”We gave away one to Charlotte, and then we had a tough two to begin the road trip, so to finish it .500 and go back home...we’ll take it.”
The New York Knicks (41-30) defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 123-107 on the road to wrap up their Western Trip, returning to MSG with a 2-2 record under their collective belt.
And, judging by Josh Hart’s words, they’re plenty happy with it.
New York couldn’t count on Jalen Brunson (sore foot), but neither could Portland use Jerami Grant, both missing yesterday’s meeting. Damian Lillard was doubtful, but he ultimately started at the point and bagged 38 points. No Knickerbocker got past 26 pops.
In fact, the Knicks started poorly, falling down 0-10 through the first four-and-change minutes of play. RJ Barrett broke that collective collapse by hitting a three-point shot to make it 3-10, and it was all good (almost) from there.
New York finished the first stanza down 20-33, but improved to 49-55 by halftime, and came out of the locker room flaming hot, dumping 42 points on Portland in the third quarter alone. That was all your Knicks needed, as the final quarter was a mere 12-minute procedure on their way to earning their second W in as many games.
For the second game in a row, the bench was key for the Knicks.
New York’s reserves outscored Portland’s second unit 45-12. No typo.
Obi Toppin contributed 11 points, Hart added 16, and Miles McBride had his best game as a pro, scoring a career-high 18 points, dishing out three dimes, swatting two shots (also a career-best), pulling down one rebound, and stealing one possession. Deuce hit four threes of the five he attempted.
“Honestly, I knew I needed to step up,” McBride said. “End of a road trip, I felt like we came out flat, and I just wanted to be a spark, give energy and do what I can.” You bet he did.
McBride finished the day with a +17, the third-best mark among all participants in Tuesday’s game. Hartenstein (+20) didn’t score a single point, but grabbed 11 boards while assisting four buckets. Hart fell just one rebound and two assists short of a triple-double.
“If I didn’t score a point and we win...I’d still be happy,” said Decue. “Just being able to impact the game however I can, that’s always the number one thing,” he added later. The combo guard thinks “the second unit knows that when we get in, our job is just to look at the score, understand what we have to do as a unit, and move the needle.”
Hart seems to agree with Deuce’s opinion. “That’s what you’re supposed to do when you come off the bench—you don’t want to go in and just maintain energy, and you definitely don’t want to go in and have the energy drop,” said the newest Knick.e “Your role when you come in off the bench is to bring energy and elevate the game, said Hart, who thinks “we’ve been doing that the last two or three weeks and tonight was another example of that.”
Two starters on the Knicks side put up double-doubles: Julius Randle got 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Immanuel Quickley finished with 26 points and 10 boards. Both players were the only starters from New York to log at least one dime (four and three, respectively) with the bench mob contributing 12 between them all.
“We got off to a sluggish start, and then our bench came in and gave us a huge lift,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Thibs thinks “a lot of that could be attributed to Josh, nearly a triple-double,” although he also praised the rest of the Knicks getting heavy minutes at the PDX. “Quickley had some big shots, and Deuce, you can’t say enough about what he did. That’s probably his best game as a pro.” Thibodeau “was very pleased overall with our defense,” while he also acknowledged that the Knicks’ rebounding ”was very good,” and the fact that the team “took care of the ball” in the second half.
Everything Deuce did, Quentin Grimes did not. The second-year guard only scored four points, adding one rebound, one steal, and one block through 20 minutes spent on the court. Big man Mitchell Robinson was close with a two-point, four-rebound, one-steal, one-block line through 21 minutes played.
Thibs couldn’t run out of flowers for McBride. “It’s huge, and it’s not just hitting the shots but the defense, the hustle plays,” the coach said. “When you make hustle plays like that, that does nothing but unite and inspire the team. You see a guy hustle and all of a sudden, he’s got a steal, we’ve got an easy bucket, and that’s how you win.”
The Blazers came in strong, mind you, with Dame firing buckets and Anfernee Simons also cooking himself a 22-meal. Jusuf Nurkic scored 10 points and grabbed 10 boards. Former Sixer Matisse Thybulle filled the line with 15 points, eight boards, three dimes, three steals, and one block.
“The (Blazers) backcourt is so dynamic and puts so much pressure on you constantly. They don’t go away, so very pleased overall with our defense,” Thibodeau said.
“Portland is a great team. We just felt like we could come back. Just sticking to the game plan, trying to make it tough for Lillard and Simons,” said Quickley after the game, before adding that “really, nobody panicking I think is the main thing that helps us to be able to stay in games.”
Speaking about Hart’s arrival in New York, Thibs couldn’t hide his happiness.
“You see the impact that he’s had, it was immediate, and it’s all the intangibles that he brings to the game,” started Thibs. “When you look at the net rating, you look at the record since he’s been here—we’re 10–3.
“The team just functions well when he’s on the floor. You look at his playmaking ability, whatever you need. You need a big shot? Need a big defensive stop? Need a big rebound? [Hart] makes the play, and he makes everyone around him a lot better. So he’s been terrific for us.”
Hart, take a bow.
“I knew it would be a good fit style-wise,” said the wing. “It kind of exceeded my expectations, especially as quickly as it did. The system, the coaching staff, the team, it fit perfectly.”
Not taking anything from the Knicks’ collective effort, Hart acknowledged “this team was trending upwards when I got here, and I was able to just kind of fit right in and continue to help this team grow.
“I think that’s the biggest thing. It feels great that we’re getting the wins.”
New York—fifth seed in the East, one game above Brooklyn and three behind Cleveland—return to MSG on Saturday to host the visiting Denver Nuggets (46-23, on a four-game losing streak).
It’s an early tip-off scheduled for 1:00 EST. Don’t miss it.