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Knicks 109, Pistons 90: “This team is a pleasure to root for”

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The Knicks are 4th in the East. In March.

New York Knicks v Detroit Pistons
The winning continues.
Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks don’t care about how the franchise has been viewed for the last two decades. Instead, they focus on the task at hand, which last night was the Pistons. Despite being on the second night of a back to back, New York handled Detroit, 109-90, led by another monster effort from All-Star Julius Randle. Things are going well.

The Knicks are now 18-17 on the season, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. What’s that? Roughly halfway through the season and the Knicks are over .500 and fourth in the East? Ahead of the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors?

The Knicks are 7-3 in their last 10 games. The victory over Detroit improved New York to 9-5 in the month of February. Mike Breen noted on the broadcast that the last time the Knicks had a winning month was November 2017. It’s the latest they’ve been over .500 since 2012-13. The win also represents the third straight victory for the Knicks, marking their fourth three-game winning streak this season.

This one could have easily slipped away. The Knicks were playing with tired legs, and they were without Taj Gibson, who didn’t travel with the team due to a sprained ankle. Meanwhile, they were playing against Dennis Smith Jr., who was clearly out to try and prove that New York erred in failing to use him and then trading him. However, despite his best efforts, a DSJ revenge game this was not.

The Pistons scored the first bucket of the game — a Jerami Grant three-pointer — but Reggie Bullock tied the game less than a minute later, and the Knicks controlled the game for the rest of the night. RJ Barrett continued his resurgence with a strong first quarter (8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block), and six Knicks overall got on the board in the period.

As a team, the Knicks were 5-8 from downtown in the first, and New York carried a 25-20 lead heading into the second. In the second quarter, the clamps came down even harder than they had in the first; the Knicks held the Pistons to 17 points in the period on 4-15 from the field (26.7%). New York had 5 blocks and 3 steals in the quarter (including 3 blocks for Nerlens Noel, who had himself an incredible game considering he was the only bonafide center available).

On the offensive end, the Knicks weren’t exactly lights out (10-24 from the field in the quarter, or 41.7%), but they steadily increased their lead thanks to a balanced effort that once again saw six Knicks scoring points (led by Alec Burks, who dropped 7 points in the period).

At one point, Obi Toppin got to casually practice for the dunk contest, and by halftime, the Knicks were up 48-37.

In the third quarter, Randle did what stars do all the time out there in the vast expanse of the universe, exploding for 12 points on 5-6 shooting.

Barrett also had a fine little quarter, notching 7 points, 2 boards and 2 assists. He was finishing in traffic with ease. Go ahead and defend him in the lane, it doesn’t matter.

The Pistons shot a little better from the field than they had in half one, but the Knicks once again received points from six different players, winning the quarter 35-27 and bringing an 83-64 advantage into the final quarter.

After six Knicks got on the board in each of the first three quarters, only five Knickerbockers scored in the fourth. But that’s okay, because 9 of those points came from 25th overall draft pick Immanuel Quickley, who continued his campaign as one of the best rookies in the NBA.

The Knicks never let the Pistons get too close, and when all was said and done, the final score was 109-90. The Knicks beat a team they should have beat, even though they were visibility tired. The times they are a’changin.

Notes:

> Randle finished with 25 points (60% shooting), 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. RJ had 21 points (61.5% shooting), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. When both of those dudes are playing well, the Knicks appear to have the ability to compete with anyone.

> Including that dynamic duo, the Knicks had five players score in double figures. Burks had 16 points off the bench, Derrick Rose had 14 points and 5 assists as the starting point guard, and IQ finished with 12.

> As of this second, the Knicks have the second best defensive rating in the NBA, just ahead of the Utah Jazz and behind only the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Minnesota Timberwoves v Los Angeles Clippers
How Thibs would feel if he read the above sentence.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

> Noel deserves his own bullet point. In almost 40 minutes, the center had 8 points, 11 boards, 2 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. He has done an incredible job filling in for Mitchell Robinson.

> This play was awesome:

> With Elfrid Payton out for the third straight game, Frank Ntilikina once again got a chance to play. The momentum from his previous two efforts did not continue, as Ntilikina missed all four of his shots and didn’t do anything of consequence in roughly 12 minutes of action. Please keep playing Frank, though. The Knicks are now 5-2 when he plays this season.

> DSJ wanted to prove a point to his former team, playing aggressive all night and really trying to create for his current team on offense. The Knicks were prepared, though, and made it tough on him all night. DSJ finished with 7 points (3-11 shooting), 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 1 block. Happy he’s getting a chance. Happy it’s for a team that isn’t the Knicks.

RockyRaccoon06 really hit the nail on the head by commenting that “this team is a pleasure to root for.”

They sure are, RockyRaccoon. They sure are. The next time we’ll get to root for the Knicks is Tuesday, when they play the 17-12 Spurs in San Antonio. It won’t be easy, but Thibs will have the Knicks prepared. First four-game win streak of the season? Why not?