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NBA: Box ticked for Brunson as Knicks seal second seed with OT win over Bulls

Jalen Brunson said the New York Knicks had simply ticked one box by clinching the second seed in the Eastern Conference, after his 40-point haul dragged them to a pivotal overtime win over the Chicago Bulls.

The Knicks knew a win in their regular-season finale would ensure they finished second in the East behind the runaway leaders, the Boston Celtics.

The Knicks’ rivals for second, the Milwaukee Bucks, lost 113-88 to the Orlando Magic but still held the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning a loss at Madison Square Garden would see New York remain third.

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However, Brunson had his 11th 40-point game of a terrific season as the Knicks outlasted Chicago for a 120-119 win in the additional period, also adding eight rebounds and seven assists in New York’s 50th victory of the year.

Speaking after the win, Brunson said: “It’s our goal to be the best team we can be by the end of the year, and for us now, it’s just about moving on from that.

“It’s something to be crossed off and we have to get better from here.”

The Knicks will now face the winner of Wednesday’s Play-In game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t too concerned about the identity of the Knicks’ opponents, saying: “I think when you have competitors, it doesn’t matter.

“Competitors compete. You don’t have to wind these guys up and that’s what I love about them.

“Sometimes we’re not going to be perfect, we’ll make some mistakes, but they’re going to compete and I think that’s important.”

The Sixers were unable to avoid the Play-In Tournament despite beating the Brooklyn Nets 107-86 on Sunday, with the Indiana Pacers clinching the sixth seed – and a first-round matchup with the Bucks – by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse is looking forward to another entertaining clash with Miami, though, saying: “We’ve had some great battles with them, and we always expect that when facing them.

“The mindset is we’re playing well and we’ll do everything we can, like we’ve been doing the last month, digging in and doing whatever we have to do to win. We’ll take that into Wednesday.”

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