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Jalen Brunson topped by Lauri Markkanen for Most Improved Player

Jalen Brunson fell short in his bid for a league-wide award when Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player on Monday.

Brunson finished in third place with four of 100 first-place votes, behind Markkanen (67) and Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (24).

Knicks forward Julius Randle won the award in 2021, joining former Bulls guard Jimmy Butler as players to earn that recognition while coached by Tom Thibodeau.

Markkanen averaged 25.6 points for Utah this season following his arrival from the Cavs in the Donovan Mitchell trade.

The Knicks’ point guard posted 24.0 points and 6.2 assists in 68 games after signing a four-year $104 million contract via free agency last summer.


Jalen Brunson received four first-place votes for Most Improved Player.
Jalen Brunson received four first-place votes for Most Improved Player.
Charles Wenzelberg

Overlooked in the Knicks’ spirited victory in Game 4 over the Cavaliers was another ineffectual showing offensively from one of their most impactful players all season.

Immanuel Quickley, the runner-up for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, connected on zero field-goal attempts for the second time in the Knicks’ first-round playoff series against the Cavaliers.


Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen won the Most Improved Player award with 67 first-place votes.
Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen won the Most Improved Player award with 67 first-place votes.
Getty Images

The third-year combo guard has posted a .348 field-goal percentage (8-for-23) and he’s 3-for-11 from 3-point range in the series entering Game 5 on Wednesday in Cleveland.

Quickley did finish Game 4 with a plus-11 rating, however, which tied with Obi Toppin for the best differential in the game.


Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander received 24 first-place votes and finished in second.
Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander received 24 first-place votes and finished in second.
Getty Images

He also led the Knicks at plus-27 over 23 minutes in Game 3, contributing his most efficient offensive numbers of the series with 11 points of 4 of 6 from the floor.


It wasn’t quite Journey lead singer Steve Perry caught crooning along to his own song at a Giants postseason game in San Francisco a few years ago, but Knicks guard Josh Hart was caught by TV cameras singing along — admittedly poorly — to the Hall of Fame rock group’s hit “Don’t Stop Believin” during a timeout during Sunday’s game.

“I can’t sing. I really wish I could,” Hart joked after the game. “I’ve said it before, if I could sing, I probably wouldn’t be playing basketball. At that point, the vocals were terrible. I was shooting the ball really bad. It was bad. That’s all I can say.”


The Knicks held a decided edge on the boards in Game 4, outrebounding the Cavaliers 47-33 overall and 17-7 on the offensive glass.

Mitchell Robinson has recorded at least five offensive rebounds in three of the four games, and Toppin hauled in eight rebounds overall, his season-high.

“The rebounding has been huge, and I think it was critical for us,” coach Thibodeau said. “It’s been one of our strengths all year long. We have to continue to do that.That’s a big part of winning. Keeping our turnovers down, we gotta do better with that. But the defensive rebounding, low turnovers, that’s huge.”

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