A Knicks matinee game provided a welcome reprieve from my leaf-raking today. As a bonus, I got to watch the most complete Knicks victory of the season. Not a bad Sunday!
The Charlotte Hornets are a capable offensive squad, ranking seventh in points per game (117.2) and third for pace, but they played today without their points leader, Terry Rozier. (Fun fact: Charolette was 8-11 in games without Rozier last season and finished 27-55 overall . . . you do the math.)
In their final game of a three-game homestand, the Knicks had five players record double-digit points, shot 42% from downtown, and easily drubbed the Hornets, 129-107. Here’s how it went down.
The Knickerbockers ate their Wheaties this morning. Julius Randle scored the first five points of the game and grabbed a steal before two minutes had passed, and the team combined for 6-of-12 FG by midway through the first.
good afternoon from Julius Randle pic.twitter.com/3aqTwNNp3i— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) November 12, 2023
The Hornets kept up, however, making six of their nine shots to knot the score at 13. Rookie Brandon Miller, selected second in this year’s draft, filled in for Rozier, but left the game late in the first quarter with an limp. He and LaMelo Ball were responsible for most of the Hornets’ offense through the first frame. Miller would play only 10 minutes today.
Charlotte’s center Mark Williams was outmatched by New York’s Mitchell Robinson around the rim. With three minutes to go, Isaiah Hartenstein subbed in and continued New York’s dominant center play. (In case you doubted the harmony between New York’s big men, Fred Katz reported that Hartenstein warmed up in a Robinson shirt.)
Apropos of the Knicks’ hot-shooting start, Immanuel Quickley shredded the net with a three-point swish at the buzzer to close the quarter. Knicks headed into the second frame, up 32-25. The Knicks have made 52% of their 25 shots so far, and four of seven three point attempts.
The hometown hoopers displayed great defense through the first quarter, with energetic steals, swats, and deflections from the starters. It’s easy to love a team that plays like this:
getting it done on both sides pic.twitter.com/52WIYhRVyr— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) November 12, 2023
More blazing buckets from the Knicks! They were shooting almost 60% from beyond the arc, on 12 attempts, by the second quarter’s seven minute mark. Through the first half, five Knicks were in double figures, and five had logged at least one triple. Befitting of Military Appreciation Day, Quickley led the long-range fusillade with 12 points, two rebounds, two assists, and three treys on four attempts . . . in 12 minutes.
Through two quarters, Jalen Brunson quietly collected 15 points, while making six of his 11 field goals, two of them triples. Remarkably, Jalen drew ANOTHER charge, this time with a flying LaMelo Ball elbow to the face. Is there a player in the NBA who draws offensive fouls better and more fearlessly than Brunson?
In the frontcourt, Julius Randle bullied his way to the rim with ease. He played very well through this first half, scoring a tidy 10 points and adding three assists, two steals, and committing only one turnover. Robinson continued to clean up the offensive rebounds for either an easy flush or a dish out. Mitch had nearly a double-double (10 points, eight boards) after playing only 14 minutes.
The 22-year old LaMelo certainly looked like the opponent’s best player. He had back-to-back 30 point games earlier this season, and during one stretch today, he scored 10 straight points. He finished the first half with 21 points, five boards, and four dimes while converting three of five three-point attempts.
Continuing their incredible ball protection from their last game, New York committed only two turnovers through the first half. And look at this ball movement:
New York’s largest lead of the half was 16 points and they entered intermission ahead, 64-54. Charlotte actually outshot them from the floor, 55% to 52%, but the Knicks cooked them from deep, 44% to 31%. New York is rolling in all the right ways. They grabbed four and cashed in 10 fast break points; they committed only two turnovers and seven personal fouls.
The Hornets kept neck-and-neck throughout, however, and if not for those 11 missed three-pointers, the score would have been much closer.
Your halftime shot chart:
Out of intermission, the Knicks scored the first seven points and kept rolling. Steve Clifford needed to call time out for his team when they fell behind 80-59, four minutes into the third quarter. Didn’t help. New York would push the lead to 23 points by midway through the frame. An 8-0 run by Charlotte narrowed the margin to 15 points. The Knicks were just too strong for these bees.
Julius, Mitch, and Brunson kept thriving. Bench guys Quickley, Hartenstein, DiVincenzo, and Hart all contributed meaningful minutes. With so many teammates playing well, R.J. Barrett can get lost in the shuffle, but he has delivered another great game. (Stats to follow.) On both ends of the floor, he and Mitch have been the steadiest and most consistent Knicks through these early games.
New York closed the quarter up, 99-79. After three quarters, the Knicks had taken 23 free throws to Charlotte’s nine; New York had turned the ball over six times to Charlotte’s 10.
DiVo with the denial!
Barrett turned his ankle within the first two minutes of the fourth, but he shook it off and added another triple to his total. The Knicks kept their foot on the gas and breezed through the fourth. The only blemish: Hartenstein fouled out, the first Knick to do so this season. Clifford emptied his bench early, the Knicks went up by as many as 29, and the game was a wrap.
For the second straight game, three Knicks players racked up over 20 points. New York out-gunned the Hornets from the floor, 54%-47%, and made 15 of 36 three-point attempts (42%).
Over the last two tilts, New York has shot 34-of-78 from downtown. My calculator says that’s 44%. Holy Cow, as Rizzuto would say.
- Jalen Brunson: 20 points, one apiece for rebounds, assists, steals, and turnovers, 7-of-12 FG, 2-of-4 3P, 27 minutes.
- Quentin Grimes: six points, one apiece for rebounds, assists, and steals, 2-of-5 FG (all threes), 23 minutes.
- R.J. Barrett: +26! Team-high 24 points, four boards, two assists, one apiece for steals, blocks, turnovers, and fouls, 9-of-16 FG, 4-of-6 3P, 31 minutes.
- Julius Randle: 23 points, five rebounds and assists, three steals (!), three turnovers, and one foul, 8-of-16 FG, 1-of-4 3P, 27 minutes.
- Mitchell Robinson: 10 points, nine rebounds, one steal, two fouls, 24 minutes.
The Hornets appear four times on the Knicks schedule this season; they’ll meet again next Saturday in Charlotte. In the more immediate future, the Knicks will ride their three-game win streak into Boston tomorrow night. Tomorrow’s game won’t be a cruise like today, but a New York team that’s firing on all cylinders looks ready to take on the Celtics. Can’t wait.
Off to rake those leaves. Safe travels, Knickerbockers.