If you have been living under a rock for the past two weeks: welcome to the year 2024 of our lord!
We flipped the calendar page 10 days ago and entered this brand-new year with the Knicks scheduled to host the Minnesota Timberwolves at MSG to get things going in 2024. From that moment through Tuesday night, at the very latest, the New York Knicks (22-15) have been impeccable after adding another victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, a 112-84 drubbing, to their tally.
Five games played, five squads beaten, lone team undefeated in the NBA this year. Uh, oh, these New Look Knicks!
After getting a call on Dec. 30 informing him about the harsh reality of having to find a new home in the New York suburbs having spent the past six seasons in cold Toronto by way of London, OG Anunoby finally had his true breakout match as a New York Knickerbocker.
This wasn’t about OG scoring 50 points. It wasn’t even about OG putting up a double-double, let alone a trip-dub on the day. Yes, he completed the best-ever five-game run in the history of the L by racking up a combined +111 plus/minus in that span, something never done before...
...but this was about the NYK simply manhandling a team that barely scored as many points in the first half (41) as the Knicks put up in the first quarter alone (38).
This was about Tom Thibodeau sending the starters to the pine and never calling them back throughout the whole fourth quarter. (Read that again).
This was about New York moving to 5-0 on the year, 22-15 on the season, the no. 4 seed in the East half-a-game above the next-best teams in the conference and just a couple of wins behind the no. 3 seed.
Nobody else in the NBA has stringed five consecutive wins this year. Nobody has even four. Just two other franchises have three, and one of them is the Ja-no-more Grizzlies. Hell, even the worst team (Detroit) across the Association hasn’t lost more consecutive games than the Knicks have won this month alone. Talk about dominance.
Julius Randle, along with Isaiah Hartenstein, led all Knicks in the plus/minus column with a +31 figure. All starters except for Donte DiVincenzo (+14) reached at least a +26 mark on Tuesday against the Blazers. None of them except for Randle (32) logged 30 minutes on the day. See it to believe it.
The bench has been talked about a lot of late, and while the help off the pine came down to just two men (Quentin Grimes with 17 points and Deuce McBride with 16), the truth is that bench mob wasn’t really needed.
“I like their aggressiveness,” Thibodeau said about QG and Deuce after the game. “The one thing about Deuce in particular is his ball pressure is elite. He’s outstanding. Quentin is very good at defending multiple positions. Their intensity is very good together and that’s what we want.”
Squad led the whole way— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 10, 2024
OG 23 PTS | 4 REB
Randle 20 PTS | 8 AST | 7 REB
QG 17 PTS | 3 STL
Deuce 16 PTS | 1 STL
Donte 13 PTS | 4 REB
Brunson 12 PTS | 7 AST pic.twitter.com/1jEsfR0cCq
The Knicks cooked the Blazers big so everybody could eat. More than scoring (New York has dumped more than 112 points on 17 of their last 20 opponents), the Knicks did it on defense against the PDX, putting the clamps on the visitors and short-circuiting whatever plan they had in mind—two days after the same Blazers squad scored 134 points on an overtime victory at Brooklyn.
Tuesday’s was the best defensive effort of the Knicks this season. Yes, it was Portland, but still.
The Blazers became the first team to crack the 90-point barrier against New York. The Knicks held them to the second-lowest FG% (38.4%) and 3P% (20.7%) allowed by your ‘Bockers this season.
The Knicks outscored their rivals 25-11 on fast-break points, and it’s not that Chauncey Billups didn't know what was coming his and his pupils’ way.
“The numbers tell you that they’re like 27th in the league in transition and this and that, whatever,” the coach said, “but me watching their last four or five games, I’m telling you my eyes, they are playing fast as heck, they really are. They’re kicking it up, playing fast, so we’re going to go with my eyes.
“I can’t say that they caught us off guard because we tried to prepare our team for it. But they just a really good job of it, to be honest.”
Jalen Brunson didn’t do much damage on the scoring front with his 12 points, but the seven assists were nice to see and he didn’t commit a single turnover.
I-Hart, the Quandary Man, went to work once more and made the paint his personal office by pulling down 14 boards, five of them offensive.
Back to OG, he scored his most points in the Orange and Blue uniform by finding the net on nine of his shots (and that OG-OG-OG! freebie) helping him bag 23 points.
Precious Achiuwa wanted it more than he could handle, hoisting nine field goals but finding the net just once, never from range in three long-distance attempts. That said, he grabbed nine rebounds.
Josh Hart pulled down seven boards, dished out for dimes, and scored only two points on his way to getting the best plus/minus among reserves with a +12 figure.
Jericho Sims, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Malachi Flynn played between seven and four minutes and didn’t do that much on the floor but their presence there alone tells you all you need to know.
"The spirit of the team is really strong right now. And the togetherness and commitment to each other is very strong. We gotta keep it there"— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) January 10, 2024
- Tom Thibodeau pic.twitter.com/qLrtZVO43Z
“We’re striving to be a 48-minute team,” Thibs said. “I thought we had a good rhythm and we were very aggressive early. The goal is to be playing our best at the end of the year. We have to keep doing what we’re doing and get better.”
“We’re playing for each other on both ends of the floor,” said Randle. “Guys are doing a great job being active. We’re playing good basketball, winning games. I like what we’re doing.”
“We were really connected,” said OG. “Flying around, getting stops, looking out for one another. I think it’s getting better and better every game.”
“The ball’s been moving a lot better (since adding Anunoby),” Hartenstein said. “Defensively, he’s been doing a great job playing team defense. He makes my life a lot easier, so just having him has been great.”
Don’t take all of those immaculate vibes for granted, though, as these dudes know very well they need to keep working and grinding nightly. As Randle put it following the win over Washington—“Don’t play with your food”—he once more repeated the same thing after Tuesday’s win.
“You play those games, and when the year ends, you are looking at seeding and all that different type of stuff, and you don’t want to look at the schedule and say these are the games that got away,” Randle said. “You want to make sure you are taking care of your business.”
If the Knicks play half-as-serious basketball as OG sounded in his first on-court, postgame interview, you bet New York is going 45-0 from now through April 14th.
Quoth StopCapingForTheRefs: “I guess we just humiliate other teams now?” LGK.