Truth be told, that was close.
So close, in fact, that KLoco is about to scream for a defibrillator. So close that the Knicks needed “team basketball to win together [after] losing together” a few days ago, said Remyswords.
But most of all, as DeuceJuice put it in the game thread’s comments section: “We are going to be a handful every night. Our depth is our strength.”
That’s an undeniable, undisputable, incontestable, irrefutable, and unquestionable statement.
If you checked the links, cool. If you didn’t, here’s a quick recap: backups stepping up, big men dominating in the paint, ball movement like you earn bonus points by passing the point, and a style of play that would have Greg Popovich thinking his early-aughts Spurs were the team on the court on Friday.
Let’s not go overboard and wax poetic about a game played in October, but let’s not take from what these dudes did to the Hawks before the weekend.
New York featured three honchos, 1A-1B-1C if you wish, in Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Jalen Brunson. Perhaps coach Quin Snyder should update his two-man calculus.
The combined tally? 94 points scored or assisted, which is to say 75% of the Knicks' production. I know I opened the recap by highlighting this team’s so-called strength in numbers (sorry for usurping your motto, Dubs), but these three are not a BIG 3 in anybody’s mind yet they did on Friday what you’d demand from such a group, not to mention the help they received from their fellow starters and the bench mob.
One game after going MIA in his debut with the Knicks, Donte DiVincenzo bagged 16 points on 10 shots spread over 20 minutes.
Immanuel Quickley had what you’d call a bad day and still put up a smooth 11-6-6-1 line.
Mitchell Robinson filled the sheet with 13 rebounds (six of them offensive), four steals, four blocks, one assist, and seven points.
And of course, the aforementioned RJ-JR-JB trifecta combined for 74 points, 18 rebounds, and 20 assists.
Following an ugly opener on Wednesday in which he shot 5-of-22 from the floor, Randle hit 4-of-10 shots but contributed 12 boards and nine dimes.
Tom Thibodeau mentioned the change of approach to the game on Thursday, compared to the one used against Boston, ahead of the matchup at Atlanta.
“I don’t want people locked in to, ‘I gotta get more shots.’ The game tells you who’s going to get the shots,” Thibs said. “If Jalen’s blitzed, hit the open man. If Julius is double-teamed, hit the open man. RJ, double-teamed? Hit the open man.”
So that’s what Randle and everybody else did on this day. JR, in particular, dished out dimes worth 25 points. Not bad for a big man. Brunson shared the rock five times for a return of 13 points scored by their pals. Barrett? Six assists leading to 15 points.
The Knicks approached shooting splits reading 48/45/71 from the floor, beyond the arc, and at the charity stripe. They surely made those freebies (early and late) fall going 20-of-28 from the line. They hit 20-of-44 three-point shots. They hit 43-of-90 shots from the field.
Everybody who hoisted a field-goal attempt donning Knickerbocker threads on Friday went home having found paydirt twice at least. Of the seven players who shot at least one three-ball, all but Josh Hart scored on one or more occasions. And everybody who attempted a free throw heard at least one swish.
Breen: "8 three-pointers…career high for you. Are there some nights where the rim just looks big?…"— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) October 28, 2023
Brunson: (checks rim) "Looks the same to me"pic.twitter.com/Mf5KkEjc76
Brunson had a career day scoring more three-pointers than he’d ever done before by dropping eight on 12 attempts. 31 points for him on the day, with a solid 11-of-21 from the floor. Yet to him, Atlanta’s rims “look the same to me.”
And of course, all Brunson had to say right after the game was over was “Can I learn how not to turn the ball over in the last couple minutes?” Give yourself a break, J!
Barrett, the ever-not-quite-there player, might be exploding in front of our eyes. For real this time.
The highlight reel is akin to an exotically exquisite buffet of basketball assortments.
I have been an enlisted RJ Soldier since he became a pro—if not earlier—so I need no convincing. For those out there still doubting, keep believing and trust me.
RJ was the best starter against the C’s, and he doubled down in Game 2 against the Hawks putting up a 26-3-6-1 line with pinpoint-accurate shooting at 60/60/83.
Our favorite forgotten man, Mitchell Robinson, was the one getting the flowers from coach Thibs in the post-game presser.
“The rim protection, and then offensively the screening, and then rolling to the rim... force the defense to collapse. That’s unselfishness,” said Thibs about Mitch. “When you do that, you’re making a commitment to the team.
“I know his teammates appreciate him, and certainly the coaches and our entire organization, front office. He has great value.”
A few days ago, former Knicks GM Scott Perry echoed the same sentiment in an interview with the Hoop Genius folks.
“[Robinson] is the player that I’m probably most proud of in my 23-year career,” Perry stated. “He’s been the starting center for five years, so he’s become a great story. Everybody can’t play [in New York]. Mitchell could really function there because he’s oblivious to the outside noise.
“Mitchell’s really the young country guy.”
So the “country guy,” after going through some foul trouble in the season opener, logged a team-high 38 minutes on Friday and pulled down 13 rebounds. He’s grabbed nine O-Boards (the fifth-most leaguewide) in fewer than 60 minutes of play through two games.
The only other player with more such actions in fewer minutes? Clint Capela. But at least Mitch doesn’t lose games for his team. Mic drop.
P&T will hand you your daily dose of Knickerbocker basketball coverage tonight from New Orleans as New York goes on to play the second of these two back-to-back, on-the-road games. The foe this time? The Zion-led Pelicans (1-0). Tip-off at 7:00 pm ET. Don’t miss it.