Knicks furious 4th quarter rally falls short in Jalen Brunson’s return to Dallas, 128-124

The last time the Knicks played the Dallas Mavericks on the road, Luka Doncic hung a 60-point triple double to lead the Mavs to victory.

In that same game, Doncic intentionally missed a free throw on the final possession of regulation, then recovered the rebound himself to make a buzzer-beating basket that forced overtime, where Dallas eventually won.

Tom Thibodeau vividly remembers that game. Forty-eight hours ahead of tipoff in Dallas on Thursday, the Knicks’ coach still believed officials should have whistled Doncic for a foul.

“Basically it was a free throw, rebound at the end of that game, and I think we had some calls go against us that were incorrect,” Thibodeau said after Tuesday’s victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. “I remember it vividly.”

Doncic wasn’t available for the Mavericks in the American Airlines Center encore, but despite a furious late-game comeback from the Knicks, the Mavericks didn’t need him.

The Knicks wiped away a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit to make it a one-point game in the final 90 seconds of regulation, but with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks got three offensive rebounds on the same possession.

On their last crack at it, Kyrie Irving created a wide-open look for Josh Green, whose open three put the Mavs up for good.

The Knicks lost to the Mavs with Doncic in street clothes, 128-124, and took their first loss in the six games they have played since trading for OG Anunoby.

Irving finished with a game-high 44 points and 10 assists on 15-of-26 shooting from the field and 6-of-10 shooting from downtown. Two-time former Knick Tim Hardaway Jr. hit six threes for 32 points, and Green, who hit the dagger, finished with 18 points on the night.

The trio of Mavericks players spoiled what was supposed to be a coming-home party for both Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle.

Dallas is Randle’s hometown, and the Mavericks drafted Brunson 33rd overall in the 2018 NBA Draft before he left Dallas to sign as a free agent with the Knicks two summers ago.

With Doncic (ankle) out, the Knicks were expected to overpower the Mavericks.

That couldn’t have been further from reality.

The Knicks sicced Anunoby, a hound on defense, on Irving, but his size, length and IQ was no match for Irving’s star power.

It was clear there was added motivation for Hardaway, too.

The Knicks drafted Hardaway Jr. 21st overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, traded him to the Atlanta Hawks for the draft rights to Jerian Grant, then brought him back on a four-year, $71 million deal, only to trade him away again to the Mavericks alongside Kristaps Porzingis in 2019.

Irving and Hardaway Jr. combined to outdo Doncic’s 60-point scoring night from 2022 with 76 of their own.

Randle (32 points) and Brunson (30 points) combined for 62 points, and Isaiah Hartenstein grabbed 15 rebounds. Donte DiVincenzo hit five threes for 19 points, but Anunoby shot just one-of-six from downtown.

The Mavericks jumped out to a 15-4 lead by the 7:34 mark of the first quarter and never looked back, taking a 44-26 lead into the second quarter.

The Knicks cut the lead down to six in the third quarter, where Randle did most of his damage.

The lead ballooned back to 20 in the fourth quarter, and the Knicks made a furious run to cut the deficit back down to single digits. The effort was too little, too late, given the Knicks went without a field goal from the 5:22 mark of the third quarter all the way through the end of the period.

The Knicks now travel to Memphis where they will face a shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies team.

The Grizzlies are without Ja Morant, who is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

The Knicks, however, just lost to one team missing its best player.

With a crowded Eastern Conference playoff picture, they cannot afford to lose to a second.