Make it four wins in a row, folks.
Perhaps you have forgotten, but the last time we reported on a New York Knicks game it was all the way back on Feb. 15 with the All-Star game still to be played. Nothing has changed, though, as the Knickerbockers returned to action on Friday in DC and did what they had us accustomed to these days: winning games.
New York (34-27) pulled off an extraordinary 115-109 come-from-behind victory over the Washington Wizards (28-31) after digging themselves a 19-point hole throughout the first half. Check this beautiful Win Probability chart courtesy of ESPN.
This matchup had it all including a malfunctioning Kristaps Porzingis scoring four points after the first quarter... and a sublime Julius Randle tying his scoring career-high mark of 46 pops and dumping buckets in bunches.
It was the third time this season Randle has reached 40+ points, also matching Jalen Brunson on that (2022-23) front. It’s also, according to the smart folks from ESPN Stats & Info, the first pair of Knickerbocker teammates that scores 40+ points at least three times each in the same campaign. That’s great!
“Just came out aggressive,” Randle said. “This time of the year, got to lock in.”
You bet, my man.
In a day in which Brunson struggled a bit more than he uses to (13 points on 39 minutes shooting 6-of-20 from the floor), he made up for the bucket-getting woes by dishing out nine dimes and pulling down four rebounds. Randle paired that production with his own 46-piece to go with two boards, two assists, and two steals.
“Beautiful. The way [Randle] played, really, he’s the reason we won,” Brunson said of his All-Star teammate. “He kept us in it. That’s just Julius being Julius. Happy he did it today,” Brunson finished.
Only one player donning NYC threads dub-dubbed in DC on Friday, and it was our beloved and returning Mitchell Robinson, who most definitely hit the ground running with 10 points and 12 boards (along with a block and a theft, mind you).
“Getting Mitch back is a big plus for us,” said Tom Thibodeau. “We know how important he is to the team and the things that he brings to our team.” Thibs also had nice words for all other Knickerbockers: “Josh [Hart] has given us a good jolt, and he’s helped in a lot of different ways. [Immanuel Quickley] has been terrific for a long stretch now. The way Jalen is playing and Julius is playing, we’ve played off that extremely well.”
Brunson might not have had his best game, but he still hit the go-ahead layup with less than a minute left to put the Knicks up for good sealing their sixth win in the last seven games. Can’t complain.
“The way we fought speaks volumes,” Brunson said. “We’ve got to start that way from the beginning. I’m happy we can learn from a win but we’ve got to continue to get better.” The vibes.
While New York was completing their comeback their neighbors from Brooklyn were getting denied by a Chicago Bulls team that limited the Nets to 29 points by the halftime break. Limited the Nets to 29 points by the halftime break. To 29 points by the halftime break. By the halftime break. Breaking them they did, indeed. Sheesh...
All of that is to say that the Knicks are in sole possession of the no. 6 seed in the East one game behind no. 5 Brooklyn (34-27) and 1.5 games above no. 7 Miami (32-28). The streaks: Nets L1, Heat L3, Knicks W4.
“We can do it. We understand the time is now,” Randle said. “We had to start off the last part of the season with a win, so we did that.”
The return of Mitch sent Jericho Sims back to DNP-CD territory. Isaiah Hartenstein got 20 minutes off the pine (four points, 10 boards, two steals) while Obi Topping manned the wings for 12 minutes.
I-Hart knows what’s coming: “now me (and Mitchell Robinson) being healthy, we’ll be in a position where we have a one-two punch as we had with the Clippers last year.” Speaking about the stretch of games the Knicks had to play without their main big man, Hartenstein thinks that the team ”struggled at the beginning,” although that span taking on a larger role allowed him to “gain my confidence back, start to play better, feel healthier.”
Not that we’re out here boasting, am I right Hartenstein? “We can’t go too much in the future. Got to keep building. Now that we’ve got Josh, me, IQ, and Obi off the bench... that’s pretty difficult to stop for any other bench.” Good assessment of the pulse.
Fellow newcomer Josh Hart agrees with the former Clip. “I’m not gonna sit here and say that we can be the two-seed or whatever it is. But we’re a team who can make a run, who I think teams won’t want to play.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau saw the sky open midway through the matchup. “Once we got lost in the game... and started getting some stops and the rebounding was good, and then the movement without the ball,” he started, “(then) we got some easy buckets and that got us going.”
Thibs kept talking, understandable after more than a week deprived of press conferences. “It was a big win for us. We needed this, especially coming off the break.”
The Knicks closed the game without RJ Barrett on the floor, though he wasn’t bitching about that decision on Friday like he did when Thibs lastly did it to him a few weeks back. RJ scored 14 points in 28 minutes while contributing three dimes, a steal, a block, and grabbing a couple of boards while turning the ball over three times.
“I love our depth. We have a number of guys that are coming off the bench that are starters. There’s no dropoff. So whoever is going good, whatever the best matchup is, that’s what we’re going to go with,” Thibs reasoned when explaining his rotations and end-of-game lineup decisions. “We need everyone. We’re asking guys to sacrifice. Some guys would like to start and they’re not starting. And some guys would like more shots and more minutes. That’s common. But everyone has to put the team first.”
Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley, both oft-lost in the conversation, started and came off the pine playing 21 and 30 minutes respectively. IQ, a Sixth Man of the Year Candidate hiding in plain sight, bagged 16 points while assisting a bucket and pulling down three boards, one of them offensive.
Derrick Rose, Miles McBride, the aforementioned Dunkaroo Sims, and 10-dayer Trevor Keels didn’t log a minute. Cold World, same old Thibs.
Your Knicks are back hooping at MSG tonight (tonight!) hosting the Zion-less New Orleans Pelicans (30-30). Tip-off at 7:30 PM EST. Don’t miss it!