: F Obi Toppin made his first start this season. … New York is one of five East teams — and four in the Atlantic Division — with a winning road record. … G Derrick Rose (illness) was unavailable for the third consecutive game. The 14th-year veteran fell out of the rotation in December and has only played 141 seconds in 2023.
Cavaliers: Allen, who averages 9.9 rebounds, missed his second straight game. He recently sat out four games with a bruised right eye. … Two-way F Isaiah Mobley scored 34 points earlier in the day for the Cleveland Charge, who were eliminated from the G League playoffs with a 111-107 loss at Long Island. … Cleveland remains two shy of its first 50-win season since 2018.
Knicks: Host Washington on Sunday.
Cavaliers: Host Indiana on Sunday.