Over the past few weeks, the Knicks have changed from a frustratingly mediocre into one that’s thrilling to watch, as evidenced by Sunday’s scratch-and-claw victory in Indiana. They currently lead the Eastern Conference with 13.1 offensive rebounds per game, thanks to significant efforts from Mitchell Robinson, who is averaging 4.2 O-Boards per outing.
The Knicks have a 7-7 record at home, while the Warriors are 3-14 on the road and will be without future Hall of Famer Stephen Curry (shoulder). And yet, don’t sleep on them, Knickerbockers. The Warriors pasted a 126-110 win on the Toronto Raptors, in which Jordan Poole scored a career-best 43 points. GSW ranks 11th in the league for offense and 17th for defense, with a net of +0.7. They’re also the NBA’s fleetest of foot, rating first for pace.
Worried? Nah. Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m. EST, nickelbaker fans.
Jalen Brunson has averaged 21.4 points over the last 10 games and shot 49% from three over that span. 49%! The one complaint commonly repeated about Brunson concerns his inefficiency on defense—to be fair, the guy is 6’1”—but his defensive rating over the last 10 games is 107.1, a marked improvement on his season average of 113.5. If he keeps this up, he will be completely flawless soon and ascend, at last, to the MSG rafters as legend.
Poole (6’4”, 194 lb.) has averaged 19 points, 4.6 assists, and 2.2 rebounds in 31 games this season while shooting 43.6% from the field and 33% from deep on about seven attempts per game. He’s coming off a career night above the border and dropped 29 against Philadelphia in their previous game. He’s a turnover machine, coughing up the ball 3.1 times per game and ranking sixth in the league for total giveaways (97).
During the Knicks’ winning streak, Quentin Grimes has averaged 12.4 points, five rebounds, and 1.7 assists, and had a stout 100.9 defensive rating. In his one game of significant minutes (31) versus Klay Thompson (6’6”, 215 lb.), Grimes finished with six points and three boards whereas Thompson had 17 points, seven boards, and five dimes. Call this the Quentin Grimes revenge game. This season, the veteran Thompson has averaged 18.4 points while shooting 40% from the floor and 38% from deep on almost 10 attempts per game.
RJ Barrett had a defensive rating of 118 through his first 20 games, but that’s jumped to 102.1 in his last 7 games. Tonight he’ll likely face Donte DiVincenzo (6’4”, 203 lb.), starting while Andrew Wiggins nurses an injured groin. This year, DDV has averaged 6.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 23 games. He’s shooting 39% from the floor, and 37% from deep. Put the clamps on him, Mamba!
Julius Randle is averaging 22.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists this season. He had a defensive rating of 115.6 through his first 20 games, but that has improved to 100.6 over the last seven outings. Noticing a theme? All the Knicks are locked in on D.
Draymond Green (6’6”, 230 lb.) has dealt with a quadriceps issue of late but played on Sunday in Toronto. He has averaged 8.4 points, 6.6 assists, and 6.1 rebounds. His defensive rating of 112.1 is the worst of his 11-year career. I never noticed that he hails from Saginaw, MI, and now I’ll never hear that Simon & Garfunkel song without remembering that fact. Damn this curiosity shop brain of mine.
Mitchell Robinson is a beast. His defensive rating during the win streak? 99.1. According to stats, he’s the league’s third-best offensive rebounder. His Warrior counterpart Kevon Looney (6’9”, 222 lb.) has averaged 9.7 rebounds, 8.1 points, and 2.5 assists in 10 games in his last 10 games.
This will be the Warriors’ fifth game of a six-game road trip, which wraps up tomorrow in Brooklyn. They took the Raptors to the woodshed on Sunday, but that might have had more to do with Toronto being in a free-fall. (We’ll see them in the next game.) Golden State will put up a fight, but the Knicks win in the end by six.
Madison Square Garden. NYC. Tuesday. 7:30 p.m. EST. G-o-o-o Knicks!