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Knicks Bulletin: Thibodeau on the D, Brunson’s return, Hart on busy offseason...

Straight outta sources.

Houston Rockets v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The New York Knicks (24-17) reached the halfway mark of the regular season on a positive note by hosting and beating the 19-21 Houston Rockets easily by 15 points, final score of 109-94 in favor of the Garden denizens.

Jalen Brunson made his anticipated return to the floor after missing the last two games, a couple the Knicks could only split in his absence, and his presence was felt as he led the squad to their seventh win in nine games this month and after completing the OG Anunoby trade in late December.

With the win, New York beat the Rockets for the eighth consecutive time building on a run that started all the way back in March 2020. Here is what we heard from the protagonist and other folks in the past few hours.

Tom Thibodeau

On the late Dejan Milojevic, who died Wednesday (RIP) after suffering a heart attack and having spent years with the Golden State Warriors...

“A tragic loss. He was a great ambassador to the game. So our thoughts and prayers go out to all of them.”

On the Knicks 7-2 record in January since completing the OG Anunoby trade...

“In the month of January, we’re playing very good basketball.”

“And if we get maybe two rebounds, maybe we’re on an eight-game winning streak.”

“As we go along, we emphasize improvement. It was a little choppy (against Dallas and Orlando) but we kept moving forward. We have a lot of work to do and we don’t have it all figured out. We have to keep working yet.”

On the Knicks' effort to maintain the lead through the second half against Houston relying on a stout defense...

“Right now, we’re relying more on our defense, and that part I thought was really good. We got a lead in the second half and I thought we played tough with a lead in the fourth quarter, and that was important for us.”

On the Knicks’ defense keeping the team afloat...

“It’s huge. [Anunoby] is really a defense unto himself. What Isaiah is giving us... Deuce is an elite defender... Josh is very disruptive... Donte’s also disruptive... and Quentin’s disruptive. Julius is very physical, Jalen is physical in his way with the way he takes charges and anticipates. We’re relying heavily on our defense right now, and then we gotta keep working at the offense.”

On celebrating his 66th birthday on Wednesday with a dub...

“Forever I can remember either games or being at a game, and I can think of no better way to celebrate a birthday than being around a bunch of people that care about the game and winning. That’s where the enjoyment comes from.”

On OG Anunoby’s early contributions and adaptation to the Knicks...

“He’s made great contributions not just on with defense, but moving without the ball, getting the ball up the floor fast, shotmaking. It’s only gonna get better as we go.”

On Mitchell Robinson’s recovery...

“He’s just following the [rehab] protocol at every step. He’s meeting the goals and he’s doing well, so we’re very pleased with that. And then hopefully, soon he’ll be able to do more and you’ll see him more.”

Jalen Brunson

On how he felt in his return after missing the prior two games with a calf injury...

“Fantastic. Any chance I get to get out there to go play when I’m feeling great, I want to play.”

“When you’re not able to be out there, it’s tough mentally. You’ve got to do what’s best for you long term. Obviously, I want to be out there and help my team win.”

On the Knicks' run of positive results through nine January games...

“I think we’re in a good place right now, but we got a lot of room for improvement. There’s a place we want to be, and we don’t want to be peaked out. We want to continue to get better.”

Julius Randle

On defenses loading up on him less with Jalen Brunson back on the court...

“I told him to get his ass back—because we need him.”

“JB being back adds tremendous value to our team, so having the head of the snake, our point guard, back just helps us get a little more organized.”

On the no-look, reverse pass to Anunoby so he could finish the fast-break posterizing Alperen Sengun...

“I think the Garden liked that, for sure.”

Josh Hart

On playing 30 solid minutes getting a double-double after entering the game as “questionable” to play...

“I was just trying to be aggressive. We’re playing well and I think the positive thing is the record is good, but we probably let four or five get away that we should have won. That’s encouraging, but the second half of the year is always a challenge. I think we just have to continue to build on what we’ve been doing.”

On his shortened pre-season after making the playoffs and then playing for Team USA...

“This season has definitely been interesting for me. Normally I’d have two and a half months of more break [in the offseason]. I’m usually done April 12, and I was done May 12 last year. That was tough, and then obviously [played the] FIBA [World Cup with Team USA]. I’m trying to keep the body going.

On playing against the Rockets after making it to the injury report for the game with knee issues...

“There was a little bit of knee soreness and I didn’t know if I was gonna go. But I woke up today feeling a little bit better.”

OG Anunoby

On his increased workload since arriving in New York...

“It’s been great. [I] feel good.”

Fred VanVleet (Toronto Raptors)

On the trade that sent former teammate Anunoby to New York...

“I thought it was absolutely perfect, a great trade for them. You probably won’t even see his true value until the playoffs, with all the different matchups. He can guard anybody. Definitely, I think NY is gonna love him.”