Mavs blow out old friend Brunson, Knicks at MSG

NEW YORK — Luka Doncic came into Madison Square Garden today wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jersey — a payment on a lost bet to his former teammate, Jalen Brunson, whom he and the Mavericks faced for the first time here Saturday afternoon since Brunson signed with the Knicks as a free agent in the offseason.

“No, it wasn’t,” Doncic said when asked if it was enjoyable paying off his bet.

That, however, was one of the few things Doncic did not enjoy about his day, as the Mavericks obliterated Brunson and the Knicks in the second half, outscoring New York 69-40 to pull away and claim a 121-100 win over their former teammate and his new squad.

“You’ve got to ask them,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said when asked if facing Brunson was any sort of motivating factor for his players. “I think they’ve been with him four years, those guys in that locker room. They’re going to miss him. Those are friends in that locker room that he hangs out with in the summer, and he has a close bond with a couple of them. I don’t know if they were trying to show they can do it without him, but he’s on the other side, so he’s the enemy this afternoon and they wanted to do everything they could to slow him down.”

It certainly was mission accomplished on that front in the second half, as the Mavericks torched the Knicks in the third quarter, in particular, outscoring them 41-15 to take what had been a competitive, but sleepy, early afternoon matinee for the opening 24 minutes and turn it into a rout that saw Kidd empty his bench for much of the fourth quarter, allowing rookie Jaden Hardy to get his first NBA basket as a result.

That happened thanks to Doncic (19 points) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (17 points) both outscoring New York by themselves in the third quarter, part of a barrage of 3-pointers (24-for-61 on the day) that proved far too much for the Knicks to overcome. As a result, New York lost for the sixth time in eight games, and is now just 4-7 through its first 11 games at MSG.

“I would say I was disappointed,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of his team’s performance. “The missed shots, you can deal with … [they] are part of the game. You can live with that, as long as you’re being unselfish and taking the right shots.

“But the rebounding piece of it, the turnover piece of it, that’s hard. It’s hard to win like that. And so, we have to fix it, and we have to fix it fast.”

The second-half domination by Dallas overshadowed the reunion of Brunson with the only team he’d ever played for before signing a four-year contract worth more than $100 million with the Knicks this offseason.

Both Hardaway and Doncic admitted it was weird playing against their former teammate — in Doncic’s case, they were in the same 2018 NBA draft class together — while Brunson said it was hard for him to take much joy in it, given how the game played out.

“I’ll be honest: not fun,” said Brunson, when asked how the reunion went, after finishing with 13 points and three assists in 27 minutes. “I mean, they played great tonight. You’ve got to give them credit. No matter who’s on the other side of the floor I think my approach always stays the same.

“Seeing them after the game, shaking their hands, that was pretty cool. I respect them, hope all is well and see them in a month.”

As for Doncic, who had 30 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists, he’s thinking ahead to when Dallas hosts the Knicks next month to potentially get revenge for his lost wager, which was on an Eagles-Cowboys game.

“We have another game coming and we play at home, so we’ll get another bet and they’re coming soon, so we’ll see,” he said with a smile.

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