The Knicks’ magic number to making the playoffs—not the play-in, the playoffs—went down to 2 as they beat the Clippers 106-100 in perhaps their biggest game of the season.
Their last matchup against the Clippers ended in a feel-good loss.
They had competed, but ultimately ran out of steam and lost 129-114 as Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett demonstrated that they might be real parts of a promising future, but the ultimate loss reaffirmed that may not be this season.
We now know that is not the case, and that they might have simply been missing a player—Derrick Rose.
Rose was traded to the Knicks shorty after that Clippers game as they sat with a record three wins below .500 record at 11-14.
In yesterday’s game against the Clippers, Rose catapulted them to 8 games above .500 at 38-30 with 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists on 11-17 shooting.
In just a few short months, the days of moral victories are over for these Knicks—they simply get real victories now, and Immanuel Quickley did not even need to play to beat the title-contending Clippers.
The Knicks got off to a familiar rocky start with Elfrid Payton (two points on one for five shooting and three turnovers in 15 minutes) at the helm, starting off at a 10-0 deficit, but they showed their resilient trait for the umpteenth time this season after a quick detour in blowout losses to the Suns and Nuggets.
Reggie Bullock, one of the many Knicks to develop so much over the course of the season despite being a veteran, went on a personal 7-0 run to stop the bleeding.
Bullock, who’s been able to launch and hit more three pointers than ever, finished with a much-needed 24 points and made five out of twelve three point attempts against his former team.
Rose came in shortly after and put on a show for the ESPN audience, scoring 19 of his 25 points and dishing out seven of his eight assists for the game in the first half to give them a 56-54 advantage at the break.
Rose made a startling 9 out of 10 shot attempts in the half on a series of beautiful jumpers and floaters, showing off how much he has changed from his gravity-defying heroics in Chicago and selfish inefficient play his first stint in New York into a very methodical and effective player.
RJ Barrett picked up where he left off from the previous game, playing stifling defense on Kawhi Leonard all game and holding him to 29 points on just 9 of 26 shooting.
Barrett’s offense and much-improved shot was there for him as well, scoring 18 points with the help of four of seven shooting from downtown along with dishing out four assists.
One Knick who uncharacteristically wasn’t himself was Julius Randle, who faced a great deal of attention from the Clippers defense resulting in just 14 points from him on 7-19 shooting.
Beyond Rose’s offense and the Knicks’ shooting, Randle's lack of production was made up for by Obi Toppin’s continued stellar play off the bench, who kept things simple with seven points on three for four shooting in ten minutes.
Rose also showed why he likely is not starting as he did slow down a bit in the second half, but did still hit some clutch jumpers late, including a three pointer to give the Knicks a 91-83 advantage with seven minutes left. As P&Ter alleyhoop_20 noted, the team probably owes Rose a nice dinner.
Despite runs from the Clippers and inconsistent performances, the Knicks effort and hustle kept it close all night.
Finally in the fourth, Barrett made it a nine-point game with a three with five minutes left, and then Taj Gibson had a putback layup on their following offensive possession to make it a 96-87 game with four minutes and 25 seconds left.
Finally, Randle’s offense was ready to show up, and he would make the Knicks’ last three field goals of the night, which was needed to ice the game.
Most notably, Barrett continued his stellar play on defense with a block on Paul George with a minute and twenty three seconds remaining to keep it a 6 point lead, which Randle followed up with a pullup midrange jumper to extend it to eight with 1:06 remaining.
Leonard answered back with a tough jumper of his own, but Randle exemplified his improvements and resilience with a soul-crushing stepback midrange jumper on Paul George to make it a 102-94 game with 40 seconds left, effectively ending the game.
This game showed how true the team’s slogan of “Big 15” is. With injuries to Burks and Quickley, inconsistent play from Randle and even Rose, who was a massive bright spot, they needed almost everyone to step up. Even Frank Ntilikina hit a three in the first half. They could still probably do without Elfrid Payton, but it is amazing to watch a team you no longer have to hope is “fun-bad” and instead is “fun-good”.,