1. Julius Randle is ready for your All-Star votes: Julius Randle had another dominant night in Atlanta, leading all scorers in the Knicks’ 116-114 win. For the second time at State Farm Arena this season, he just missed a triple double. He made 12 of his 24 field goal attempts for 29 points, recorded 10 boards and eight assists, and bullied all over the paint. Josh wrote more about his resurgent play here.
And the Knicks needed him to step up. With RJ Barrett out for the second straight game (migraine), the team had to find an extra 20+ points somewhere. Julius, Jalen Brunson, and Immanuel Quickley answered the call, combining for 73 points on 26-of-54 shooting from the field.
Randle would finish last night with a plus/minus of +12, the highest of the team. The ankle issue that affected his first few games seems to be behind him. For now. Let’s hope it doesn’t recur throughout the season.
2. Mitchell Robinson is still not appreciated enough: The Knicks grabbed 14 offensive rebounds last night, and six belonged to Mitch. All told, the big fella would collect 15 boards and four stocks. In a game they won by two points, New York scored 21 second chance points to Atlanta’s four. That was largely due to Mitchell’s efforts.
I heard someone poo-poo the fact that Mitch committed no fouls last night. No, we should shout that statistic from the rooftops. Every other Knick who took the court fouled somebody at least once. Robinson worked feverishly for 30+ minutes in traffic, flailing and wailing, and didn’t get whistled once? In a game ref’d by Scott Foster? For a guy who spent much of his early career in foul trouble, Mitch’s clean play deserves a bow.
3. These won’t-quit Knicks have endless grit: Despite leading for much of the game, the Knicks fell behind by seven late last night. Thibs called a timeout, the team regrouped, and roared back with an 8-0 run.
They weren’t playing pretty basketball, and the Knicks could have folded multiple times down the stretch. Knicks teams of not long ago would have. These Knicks don’t. As the clock wound down, after playing 30 feverish minutes, Mitchell Robinson still leaped and lurched about the court; Josh Hart played as though he was barely winded; rather than losing their accuracy from fatigue, Brunson, Randle, and Quickley each made important shots down the stretch. It is easy to root for a team with so much pride and fortitude.
In particular: Jalen Brunson. Brunson had an efficient first quarter, but struggled for stretches as the game progressed. He never quits, though, and always looks for ways to contribute. If his shot doesn’t fall, he’ll sacrifice his body to get steamrolled for a hard charge on the defensive end. In the fourth quarter, with victory teetering and tilting away, he dug deep and sank critical buckets. It was his jumper with 19 seconds left to give New York the necessary padding to win the game.
Brunson is a winner to his core, and he sets the standard for everyone else. With all due respect to Frankie Smokes, this is a team of dawgs. Just thinking about their last game gets me excited about watching the next one. What else can you ask for as a fan?
Look out, Wizards. Go Knicks!