You ever remember learning things when you were young that make absolutely no sense? Something so bizarre it seems more likely your memory is playing a trick on you — only you know you it’s true? I remember learning about the colors of the stoplight in nursery school, being told there was red, yellow, green and blue. I can almost-but-not-quite remember what blue meant, but I definitely remember Mrs. Hall talking about it. Another from first grade has always stayed with me. I like it.
The wall calendar our in-class bathroom (lux!) had a litte writing at the bottom of each day, odd facts; this was the ‘80s, before every sugary non-carbonated drink cornered the market on trivia in the ‘90s. One day it read: “There is a you living three days in the past and a you living three days in the future.” That can’t possibly be a false memory. No fiction could be so strange. Truth, on the other hand . . .
Truth got weird in the New York Knicks’ 129-119 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, in all sorts of wonderous Wonka-like ways. This wasn’t a game the Knicks won because Julius Randle insisted upon himself, or the bench bailed out the starters or the other way around. The Thunder weren’t missing their best player, or their second- or third-best. A half-dozen things our eyes turned to deserts starving for flooded across the — ahem — Paycom Center. For four quarters, we watched dreams come true. Best of all: these dreams don’t have to die. They’re all sustainable.
The Knicks won with their best offensive player taking the most shots. They won in large part because of their point guard. Jalen Brunson is both of those people. Obviously he isn’t going to play like this every night, i.e. hitting his first 19 two-pointers and free throws combined. But while Randle and RJ Barrett are also capable of stellar showings (like this game, combining for 50 points on just 32 shots), Brunson is the best bet to bust out when things break down then anyone else on the team. Randle’s plan Bs are so obvious they may as well be plan As. Obi Toppin’s hangtime lets him get away with mid-air meditations more than most. But Brunson’s so adept adapting, it’s Jason Bourne-esque. There are reasons he’s the only player on this roster to enjoy success in the playoffs.
Defensively there was an actual adjustment from the last meeting with OKC, one so clear even i noticed it. On a number of Thunder possessions the Knicks defended Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with a primary defender and a spy, like when football teams have one defender shadow a quarterback who’s a threat to run. They didn’t use this approach all night, but that unpredictability maybe helped keep SGA more off-balance than last time — he still scored 30 and got to the line a ton, only on around 40% shooting and not the near 60% he hit at MSG.
Tom Thibodeau played all three of his centers between 13 and 16 minutes; the return on that rotation was 11 points, 17 rebounds and highlights for each.
The sky is blue. Water is wet. Sims is dunking. pic.twitter.com/f9fXCF9fZ9— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) November 22, 2022
And yet, with a little over eight minutes in the fourth, Thibs went to the Randle/Toppin frontcourt alongside RJ, JB and IQ. In about five minutes together, the JR/Obi lineup played OKC to a draw, which as the Knicks were up 11 was a win.
Don’t underestimate the positive development of Quentin Grimes starting his second straight game and breaking 30 minutes both times. Cam Reddish showed he can play with the starters, but I think Grimes’ shooting means more to that unit than it does the bench. Also there are any number of multiverses where Evan Fournier is still starting, so this Thanksgiving be grateful for that. And for Quentin’s foot looking healthy.
It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops. A last-minute storm cloud was determined to rain on New York’s parade. I don’t know if Randle took too many shots from Lu Dort, the real-life Juggernaut who cannot be stopped once he has any momentum and who went through Randle more than once for an and-one. Dort looks like he hurts. Still. Between an obvious lack of hustle, including letting Josh Giddey completely leave him in the dust for a breakaway dunk, throwing his arms up in annoyance at teammates not doing what he thought they should be, being the only Knick to hold onto the ball rather than swing it around as they tried to run the clock out late in the gluttonous chase of empty points, and walking off the court back to the locker room while his teammates were running out the final seconds, the only way Randle could have given less of a shit — on a night where he’d shot lights out in the first half — was if he’d retired at intermission.
And yet that was one fly in an otherwise fabulous bowl of soup. The Knicks had a lot riding on this one. Lose and a road trip that started out so promising crashes and burns with a three-game losing streak. Instead, the swing so many thought would trigger the axe to swing on Thibs’ head didn’t go 1-4 or 0-5 but 3-2. This was their fifth road win; the only team in the East with more is Boston. Sure, the Knicks have also played more road games than any conference peer besides Charlotte. Still. A win is a win is a win; quoth Jaybugkit: “Good win Knicks.”
- This was my 225th recap at P&T. It’s also my last. I’m not leaving the site, I’m just not writing recaps here anymore (I will continue to at The Strickland). I used to dream I’d write this to you all because somewhere out there someone would love my work and hire me to come work for them, and earn enough money to order Chinese food whenever I want. The truth is I’m done writing recaps here because the time they take to write plus the money they pay isn’t worth it.
If I write three recaps a week, spending 140 minutes watching each game and 100 minutes writing each recap, my hourly pay is below New York’s minimum wage. With room to spare. A lot of recaps take longer than 100 minutes, so that math’s not a lotta fun. I’ll still be writing here — more per week, probably. But they’ll be shorter. That’s the only way to balance the love I have for this site with my hate for how everyone here is exploited.
The first recap I ever wrote here is one I can’t find online anymore. It was the Knicks’ first win of the 2014-15 season, when they went into Cleveland and beat the Cavaliers in LeBron James’ home opener after taking his talents from South Beach to Ohio. Some of you remember it as The Travis Wear Game. Funny story: the game quote that night was “I feel amazing.” No matter how I arrange my search terms, Google shows no results for that recap. It does, though, consistently bring up a recap from last season when the Cavs beat the Knicks, with the game quote “I hate this team.” That pops up every time, natch.
Luckily this site’s been blessed with the arrival and growth of Russell, Lee, Kento, Antonio and Sean, so recaps are in many good hands. For my part, I will always remember this recap for giving me one more chance to remind you of my obsession with eight-second violations. The basket that salted this one away, an alley-oop from Brunson to RJ, came after an obvious example. LOOK!
JALEN BRUNSON ALLEY-OOP TO RJ BARRETT— KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) November 22, 2022
WHAT A NIGHT pic.twitter.com/kA0ljXK52g
I also wanna thank the many of you who’ve sent kind emails to me over the years about something I’ve written. I’ve failed to answer too many of you, which I can assure is nothing personal but is entirely related to my everyday inability to strike any kind of balance in my life.
New York has three days off, which is good considering Mike Muscala fell on Brunson’s legs late. Next game is Friday night when they host Portland. To say it’s been real doesn’t do it justice. It’s been dreamy, loves. Peace.