Where to start? Perhaps, at the beginning.
The Knicks ruled out Jalen Brunson for Saturday’s matchup at Memphis, thrusting little Deuce McBride into the starting point guard slot and making him the team leader if only for a night. The result? A hard-fought victory on the road against a shorthanded NBA team, 106-94 in favor of the New York Knicks (23-16).
Starting a game was not something new for McBride, mind you. He had done it twice each of the past two seasons, but not this campaign. With Immanuel Quickley now plying his trade in Canada, Brunson out, and no natural alternatives available for head coach Tom Thibodeau to man the point—other than Evil DiVo—the door was open for Deuce to get the call.
And you bet he did the most of it.
The Deuce McBride game pic.twitter.com/5iDN5a0aMv— Big Knick Energy (@BigKnickEnergy_) January 14, 2024
That’s the charming story of the day, but it’s worth mentioning how the Knickerbockers struggled much more than they should have on Saturday before putting an end to the unnecessary drama through the third frame.
The Grizzlies entered the weekend having played another game on Friday and knowing they wouldn’t have Marcus Smart, Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, Steven Adams, Derrick Rose, and Santi Aldama around. Adding injury to insult (pun intended), Jake LaRavia left the game not even past the first quarter with an ankle sprain, bringing the Grizz rotation down to eight men.
If you thought you had incorrectly tuned in to a random NCAA game instead of an NBA one after seeing this starting five pop up, I cannot blame you. That’s 31.7 points between those five men—for context, Luka Doncic and Joel Embiid alone are outscoring that unit by themselves on the year.
No matter how many amateurs the Grizzlies used on Saturday, they had it easy through the first 24 minutes as the Knicks went on to commit 14 giveaways in the first two frames. On the day, they coughed up the ball 23 times, a new season-high stain after not giving up more than 19 possessions before this game.
That’s why the JV Grizz went to the locker room at halftime with a 57-53 lead... that wouldn’t last that much after that. New York tied the game at 61 less than two minutes into the third quarter, moved ahead on the scoreboard, 63-61, around 20 seconds after that, and never trailed inside FedExForum again.
New York outscored Memphis 30-15 in the third quarter and dominated all fronts on the box score after the final piece of paper was released by the NBA staffers counting the numbers: 56-35 in rebounds, 11-6 in blocks, 15-13 in fast-break points, 52-50 in points in the paint... you name it.
All of that said, the bench (which didn’t include Deuce yesterday) was awful once again. The Knicks have gone from a mid-pine (14th in PPG before the OG trade, led by IQ then) to a horrendous third-worst unit in the league scoring a meager 25.5 PPG.
On Saturday, all the Knicks reserves (the four of them who got to play—s/o Thibs!) could muster was 20 points. The Grizzlies bench—just imagine—combined for 32 led by GG Jackson (not Jaren, not Reggie, not even Isaiah) with 20, a personal best since entering the L last July.
It looked something like this.
Julius Randle had a typical Julius Randle game, finishing with a 24-11 double-double and doing most of the damage (for the good) in the third quarter but also playing like a bull in a china shop (for the bad) turning the ball over four times in the first half and six times through 36 minutes of play.
JR shot 9-of-21, just 1-of-6 from three, and only topped 20 points thanks to bagging five freebies.
“It was just a sluggish game,” Randle conceded after the game. “It was all around sloppy, but we found a way to get the win, and that’s what matters”.”
Isaiah Hartenstein was (surprise!) ridiculous. He scored 12 points and matched his season-high figure on the boards with 20 rebounds, seven of them on the offensive glass. He blocked four shots, stole a couple of possessions, and dished out a couple of assists. If the Knicks let this man go next summer, no matter where/how Mitchell Robinson is at, I don’t even know...
“It wasn’t a great game for us in general,” Hartenstein agreed with Randle. “The second half was better, but we need to play better. I actually feel like the first half was embarrassing.”
Per P&T Honcho Russell, “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 script would flip through the second half, however, with New York trumping Memphis’ averages from the field (48%-41%) and from range (34%-23%).
A big catalyst for that was kiddo Deuce McBride.
Making the most of his chance at leading the Knicks for the first time this season, MMB scored 19 points with an extraordinary 7-of-10 from the floor, 4-of-7 from three, and 1-of-2 from the stripe.
Deuce filled the stat sheet all across the board, adding six rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a block, and finishing the outing with a game-high +13 plus/minus.
OG Anunoby scored 18 points, bouncing back a bit from his last time out (10 points last Thursday), while fellow-former-Raptor Malachi Flynn logged 10 minutes in which he scored nine points, assisted three baskets, and committed one theft.
Josh Hart had a Hartian day at the office with eight points, seven rebounds, three dimes, and two steals. They don’t make 5x5 players anymore, but I have invented a new 7-7-4-2 profile, and oh-hey—look who cracked the Top 30 in that manufactured chart!?
Quentin Grimes had an awful game, and so did Precious Achiuwa. Coincidentally, those two are the most probable players to leave NYC in the next few months or weeks.
QG’s stock has plummeted this season, but a first-round pick and Fournier added to him might make for a proper trade package for someone of interest.
Achiuwa added depth to the big-man rotation, but given his production, he’s probably gonna fly free once he hits free agency next summer.
Fournier, Jericho Sims, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Charlie Brown Jr. spent the day sitting on the bench next to a street-clothed JB. That’s a loss for them, but the 500th win for Thibs. Salute.
The 500 wins club— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 14, 2024
Congrats, Coach Thibs! He is the 15th fastest coach to achieve this milestone. pic.twitter.com/m45uMn5OzD
The Knicks will be back at MSG for an afternoon game on MLK Day tomorrow, Monday, Jan. 15, as New York will host the visiting Orlando Magic.
Interesting little fact: the NBA has scheduled games on MLK Day in 37 of the past 38 years (the holiday was first observed in 1986 and the 1999 regular season started on Feb. 5) and the Knicks have always found a way to make it there and play a basketball game.
Tip-off at 3 pm ET. Don’t miss it.