Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 48 points and outdueled Donovan Mitchell in a potential postseason preview Friday night, when the visiting New York Knicks pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 130-116 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Knicks (45-33), in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, moved within three games of the fourth-place Cavaliers (48-30) and reduced their magic number for clinching a playoff spot to one.
The Knicks also clinched the season series (3-1) against the Cavaliers on Friday. Whomever finishes fourth will have home court advantage in the first round.
The 48-point performance broke Brunson’s career high by four points and his total was the highest by a Knicks point guard in the last 60 years. All four of Brunson’s 40-point games have come this season, his first in New York.
Mitchell Robinson (10 points, 14 rebounds) had a double-double for the Knicks, who had seven players finish in double figures. RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley all had 14 points while Obi Toppin — starting in place of the injured Julius Randle — scored 12 points and Josh Hart added 11 points.
Mitchell finished with 42 points for the Cavaliers, who have lost two straight. Darius Garland had 20 points and Caris LeVert finished with 15 points while Evan Mobley and Cedi Osman each added 14 points.
Mitchell (23 points) and Brunson (21 points) set a frantic pace in the first quarter, during which the Cavaliers led by as many as eight before ending the period with a 47-42 lead. The 89 points were the most in a first quarter in the NBA this season.
The Cavaliers opened a 53-45 lead before the Knicks mounted a 24-9 run in which Brunson scored eight points. Grimes’ 3-pointer with 5:15 left in the second snapped a 59-59 tie and gave New York the lead for good.