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The Knicks are moving forward, if only in small steps

And while Brunson was a less splashy addition than Mitchell would have been, he excelled with his new team. Heading into Tuesday’s game, he was averaging 22.5 points and 6.3 assists. In January, he averaged 28.3 points per game and scored 30+ points on five occasions, including a 44-point effort in a narrow loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

“One thing I’ve learned and stayed consistent with is that no matter what happens outside of those lines, nothing really affects me,” Brunson said. He added: “Obviously playing in New York is a bigger stage, eyes always on you, but I’m trying my best not to care.”

With his help, the Knicks won eight straight games in December, going from 10th in the East to sixth in that streak.

There have also been lulls. Tuesday’s win ended a four-game losing streak, and the Knicks are trying to fill a hole left by injured starting center Mitchell Robinson.

It’s still a work in progress, but on Tuesday night they closed out a game, whereas other nights they might not have been able to do it. They fought back after falling 8 points behind in the third quarter.

“How do you get the urgency to do this?” Thibodeau reflected, rhetorically, after the game. “Don’t get discouraged, just be more determined.”

According to Thibodeau, the answer is to focus on the little unglamorous things — securing an offensive rebound, chasing down a loose ball, deflecting a pass.

“Just keep focusing on improving; everyone put the team first,” said Thibodeau. “And we know that’s – we’ve got a long way to go.”

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