I live in Virginia, so I don’t have the option of turning to MSG when the game is televised nationally. Wednesday’s game was on ESPN, which meant an infuriating amount of time was spent hyping up the “Trae Young at MSG” angle. Young and the Hawks went 2-1 at the Garden two years ago in a first-round playoff series, and they have pretty much dined out on that ever since. Much was made of Young’s “King of Broadway” sneakers, which kept showing up on the broadcast. It was annoying as hell.
And then the game started. It was clear from the first quarter that Quentin Grimes was going to give Trae the business defensively. The Knicks finished the quarter with an 11-point lead and built an 18-point lead early in the second, but a disturbing 17-0 Hawks run gave Knicks fans nightmares about yet another Knicks choke job. Fortunately, Grimes got back into the game and quickly helped New York end the half on a run to bring the lead to 12.
The third quarter was absolutely beautiful. Julius Randle scored 19 points in the period, as the injury-decimated Hawks forward rotation had absolutely no answer. Grimes continued to hound Young, until he was removed early in the period for Miles McBride. Deuce gave up a few more Young buckets than his teammate, but overall he helped end Trae’s night early as the Knicks pushed the lead well past 20.
The only drama in the fourth was the fact that Thibs had to really get weird with the lineups in a blowout win, since Obi Toppin (sore knee) didn’t play after halftime while Derrick Rose and Cam Reddish (probably about to get traded) were stuck on the bench. I believe the Knicks played Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims together late in the fourth, but don’t quote me on that. All in all, the second half was a laugher. Between this and Sunday’s big win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Knicks have looked pretty darn good. Twas a pair of fine wins, as P&T’er Major Kong noted.
- Except for a bizarre scoreless second quarter, Julius Randle was utterly magnificent throughout. He finished with 34 points on 10-19 shooting (6-12 from three), 17 rebounds and five assists and zero turnovers. He was finding open shooters consistently when he had the ball down low, which is always a good sign. He also played spirited defense, which is always a tremendous sign.
- Is Quentin Grimes the Knicks’ best non-Brunson guard? If his three-point shot is falling, I’d have to say yes. The defense is certainly legit. He shut down Young and Donovan Mitchell in back-to-back games. Grimes didn’t shoot it well in Sunday’s defensive slugfest, but he had the jumper working Wednesday: 23 points on 8-11 shooting, 5-7 from three. The defense is real. The passing is real. If the jumper is back to last season’s form, that is a special player. They’re going to need to start getting him the ball more on offense.
- Deuce has struggled with his jumper this season (like seemingly every Knick, if we’re being honest), but on Wednesday he showed what he has to offer an NBA offense. He only shot 1-4 from the field, but he chipped in six assists and showed show feistiness handling the ball in the pick-and-roll. Anyone who saw him in college or the G League knows he has those skills, but he has yet to show them off at the NBA level. The fact that Thibs picked him over Reddish suggests that he has his believers in the organization. And the defense will continue to play, of course.
- Jalen Brunson was bad. It didn’t matter.
- RJ Barrett was bad. It technically didn’t matter either, but we’re very, very close to needing to have “the talk” about RJ on this here website.
- Nine offensive rebounds for Mitchell Robinson. Two assists also, which is probably more surprising.