For your consideration . . . here are three thoughts that occurred during my kid’s basketball practice while I was in the stands, reflecting on the Knicks’ 120-99 win over the Washington Wizards last night. (We write when and where we can, folks.)
1. The Knicks were never going to lose the game.
New York held the lead throughout, running their advantage up to as many as 21 points. Although they allowed Washington to climb within single digits in the second half, it had more to do with boredom on the part of the Knicks, and maybe a dash of fatigue.
The Knicks just had to keep their grip on the rope. They are a far better team than the two-and-ten Washington Wizards. The numbers don’t lie. . . .
Despite having the fourth-toughest strength of schedule, the Knicks have held opponents under their average point totals in 11 out of 12 games this season. They rank first in the league for surrendered points per game (104.7). By three-tenths they sit second behind the Celtics for rebounds per game (47.3), and New York is tops for offensive, defense, and overall rebounding percentages. Not just a top five defense, they are on the cusp of being a top ten offense. They have a Net Rating of +5.6.
As for offense, over the past five games, they are tied with Phoenix as the league’s second-best three-point shooting team, and are one tenth behind the Los Angeles Lakers. Over that same span, they’ve had the league’s second-best offensive rating.
Small sample sizes, sure, but who can deny that this is a good team? This is a very good team. I daresay . . . oh, I’ll get flamed for it, but whatever: They’re a great team. Now they just have to prove it.
2. So what Immanuel Quickley didn’t start?
Last night, New York was missing two starters, one being Quentin Grimes. When the starting lineup was announced, some gasped because Donte DiVincenzo was inserted for Grimes at the shooting guard position. Immanuel Quickley deserves his turn! He’s told us that he wants to be a starter in this league and he should, at every opportunity!
But remember how this team is constructed. Jalen Brunson is the starting point guard, and Tom Thibodeau prizes Quickley as the second unit’s floor general. When the starters start slowly—or start hot but then flag—a sparkplug is needed off the bench to revive the troops. I.Q. has played that role time and again for New York; he did last nigtht, too.
Quickley is my favorite player to watch on the team, so like many of you, I’d love to see him get more burn. As the season rolls on, I’m sure he’ll get plenty of usage. As he did last night. In a “hometown” game with his mom courtside, Quickley nailed a number of clutch buckets to keep the balance in New York’s favor. The starter, DiVo, logged 24 minutes and 14 points; the reserve, Quickley, recorded 32 minutes and 27 points. In fact, both players shot 55.6% from the field and well from downtown (50% for DDV; 43% for IQ).
Excellent shooting and defensive play from both guards? Quentin Grimes might find a roster change has occurred when he returns. . . .
Oh, and Brunson had a 32/7/7 game while shooting 60% from long range, by the way. Logged 33 minutes . . . one more than I.Q.
3. The RJ Barrett situation may seem fishy, but probably isn’t.
Despite appearing upbeat before last night’s game in Washington, RJ Barrett unexpectedly missed his third consecutive game due to migraines. His absence confused coach Tom Thibodeau, who told the press that Barrett was “very sick”, but didn’t specify the ailment.
At the start of November, RJ missed two games due to knee soreness. Reportedly, he had nursed the knee pain since opening night, when he tweaked it against the Celtics. Skim yesterday’s comments sections and X-threads and you’d read speculation that RJ is using “migraine” as a cover for a nagging knee issue.
Is it possible that he’s masking a knee condition? Sure. But historical evidence challenges the likelihood of that. First, he’s been a durable player throughout his career and never one to sit for flaky reasons. Barrett played in 84 of a possible 93 contests last season, including the Playoffs. When his something hurt, the team admitted it hurt; when he had the Montezuma poo-poos, the team put it right on the top of the injury report. (Only they called it a “stomach virus.”)
If he misses tonight’s game, you have permission to send in your own medical team to check him over. For now, I’d take his word for it.
Just in time, practice is over. On to the next adventure. Go Knicks!