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Jalen Brunson earns place in Knicks lore with legendary performance

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PHILADELPHIA — By the end, the angry basketball constituents of this city had given up trying to drown out the chants. Most of them were halfway to the Ben Franklin Bridge, anyway, having fled when Kyle Lowry, a shrewd player — decided to be too clever by half — purposely missing a free throw without letting his teammates know his intentions. 

So now here was Jalen Brunson at the free-throw line, his knee throbbing and history beckoning, 5.0 seconds to go at the denouement of one of the great playoff games you’ll ever see. The first pushed the Knicks lead to four and all but clinched the game, and a commanding 3-1 series lead in this best-of-seven series with the 76ers

The second nudged him into history, slipped him past Bernard King, his 47th point of the game moving him alone into first position on the single-game playoff scoring list, all time, for a team that has been playing playoff games since 1947. It also nailed down a 97-92 Knicks victory that even the 76ers can’t spin in any way other than they were beaten, soundly, at every important moment. 

Jalen Brunson shoots during the Knicks’ Game 4 win over the 76ers on April 28, 2024. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

“Jalen’s a great player,” said OG Anunoby, who would have gotten the game’s second star if basketball copied hockey, who not only had 16 points and 14 rebounds but also managed to contain Joel Embiid in the fourth quarter as well as Embiid can possibly be contained, despite giving away 5 inches and 40 pounds. “You come to expect that.” 

He smiled. 

“You expect him to make every shot.” 

Brunson didn’t make them all, but he made 18 out of 34. No Knicks player in history had ever paired 40-plus points and 10 assists in a playoff game. That list grew by one Sunday. Maybe that doesn’t quite go on the same shelf as Clyde Frazier’s fabled 36-point, 19-assist, seven-rebound, five-steal masterpiece in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals. 

But it’s just behind it. And it certainly goes above any of the games King turned in during the 1984 playoff run, where in 12 games he scored 40 or more points six times. In back-to-back games against the Pistons that year, King had bookend 46-point games. But the Knicks lost one of them, Game 2 at the Silverdome. 

Brunson was hellbent on making sure he wouldn’t be receiving what, to him, is the worst kind of basketball noise: being lauded for a noble effort in a losing cause. 

Jalen Brunson set the Knicks’ franchise record for most points in a playoff game with 47. NY Post illustration

“Somehow,” he said, “we found a way.” 

They did because Brunson did everything he could to match Embiid’s jaw-dropping 50-point Game 3 tour de force, and somehow did it without committing a misdemeanor battery on anyone. They did because Anunoby was brilliant on both ends, because Precious Achiuwa answered the call with Mitch Robinson down and Isaiah Hartenstein saddled with five fouls. They did it because Mile McBride hit some gut-check 3s, because Josh Hart managed to impose his will without making even one field goal, devouring 17 rebounds. 

And they did it, quite remarkably, in an environment that wasn’t anywhere near the house-of-horrors you woud’ve expected at Wells Fargo Center, where enough Knicks fans had invaded Sunday that if you closed your eyes it was sometimes hard to tell who was the home team and who was the road team — especially when Brunson shot free throws. 

“M! V! P!” they bellowed. 

“M! V! P!” they roared. 

“M! V! P!” they thundered, and the Philly fans tried to punch back most of the day before the end, when it was clear the Knicks were going to do exactly what they’d set out for when they came here four days ago. 

“The Philly fan base is relentless and very passionate, and I should know since I’m an Eagles fan,” Brunson said. “But hearing the Knicks fans here was pretty cool. It was awesome. They’re real. No matter where we are they’re going to be there.” 

Not surprising, Embiid — still plenty terrific with 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists — wasn’t quite as delighted by the acoustic breakdown as Brunson was. 

Jalen Brunson fought through knee pain during the Knicks’ Game 4 win over the 76ers on April 28, 2024. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

“Disappointing,” he said. “I love our fans. It’s unfortunate and I’m not calling them out.” 

And then he proceeded to call those fans out with a megaphone. 

“But it is disappointing. Obviously you got a lot of Knicks fans and they’re down the road and I’ve never seen it, and I’ve been here for 10 years. Yeah, it kind of pisses me off, especially because Philly is considered a sports town. They’ve always shown up and I don’t think that should happen. Yeah. It’s not OK.” 

Jalen Brunson drives to the rim against Joel Embiid during the Knicks’ Game 4 win over the 76ers on April 28, 2024. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

The Knicks still have work ahead of them beginning Tuesday night back at the Garden, and as they’ve already escaped three double-digit deficits to win their three games Brunson is adamant: “We have to be better.” 

Brunson walked with kings Sunday afternoon, but was reluctant to speak too deeply about dashing past King, conceding it was “cool” but also adding a proper valedictory. 

“Unless he comes back and helps us win the next game …” He smiled. He’d earned it.

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