NEW YORK – Saturday’s game had a different flavor to it.Jalen

The Dallas Mavericks were in New York to play the Knicks. Of course, that meant a head-to-head meeting for the first time against Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, who played his first four seasons with the Mavs before signing a four-year, $104 million free agent contract with the Knicks this past summer.

Things were a bit strange, to say the least.

“It was great, but also I’d say very weird at the end of the day,” guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “You’ve been with (Brunson) for three years, you play against him in practice, you know his tendencies on the court, you was his running mate coming off the bench a couple of times throughout your years in Dallas, so you kind of know what to expect.

“But also, when you’re gone for a summer and you’re not in the same training camp, you don’t know what the tendencies or what new style of play he probably picked up, because I know he’s a hard worker. So we were just trying to do the best we could to make it tough for him.”

The Mavs made it so rough on Brunson that he scored just 13 points on 5-of-11 shots, and also collected only two rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes.

Jalen“We just tried to give him different looks,” coach Kidd said after the Mavs’ 121-100 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. “He’s good.

“He can get to the basket, he can shoot the (mid-range). We just tried to keep a body, keep him in front and contest every shot.”

Luka Doncic admitted “it was different” peering over and seeing Brunson wearing a Knicks’ uniform.

“It was hard to see him on the other team,” Doncic said. “We obviously miss him, but we just had to take care of business and win this game.”

Doncic and Brunson both joined the Mavs from the 2018 NBA Draft. Doncic was the third overall pick and Brunson was the 33rd overall pick, and had developed a close bond during their four years together playing for the Mavs.

“Jalen is a great guy,” Doncic said. “We spent four years together.

“He was always fun and he’s an amazing guy, so it was a pleasure to see him again.”

There was one short stretch in the third quarter where Hardaway drilled a three-pointer, Brunson drained a three and Doncic buried a jumper from downtown. It looked like a Mavs practice session. After the game, Brunson was hugging Doncic, Hardaway, Kidd and virtually everyone else on the Mavs’ staff who were on the court.

“We know (Brunson is) a great ball player and a great guy,” Hardaway said. “He made contested shots, we lived with it. But also just making sure we made it tough for him throughout the whole game.”Jaden

DONCIC GAVE HARDY THE GAME BALL: Luka Doncic did a noble thing when he grabbed the game ball after Saturday’s contest and gave it to Mavs rookie guard Jaden Hardy.

Doncic knew the five points Hardaway scored were the first points of his NBA career, and he wanted him to have something to remember that by. Doncic said: “When the rookies score their first points I always try to remember and get the ball for them to have the memory.”

Doncic said it was too long ago for him to remember wo gave him the game ball after he scored his first NBA points in 2018.

Coach Jason Kidd was impressed by Doncic’s gesture.

“Luka did a big thing,” Kidd said. “He took the ball from the court and he presented it to Hardy, which was really cool as a leader.

“His first points here in the Garden as a rookie, so he has the ball and that was a really classy thing by Luka.”

BRIEFLY: Center Christian Wood sat out Saturday’s game with a non-Covid illness. . .The Mavs attempted 61 three-pointers Saturday, and Lukathe NBA record of 70 is held by the Houston Rockets. Coach Jason Kidd said: “There was talk maybe of trying to break the record of threes attempted. This was when we were losing.”. . .Even when the Mavs were down by 15 in the second quarter and by seven at halftime, Kidd said: “There was a lot of positivity things happening. Even though we weren’t winning the game we stayed together. We made a run without Luka, and then we ended it down (59-52 at halftime). I thought the guys in the locker room truly believed that we could put some stops together – which we did – and that the ball would start falling, and that’s what happened early in that third.”. .In explaining Kidd’s message at halftime, Tim Hardaway Jr. said: “just emphasizing at the half with coach letting us know (the Knicks are) going to come out trying to stretch the game, so we just have to do a great job of setting the tone. Hitting guys — not hitting like hitting — but hitting guys and being physical out on the floor when the shots goes up, getting rebounds and fighting over screens and doing it with communication and talking on the defensive end. And then when we get the ball, just push it. Whoever gets the rebound, push it, run, and that’s how we got ourselves going.”. .Luka Doncic always points out his defensive numbers, particularly when it comes to steals. For this game, he produced a game-high three blocks. Asked if blocked shots are now his favorite defensive statistic, Doncic said” For this game it is.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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