On Thursday, The New York Knicks (23-16) had been favored to defeat the Luka-less Dallas Mavericks night but played sloppy, dug a 20-point hole, and, despite a late surge, ultimately fell short. It’s often a hard-learned lesson: never underestimate your opponent.
Due to injuries, the Memphis Grizzlies (14-25) had only nine players available tonight. Anyone with a bill in their pocket would be forgiven for laying it on the visitors. Even with Jalen Brunson scratched for a sore calf, the Knicks were in excellent position for a win.
Nevertheless, the Bad News Bears outscored the Knicks in the first and second quarters, carried a lead into halftime, and were still within eight points late at the FedEx Forum. Thanks to a 20-point performance by deep-bench guy GG Jackson, this game got hairy for our heroes. The foretold winners would ultimately get their act together, but New York still coughed up 22 sloppy turnovers and found nailing down the coffin lid damned difficult.
In Tom Thibodeau’s 500th win as a head coach, all Knicks’ starters scored double-digits. That included a career-high 19 points from Miles McBride (on 7-of-10 shooting) and another monster game from Isaiah Hartenstein, who steamrolled his way to 20 rebounds (tied career-high), 12 points, four blocks, and two steals. Final score: 106-94.
An injury list that included Jaren Jackson, Jr. (knee), Desmond Bane (ankle), Marcus Smart (finger), Ja Morant (shoulder surgery), Derrick Rose (Achilles), and Santi Aldama (knee) left the Grizz with only nine available players. What should have been punching bag for the Knicks proved to have more fight than we expected. That taped-together squad jumped out to a 10-4 lead thanks to four Knicks’ turnovers in the first five minutes.
The second-stringers couldn’t contain Julius Randle, however, and he brought New York a lead by midway through the quarter. Miles McBride, too, made the most of his starters’ minutes by hitting his first two three-point attempts.
The Knicks’ turned the ball over seven times in the first 12 minutes and played D of the matador variety. Meanwhile, the G-League-ish Grizzlies mounted a 13-2 run to retake the lead and finish the quarter ahead, 27-25.
Malachi Flynn filled in at point guard and played four unremarkable first-quarter minutes, but started the second period by making more of an impact, contributing a nice move to the hoop, a splash from downtown, and a steal that he converted to a layup. The kid from Tacoma had nine points in his first nine minutes. Much appreciated!
Malachi Flynn gets his first bucket as a Knick pic.twitter.com/Rc8wzlXNzP— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 14, 2024
Thanks to strong bench minutes, New York regained the lead. The Memphis bunch were playing with pride, and it can be a powerful emotion. Thanks to eight straight points from Luke Kennard—and more turnovers and bricks by the Knicks—the hometown bunch jumped ahead again. The Grizzlies had 16 assists through the half and had outshot New York from the field (50%-48%), downtown (38%-37%), and the charity stripe (83%-75%). The Knicks entered intermission down 57-53.
The Knicks point guards combined for 20 points through the first half, with nine from Flynn and 11 by McBride. Deuce had shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the field, but had two turnovers that offset his three assists. His team had out-rebounded Memphis, 27-16, scored more fast-break points, 12-7, and out-blocked them, 7-3, but those 14 turnovers had cost them 19 points.
Your halftime shot-chart:
Out of intermission, the Knicks tightened up their defense and a 10-4 run put them ahead again. Julius once more wreaked havoc in the paint, OG Anunoby joined in the fun, and Donte DiVincenzo scored eight points of a Knicks 10-0 run to attain their largest lead yet, 12 points.
GG Jackson had recorded 12 points all season for the Grizzlies but put down 20 to lead Memphis tonight. Talk about seizing opportunity. He did his part to keep his team in the game, but New York won the quarter 30-15 and rode an 83-72 lead into the fourth.
McBride availed himself admirably in the lead guard role, but the Knicks are so accustomed to letting Jalen Brunson lead the way, they seemed tentative in his absence. Here Deuce does some good stuff:
As he should, Isaiah Hartenstein dominated the reservists. iHart would match his career-high for boards, 20, and add 12 points. Memphis kept fighting and came within eight points with less than two minutes left, but Deuce and Jules combined to close it out, at last. Too close for comfort, but a win’s a win.
New York starts a three-game homestand with a tilt against the Orlando Magic on Monday. Safe Travels, Knickerbockers.
Your Knicks Box Score