After the New York Knicks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, it was clear what the lead story would be. Point guard Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 48 points and has been worth every penny of his $100 million contract. New York got a big win and is sitting pretty in the Eastern Conference fifth-seed.
All-Star and leader Julius Randle is out for the rest of the regular season, meaning other players need to step up.
Going into the Cleveland game as 3.5-point underdogs, it would have been expected that the Knicks could look discombobulated without Randle. Randle had not missed a game all season and plays around 35 minutes a game. The 2023 All-Star was having a great season averaging 25 points, ten rebounds, and four assists. A lot flows through him and he’s been able to carry a heavy burden on a nightly basis.
In the absence of Randle, the Knicks still were able to lead in two categories that have been paramount to their success all season.
Rebounding & Second-chance points
New York has been crushing it in these two categories this season.
When it comes to rebounding, they have been top three in rebounds per game this season. Randle (10.0) and Mitchell Robinson (9.1) have led the way for them. Where they start to separate themselves is when players like Quickley (4.0), Brunson (3.6), and Grimes (3.3) are all getting in there and grabbing boards. It’s been a total team buy-in to crash the glass this season.
Against the Cavaliers, they outrebounded 48-33 in total rebounds and 16-3 in offensive rebounds. It sounds simple but securing boards goes a long way, especially on the offensive glass. It can show players that if they miss shots, their teammates are still crashing and could set them up with additional looks to redeem themselves. This is something the Knicks have done so well all season and it was nice to see even without Randle, they controlled the glass.
There were four players with at least seven rebounds in this game.
Mitchell Robinson was a beast, scoring ten points and hauling in 14 rebounds (nine offensive, five defensive). Isaiah Hartenstein (8), Josh Hart (7), and RJ Barrett (7) helped the Knicks secure the ball off missed shots. Jalen Brunson and Immanuel Quickley each had four rebounds of their own.
Second-chance points continue to be essential for this squad. A lot of offensive rebounds led to great opportunities. New York would outscore Cleveland 14-6 in the second-chance point department. Having an eight-point differential in that category is massive over the course of a game.
The Knicks have been a top-five team in the NBA this season when it comes to second-chance points. This has been a nod to New York’s hustle which has been impressive all season.
Julius Randle will not be playing any more games in the 2022-23 NBA regular season. In his absence, the Knicks can still win games if they continue winning in their categories. They aren’t a team that will regularly shoot the lights out or pick defenses apart with their passing or half-court sets. They have an identity and that is rebounding and hustling. Staying true to what they know will help them finish the regular season strong without their 2023 All-Star.
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