The fourth place Knicks are 12-1 in their last 13 and will officially finish above .500 for the first time since 2012-13 after beating the Grizzlies so physically and mentally Monday night in Memphis that both their head coach and star point guard got ejected.
The Knicks, which were up roughly seven for much of the night, continue to simply seem, well, good. It’s like watching Patrick Ewing’s Knicks, in that you know they will be actually competing every single night. These Knicks rarely let go of the rope, especially as the season has gone on. They’ve built an identity. They are Julius Randle’s Knicks, co-starring rehabilitated former MVP Derrick Rose and upstart up-and-comer RJ Barret, not to mention an eclectic cast of characters including Immanuel Quickley, Reggie Bullock and Taj Gibson. As Bullock famously said a few weeks back, they are the Big 15.
Currently, the Big 15 is 37-28, good for fourth place in the East. They’d be tied for fifth place in the West. This isn’t a fluke, in case anyone still thought that might be the case.
The Knicks did not shoot out of the gate ready to wallop the Grizzlies, however. In fact, they started quite slow. Let’s not sugarcoat it: things were ugly in the early goings. The Knicks missed their first six shots and Memphis went up 6-0, so Tom Thibodeau called a timeout in order to remind them that, in basketball, the point of the game is for the shots to go in.
Following what we can only assume was a good-natured love fest during the timeout, the Knicks appeared a little more in tune. Shortly thereafter, Randle kicked it to Bullock in the corner for a three to put the Knicks on the board, and all in all, the Knicks scored seven straight points to prove that the Grizzlies weren’t going to walk away with an easy win.
When Derrick Rose finally entered the game for Elfrid Payton, the score was 14-13 Knicks with 3:47 left in the first. Randle finally got on the board thanks to some ridiculous hangtime that led to an and-one and extended New York’s lead to four.
At the end of the first, the Knicks were up 25-22. In the second, behind the bench mob and an insane amount of spot on shooting, the Knicks took control of the evening. Suddenly, the lead was nine, behind Rose, who had 15 points on 6-7 shooting in the first half.
Remember when there were concerns about Thibs’ ability to run a modern NBA offense? Since the All-Star break, the Knicks have the 11th best offense in the NBA. Over the last 15 games, they have the number ONE offense in the NBA, per NBA.com/stats. These Knicks move the ball and hunt corner threes.
During the second period of last night’s contest against the Grizzlies, they hit 8-12 triples (67%) and 17-22 from the field overall (77%). They scored 44 points in the quarter, which is the most points the Knicks have scored in a single quarter all season. In what has become a common theme, everyone got on the board. Even Norvel Pelle, who played a spectacular 15 minutes in the absence of Nerlens Noel.
The first half was capped with a stepback three at the buzzer by Randle to send the Knicks into the break up 69-58.
There’s stepback, buzzer-beating threes and then there’s Julius Randle stepback, buzzer-beating threes. pic.twitter.com/AByssPLR9u— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 4, 2021
Early in the third, Taj Gibson picked up his fourth foul, which felt ominous given the lack of available centers, and the Grizzlies kept making mini runs behind Dillon Brooks (16 points in the quarter), but the Knicks continued to hold on. As a matter of fact, they built the advantage as high as 17 by the time the quarter had concluded and there was hope that the journey to this victory might be a cakewalk.
The Knicks cooled off in the fourth, however, and midway through the final period the Grizzlies had cut that 17-point lead down to five. Fortunately, the Knicks have an MVP candidate in Randle and a former MVP in Rose. The two of them did what was necessary to keep the Knicks in control, starting with Randle canning a three in some dude’s grill. He’s always draining shots in guy’s faces in such a disrespectful fashion. But in the most respectful way, if that makes sense. His moves are what’s disrespectful, his demeanor is entirely professional.
By the time Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins got tossed, followed by Morant mere moments later, the outcome of this one was clear. And goodness gracious, what an incredible feeling when you see RJ smiling and clapping as Morant gets sent to the locker room because of bad behavior.
Ja Morant was given a tech and ejected from the game vs. the Knicks. pic.twitter.com/t5eY4Zp3Kj— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 4, 2021
Ja was seriously upset, and couldn’t contain himself, tweeting about the ordeal just minutes after the game and ensuring himself a hefty fine.
That’s just what happens when you play the Knicks nowadays. They break you down physically and mentally until you can’t take it anymore and snap. In this case, the Grizzlies snapped at the refs.
By the time the buzzer sounded, the game was long over, with the Knicks taking it by a score of 118-104. The heroes of the night were Rose (25 points, 11-15 from the field, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal), and Randle (28 points, 6 boards, 6 assists). RJ added 15, Bullock posted 13, and Elf contributed 10.
> Welcome back, Alec Burks! In his first game back after sitting for awhile due to health and safety protocol, Burks notched 9 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in just over 15 minutes of action.
> The improvement of Obi Toppin continues. He seems way more aware of where he needs to be and what he needs to be doing, even if it doesn’t always show in the stats. One particularly delicious play featured a cross court give-and-go from Toppin to Burks and back to Toppin for an alley-oop.
> Taj Gibson and Norvel Pelle were stupendous, considering they are supposed to be third and fourth stringers. They combined for 8 points, 14 rebounds and 8 blocks. Taj had 5 blocks alone, while Pelle made sure opponents understand he isn’t going to just let you get a shot off.
NORVEL PELLE WITH ANOTHER BLOCK— KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) May 4, 2021
THREE off the bench now pic.twitter.com/4q3CZgvRsB
> Congratulations are in order for Carmelo Anthony. He may no longer be on the Knicks, but he did move up to 10th all time on the NBA scoring list last night. That’s quite the accomplishment. Kevin Durant, the closest active player to Melo, is about 5,000 points behind him. So Melo should be able to call himself a top 10 all-time scorer for awhile.
Carmelo Anthony is now no. 10 on the all-time scoring list.— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) May 4, 2021
One of the greatest scorers EVER. pic.twitter.com/WfiNbk7UvP
The Knicks pulled this one out thanks to a team effort, but it was Rose’s herculean play in the clutch that ensured they’d leave Memphis with a victory in hand. When he’s razzling and dazzling like this, it’s like the Knicks have a superteam or something.
With that in mind, the quote of the night goes to foiegrastyle: Vintage Rose indeed.
The Knicks are off until Wednesday, when they take on the Nuggets in Denver. Tip off is 9 pm. Just your casual late season basketball game featuring a couple of MVP candidates.