It isn’t hyperbole to call today’s team the New Look Knicks. This afternoon, the addition of OG Anunoby transformed New York (17-15) both offensively and defensively against one of the league’s toughest foes, the Minnesota Timberwolves (24-7)
During today’s New Year’s Day matinee at Madison Square Garden, the ‘Bockers circulated the ball as well as they had all season, and they clamped down on a very efficient Minnesota club. Despite a late push by the T’Wolves to make this game a nailbiter at the end, New York rose triumphant, 112-106.
Jalen Brunson dished a career-high 14 dimes but struggled mightily to score; Josh Hart grabbed 11 boards; and Julius Randle scored 39 points and nine rebounds. But all eyes were on OG, who started his Knicks career with 17 points and six rebounds, and delivered everything that was promised. Here’s the gist of it.
OG Anunoby’s first shot? This effervescent swish from deep. Very refreshing:
OG's first bucket as a Knick pic.twitter.com/PGKXVM7KHN— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 1, 2024
A 10-0 run put the Knicks up 16-12 midway through the first quarter, thanks to terrific ball movement, energetic defense—in particular, Julius Randle played sticky, aggressive D on Karl-Anthony Towns—and a majestic block of a Rudy Gobert dunk attempt by Isaiah Hartenstein at the rim.
Minnesota retaliated with a 15-5 run. Precious Achiuwa checked in with two minutes remaining for his first appearance in a Knicks jersey. He committed two fouls in as many minutes, which we’ll attribute to new-team jitters.
Tom Thibodeau would often play RJ Barrett as the sole starter overlapping with the reserves. It appears that Randle will assume that role now. He was a bucket through the first period, scoring a total of 15 points. Jalen Brunson, on the other hand, has been flat since defeating the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas Day and missed his first five field-goal attempts today. New York finished the quarter behind, 32-23.
In the second quarter, Hart and Quentin Grimes converted back-to-back triples, and Brunson finally scored, completing a three-point play. Then Brunson deflected a Minny pass, netted a corner three, and put New York up again. Jalen scored nothing in the first quarter and 13 points in the second. Funk averted?
After missing Saturday’s game due to illness, a revitalized Grimes scored seven second-quarter points. The window of opportunity stands open for Quentin. For the benefit of the team and his career, he needs to make the most of it. Like so:
The Knicks lead reached 13 points, thanks to speedy play, excellent distribution, and two emphatic flushes by Anunoby. Boy oh boyyy, OG is fun to watch. He made a number of smart passes in traffic that resulted in good shots for his teammates, and his chesty, handsy pressure did indeed improve the Knicks’ defense. Our heroes won the quarter 38-17, and entered intermission ahead, 61-49.
Anunoby played 20 of 24 possible first-half minutes, scoring seven points and four boards. His new team had shot 43% from the floor and made 36% of their triples (Min shot 46% and 43%). Although Minnesota was more accurate, New York had won the half by taking 14 more field goal attempts, outrebounding the Wolves (24-17), scoring 15 points of eight turnovers, protecting the ball (commiting only four TOs), and making their free throws (13-of-14). Lawdy, it was something.
Your halftime shot chart:
The excellent play of the first-half continued post-intermission. New York pushed their advantage to 22 points at one point. Anunoby added seven to his total, Randle piled on, too, Jalen dished a whole bunch of dimes, and the Knicks won the frame 33-29.
Up 94-78 to start the last quarter, New York allowed an 8-0 run by Minny that brought the game too close for comfort. The Wolves came within six points before Anunoby canned a corner trey and Hartenstein bocked Gobert for the third time to stop the bleeding.
Brunson bricked and bricked again. Normally automatic in the fourth quarter, his misses were costly as the furballs cut their deficit to four points. Give credit to Jaden McDaniels, who was bugging the hell out of Brunson. You know who else plays tough D? OG. He stuck to and stymied Anthony Edwards, who had to force a bad pass that resulted in an pick-six to put New York up by eight.
Anunoby fouled out with four minutes remaining, finishing his debut with 17 points, six rebounds, one assists, and a steal while shooting 7-of-12 from the field and rating +19. On an evening when Brunson couldn’t score, he Knicks needed Julius Randle to hit some daggers—and he did, netting huge buckets down the stretch to close the game. Could the Knicks actually have a big three at last of Brunson, Randle, and Anunoby? It is too soon to tell, but versus the league’s best defense, New York’s trio made a strong case for league-wide respect.
Sam Stein is knitting a cozy recap for your pleasure. As for the Knicks, they host the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.
Here’s today’s box score.