Knicks’ Brunson considers season unsuccessful after Game 7 elimination

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson sits on the bench during the second half of Game 6 against the Indiana Pacers in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 17, 2024, in Indianapolis. The Pacers won 116-103. (Michael Conroy/AP Photo)

It was all or nothing for Jalen Brunson this season.

The New York Knicks guard kept it short and not-so-sweet following his team’s Game 7 elimination at the hands of the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

“No” was all he said when asked if he deemed this season a success during his post-game press conference.

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Despite lifting the Knicks to their best record (50-32) in over 10 years and making it to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second-straight year, Brunson considered this year to be championship or bust.

Considering the season he put in, it’s not hard to understand why his expectations were so high.

Brunson, 27, was named an all-star for the first time in his career this season after averaging career-highs in points (28.7) and assists (6.7) while shooting 47.9 per cent from the field and 40.1 per cent from 3-point range in the regular season. He finished fifth in MVP voting as well.

He turned his play up to another level under the bright lights of the playoffs, averaging a league-high 33.7 points while dishing out 7.3 assists and grabbing 3.6 rebounds. However, his efficiency went down to 44.9 per cent from the field and 30.9 per cent from 3-point range, a product of being the offensive engine for the Knicks down the stretch.

He also scored 40 or more points five times in the post-season, joining Hall of Famers like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Jerry West and Allen Iverson, among others, to reach that mark in a single post-season run.

But the individual accomplishments weren’t nearly enough for the breakout guard.

“Did we win the championship? Did we get close?” Brunson said when asked about why he didn’t think it was a successful year. “So no, that’s my mindset, this is how it is.”

He and the Knicks also got the short end of the stick when it came down to their health in the latter half of the season, particularly in the playoffs.

They came into Game 7 on Sunday with Julius Randle (shoulder), Mitchell Robinson (ankle) and Bojan Bogdanovic (foot) all out for the remainder of the season and the health of both Josh Hart (abdomen) and OG Anunoby (hamstring) still up in the air. Though the latter two would suit up for the outing, they both looked hobbled and Anunoby wound up leaving only four minutes into the game.

Brunson himself was also injured in Game 7 when he fractured his hand in the third quarter. Before the injury, he had 17 points on six-for-17 shooting from the field.

“There’s pros and cons to how I played,” Brunson said when asked if he was at least happy with his individual success this season. “The pros (are) obviously I played well individually at some points in time during the playoffs. The cons were that I didn’t play well enough to help my team move forward.

“You can say I got hurt in Game 7 or I wasn’t playing well in Game 7. We had a 2-0 and a 3-2 lead. So it’s hard to look at things individually when you don’t help your team.”

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