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Takeaways from the Knicks’ victory over the Hornets

The Knicks took care of business, Randle and Hart were groovy, and Bridges got booed.

Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Last night, the Knicks secured an In-Season Tournament Eastern Conference wild-card spot with their 115-91 victory over Charlotte Hornets. Next Tuesday, they will face Milwaukee Bucks in the knockout stage.

Jalen Brunson was surprisingly flat last night, scoring only 10 points on nine shot attempts. That happens. We would prefer an off-night against a team of scrubs than versus an upper-tier opponent. Still, Jalen broke a streak of nine consecutive games with 20-plus points, which would have been nice to continue. No worries, many games remain on the schedule.

Even on a quiet night, Brunson finds ways to contribute. Last night, he tallied up seven dimes and three steals and finished +20 in his 34 minutes.

To keep their wild card hopes alive, New York needed a blowout win to tip the IST’s point-differential tiebreaker in their favor. Jalen’s teammates stepped up to compensate for Brunson’s low-scoring. From the bench, Immanuel Quickley scored 23 points (on 45% and 40% shooting), and Josh Hart added a season-best 17 points (on 80% eFG; more him below). But the team’s true battery on Tuesday night was Julius Randle.

Randle played possibly his most complete game of the season. In 34 minutes, he logged a double-double with 25 points and 20 rebounds, five assists, and two steals. He finished +27 in his 34 minutes. His longball still isn’t satisfactory—last night he made two of his seven attempts from beyond the arc—but he did convert eight of 15 field goal attempts. Furthermore, his defense didn’t sag or lag the way it sometimes does. He logged a team-high defensive rating of 84.

To see Julius thoroughly dominate against the Hornets frontcourt was encouraging. Maybe this performance will prove to be a needed confidence booster that propels him into the heart of the season.

As for the Hornets’ forward, Miles Bridges, the Madison Square Garden crowd booed him throughout the game. The NBA had suspended Bridges for 30 games in April 2023 pertaining to a domestic violence incident. You must know the story by now; he missed the entire 2022-23 season. Tuesday’s tilt marked his sixth game back in a Charlotte uniform. Over those six games, Bridges has averaged almost 20 points and eight boards while playing 36 minutes per game and shooting well. He scored 13 points on 5-of-12 FG last night. I look forward to booing him again.

This week, Josh Hart made headlines by saying he felt out of rhythm with the team’s offense. Coach Thibodeau responded, claiming that Hart’s usage is actually up and adding, “He hasn’t shot the three as well as he did last year, but [when] he’s open, he can’t hesitate. He’s got to shoot it.”

After all that hullabaloo, Hart scored a season-high 17 points. He hadn’t reached 17 or more in his last 22 games as a Knick. Welcome back, Josh. Last night, he made seven of his ten field goal attempts, including two of three from downtown. He also added six rebounds, two assists, and one steal in the game. Maybe this means he got his groove back?

The Detroit Pistons visit MSG tomorrow night. Detroit has lost 14 straight and host the Lakers at home tonight. Mark it 15, dude. Since the free-falling Pistons are in even worse shape than Charlotte, there’s no reason the Knicks shouldn’t win every quarter and let the reserves get some burn in the fourth. Deuce for 30 points! Sims with 10 rebounds!

Go Knicks.