I wrote before the game in my preview for The Strickland that this game was a potential tipping point for the Knicks’ season, for better or worse. New York had lost three straight games in extremely unconvincing fashion, and with a tough schedule this coming week, losing to the worst team in the East would have been particularly deflating.
Luckily, the Knicks had no plans of losing this game.
Right from the word “go,” this game was basically over. The Knicks started the game on a 14-0 run, setting the tone for the rest of the night.
Julius Randle got things going for New York, hitting two straight threes to start the game.
Off to an auspicious start in the Motor City. pic.twitter.com/FU4m0f1Jne— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) April 4, 2021
Randle, three ball, corner pocket. pic.twitter.com/R1tCqVXMOq— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) April 4, 2021
Then RJ Barrett got in on the fun, hitting this very difficult shot in the paint.
Reggie Bullock canned two shots from deep, and boom, 14-0 run.
But the Knicks didn’t stop there. The Pistons got their first points at the 8:31 mark, when Saddiq Bey made one of two free throws. They wouldn’t score their first field goal until the 6:51 mark in the quarter, and could only scrape out 15 points in the first quarter.
After one, the Knicks were on pace for a 104-point win, up 26 points. Randle and Bullock singlehandedly doubled up the Pistons, scoring 34 of the Knicks’ 41 between them. The rout was on. As commenter Am I Immanuel or am I Toppin speculated, “They’re going to win 234-0.” Not quite, but they may as well have!
It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing, though. The second quarter brought a little bit of a Pistons run, which was concerning if you, like me, were still dealing with PTSD from that horrendous Timberwolves game the other night. The Pistons won the second quarter, 26-19, and it looked like the Knicks were maybe falling into the same trap again of letting their foot off the gas too early, leading by 19 at the half after eclipsing a 30-point lead earlier in the quarter.
Luckily, that wasn’t at all the case. The starters once again came in and responded, and Randle, Bullock, and Barrett outscored the Pistons 24-20 all by themselves in the third quarter.
RJ Barrett brushes Jerami Grant off like it's nothing pic.twitter.com/iCt5xWWT5k— KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) April 4, 2021
That strong performance in the third led to a rare and welcome occurrence: the starters got to sit the entire fourth quarter.
That gave us a nice look at a number of guys! Immanuel Quickley and Kevin Knox led the team with nine points each in the quarter, Obi Toppin played 10 minutes and scored eight points, and the Knicks won the final quarter by 17 (!) points. It was against the worst team in the East, yes, but hopefully that serves as sort of a lesson to Thibs about hanging with the bench in blowouts.
And then, in a 44-point blowout, the literal last guy on the bench managed to steal the show. Newly-signed Norvel Pelle got his first minutes as a Knick to end the game, and he promptly dislocated his finger on an alley-oop attempt, laughed about it, and then proceeded to block two shots on the other end with the same hand that just had a finger pointing the wrong direction.
I have never seen someone so delighted to see their finger turn into a zigzag pic.twitter.com/3OYtPYW53P— Seth Rosenthal (@seth_rosenthal) April 4, 2021
All in all, just a fantastic game.
— Can’t really be understated just how well Randle responded in this game. He had probably his worst game of the season against the Mavs. To turn around and outscore an entire team in the first quarter (as well as assist on a couple of Bullock’s buckets) shows a lot about Randle’s expectations for himself this year and the growth he’s made as a player. Final line of 29 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and 9-16 shooting (5-9 from three) for the Knicks’ star.
— Elfrid Payton played the type of game that would make a lot of people, myself included, less critical of his play moving forward if he can keep it up. He had 11 points, nine assists, and six rebounds. I could certainly live without him taking 12 inefficient shots (4-12, and 1-4 from three) to RJ’s seven (5-7), but other than that, he was mostly playing to his strengths throughout the game. He drove into the paint, and instead of trying to take contested shots against the opponents’ bigs, he was looking to the corners for shooters.
— It was a really active press conference for Randle and Bullock after the game (they took it together, which was interesting). First, Reggie was asked about Pelle’s debut and gutting through the dislocated finger, and he said Pelle was a “Knicks type of player.” It’s really nice that that means “a tough motherfucker” now, and not “a has-been or never-was.”
Norvel got signed last night. Injured his finger. Stayed in the game, knocked down a free throw. Then proceeded to do this.— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) April 4, 2021
"He's a Knicks type of player." pic.twitter.com/m9jhy8QaaL
Then the elder statesman of the Knicks beat, Marc Berman, asked the pair what their thoughts were on potentially facing a unified and healthy Nets big three on Monday, to which Reggie responded like this:
I love that, in the first year that the Knicks didn’t come out with a coordinated campaign to say that they’re “bringing the ’90s Knicks energy back,” “all dogs on this roster,” etc., is the year that the Knicks have most closely resembled the ’90s teams.
— Haven’t mentioned him yet, but Taj Gibson had 11 points on 5-5 shooting, five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. I don’t know how he does it. He was good last year, but he’s been GREAT this year. Every time he hits the floor, he impacts the game in a positive way.
— I think the Knicks have sort of an interesting, “good problems” conundrum on their hands. As of about a week ago, I’d have said that Obi Toppin might be best served being removed from the rotation in favor of Kevin Knox. Knox has looked pretty good in whatever limited minutes he’s gotten lately. That didn’t change in this game, but Obi looking like an NBA player has been a welcome addition the last two games. Add the fact that Frank Ntilikina is still benched as well to the mix, and the Knicks have three guys 23 years old and under that seem like they should get minutes, without enough minutes at present to hand out.
The Knicks will be taking on the Nets tomorrow night at Barclays Center — again, probably against the whole Nets big three. It’s a good thing that the Knicks saw the ball go through the hoop in this one and defended their asses off, because they’re going to need that in spades against KD, Harden, and Kyrie.
For more on this game, be sure to also read the recap at The Strickland!