A year ago it took the New York Knicks until their fifth game of the season to hit 41 3-pointers. After drilling 17 in this year’s opener vs. Boston New York went off for a franchise-record 24 in last night’s 121-96 drubbing of the Orlando Magic. One reason for the 24 3s are the numbers 23, 22, 21, 20 and 20, i.e. the ages of the Magic’s starters (Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr., Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs). Another reason: the Knicks are an improved group of shooters. A third reason: Orlando was utterly unable to prevent the Knicks from doing whatever they wanted on offense, especially dribble penetration. For all the deserved hype the longballs got, there were seemingly just as many paint finishes off frictionless drives.
Per Rebecca Haarlow, Tom Thibodeau warned his team Orlando was playing their home opener and to come out ready to match their energy. They did. Kemba Walker led off the scoring with a 3-ball, one of his three treys in the opening quarter.
The Magic led 9-6 after Harlemite Mo Bamba’s second triple of the game. New York then ripped off a 30-7 run the rest of the frame, including a 17-0 run to end the first. Evan Fournier hit from deep. So did Julius Randle. Fournier and RJ Barrett converted driving and-ones. Derrick Rose hit another from downtown; so did Fournier. The offense made the headlines, but a Thibs’ team makes its moolah on the other end: the Knicks held the Magic without a point over the last five minutes en route to a 20-point lead.
I found myself remembering the distant but not forgotten sensation of almost pitying a team the Knicks clearly outclass. Nearly.
The second quarter was more of the first: the Knicks got to the basket at will, drilled more 3s and got out on the break. Even their mistakes were perfect.
The lead ballooned to 31 before the break. Rose hit another 3. So did Alec Burks. Ditto Immanuel Quickley. Another from Fournier. The Knicks dished out 17 assists in the first half, enjoying just their third-ever 30-point halftime lead on the road (per Alan Hahn). Again, the offense was lights out, but don’t lose sight of the Knicks allowing only 22 points after 16 minutes. The Magic wouldn’t break 40 until nearly three minutes into the third.
In the third, there was more of the same: a Fournier 3. A Rose triple. A Burks trey (alas, no Trey Burke). Some of not the same: a Knick point guard hitting a fadeaway long 2 to beat the shot clock?!
Less enthralling: Mitchell Robinson hitting the floor awkwardly after going for a rebound and leaving the game with an apparent hamstring issue. Mitch would return. Enthralling as always: Randle being Randle.
With Robinson out, Thibs went to the Julius/Obi tandem, and as was the case vs. Boston they were a positive...and not just on the offensive end.
Lest your pretty little heart worry New York’s early success might temper the flames that rage inside Thibodeau, be comforted: he absolutely lit into Toppin after the second-year man missed four of his first five free throws. Speaking of lit, the Knicks’ remained so in the fourth. Toppin hit a 3. Burks hit back-to-back bombs. Toppin hit again, off a beautiful feed by Burks.
Quickley hit from distance not once, not twice, but thrice, the third setting the franchise record. Randle drilled another triple. Apparently that was a smidge too far for the home team, because the next time Julius went in for yet another slam Carter Jr. fouled him hard on the break, earning a shot to the side from Randle and praise from Walt Clyde Frazier. I was already stressing about Thibs having Randle in the game so late; after WCJ’s foul I nearly choked on my poutine. Thankfully Thibodeau pulled his star shortly thereafter.
Rose hit another 3 and Quentin Grimes nailed the 24th and final 3 of the night. On both ends, for 48 minutes, the Knicks were what Muhammad Ali once described himself as.
- Toppin scored in double-figures for the second time in two games this season. Last year he did so three times in 62.
- In the Celtic game six Knicks scored in double-figures: five starters and Obi. Versus the Magic, seven Knicks had 10+, four off the bench and three starters. Depth is a helluva drug.
- The play of the night was pro’ly IQ catching his contact lens mid-air after an elbow knocked it out.
- Mitch’s shoulders look like bowling balls. It really is astonishing how buff that dude has become.
- Kevin Knox made his season debut in garbage time. Miles McBride saw his first minutes as a pro late. Jericho Sims scored his first-ever bucket in the first half.
- MSG trivia: Fournier’s 32 against the Cs was the most-ever by a Knick in their debut with the team. Whose record did he break? Usually these questions are easy, but I was proud of myself for getting this one right.
- Orlando was without Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris and Michael Carter-Williams. Don’t think they would have changed the result, but the Magic aren’t the kind of team that can afford to miss that much veteran talent.
- Looking for an Orlando positive: Suggs was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball & Mr. Football same year. There ya go.
- Cole Anthony was 3-of-14 from the field, proving shooting is a hereditary trait.
- There was maaaad New Yorkers in this game! Kemba, Obi, Bamba, Cole were all on the floor at the same time. Felt good.
- Did you remember the Knicks traded Robin Lopez for Rose in 2016? RoLo remains a personal fave OAKAAKUYOAK.
- Trivia answer: Keith Van Horn, who had 29.
Quoth Purist__: “Knicks all knacking.” It’s a sight to see when this team is rolling along seamlessly on both ends. After a night sponsored by the number 3, ‘tis only appropriate the Knicks try for their third W to start the season when they host the Magic tomorrow at MSG. The challenges change but never relent. Orlando will be embarrassed and motivated to put in a better shift. Let’s see how the Knicks respond.