I want to open this recap by shouting out MelleMehl for providing the headline on a day the thing I expected the least to reminisce about was J-Will. For the uninitiated, retro-witness White Chocolate greatness. More on this genius and the headline later.
The New York Knicks, on the first of two back-to-back evenings of hoops inside the Garden, hosted the Houston Rockets and defeated them 109-94 in a no-contest matchup—such as was the case the last seven times these two squads had met before Wednesday.
With the dub, New York wrapped up the first half of the regular season in possession of the no. 5 seed in the East with a 24-17 record, one game behind Cleveland (24-15), tied with Miami, and half-a-game over Indiana (23-17).
Between the Cavs in fourth and the Magic in eighth place, there is just a three-game separation entering Thursday. The Knicks are caught right in the middle of this Eastern Conference battle royale. The Pacers just traded for Pascal Siakam. The Miami Heat might land Dejounte Murray in a trade. The Magic are about to welcome back a bunch of impactful, currently banged-up lads. The Cavs have been without All-Star guard Darius Garland for a while.
In other words: it’s going to be a bloodbath to avoid falling into the 7-8 play-in seeds, let alone clinch some nice first-round homecourt advantage by finishing fourth—no, the Celtics, Bucks, and Sixers will not collapse down the road.
For now, however, we breathe.
THAT'S HOW YOU BALL AT THE CRIB— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 18, 2024
Randle 31 PTS | 8 REB | 4 AST
Brunson 30 PTS | 7 AST
OG 15 PTS | 5 REB | 4 STL
Grimes 11 PTS | 3 REB
Hart 10 PTS | 14 REB
Hartenstein 7 PTS | 11 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK pic.twitter.com/HcfVybbInC
This win was more needed than it might have initially led you to believe. Coming off a disastrous fourth quarter against the Magic a couple of days ago in which the Knicks simply forgot how to hoop, New York entered a back-to-back series at the Garden on Wednesday with the Rockets coming first and the lowly Wizards waiting on the wings.
Things could have gone ugly with another L on Wednesday, potentially making it 0-2 this week, and with all the pressure on the Knicks' side hosting the Wiz and pretty much forced into beating them to avoid all mala vibra. Oh, did I mention the IQ-RJ Raptors are coming to New York on Saturday, then the Knicks visit the Nets next Tuesday? Just imagine carrying a 0-3, 0-4 streak into those tilts!
Good for the Knicks, that won’t happen.
New York welcomed back Jalen Brunson, put the little man at the point, and the MSG crowd got to enjoy him playing ball for 37 minutes (after missing the last two games entirely) in which he dropped 30 points to go with seven dimes and three boards.
“Any chance I get to get out there to go play when I’m feeling great, I want to play,” Brunson said. “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.”
In a similar fashion, Julius Randle dumped 31 on the Rockets’ collective forehead adding eight rebounds, four assists, and one swat to that scoring outburst.
And with that, the pair of Knickerbockers completed their fourth game this season with both members of the couple bagging 30+ points on the same evening. Not bad!
“JB being back adds tremendous value to our team, so having the head the snake, our PG back just helps us get a little more organized,” Randle said after the game. “I told him to get his ass back because we need him,” Randle joked.
Randle, by the way, assisted OG Anunoby on the play of the season and brought the Garden down.
See, I have watched that clip 10 or 37 times already. I don’t think I will ever grow tired of it. Name-dropping Randle alone is hella reductive, because in truth the play was the embodiment of the current New York Knicks mob in fewer than ten seconds.
Isaiah Hartenstein got things kickstarted on D by blocking Jalen Green’s attempt to do something (?) in the paint. I-Hart with the 7-11-5-2-2 line (in 41 minutes) on the day, just in case.
Josh Hart hounded the loose ball like a madman hungry for thefts. Hart, just in case, got himself a 10-14 dub-dub in 30 minutes of play.
Randle was the next man in action, receiving Hart’s hockey assist and instantly moving the rock to a rushing OG Anunoby who had one and only one thing in mind: dunking the rock.
OG did so in a very strenuous way in front of a whole bunch of Knickerbocker fans still picking their jaws from the floor in admiration of JR’s no-look, one-touch dime to OG.
Couldn’t have cooked it smoother or better. Straight outta Rucker Park... or West Virginia. Back to White Chocolate.
It’s been a minute but as we approached the halfway mark of our beloved, never-forgotten, ever-fuzzy 2020 calendar year I took on penning a love letter to the little boy hailing from Belle, WV.
Williams and Randle have little—nothing, probably—in common. One is an NBA champion, the other is not. One was never an All-Star-caliber player, the other has made it there two times already. One had a nickname linked to the sweetest product, the other is the closest thing to bitter coffee.
For a brief moment on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, their psyches aligned.
Funnily enough, both J-Will and J-Randle were the seventh men to hear their names called in the NBA draft—the former in 1998, the latter in 2014. Both men landed in franchises based in California. Both moved out East, where they enjoyed their best seasons. Maybe we were just missing the forest for the trees and there were always more commonalities between these two kind souls than we thought.
Honestly, this comparison doesn’t make any sense, because this was just a simple, plain, fluky play with the Knicks up 12 points on the scoreboard, the game decided with fewer than six minutes on the clock, Thibodeau celebrating his 66th birthday, the vibes immaculate coming off a putrid loss two days before, and all of it cooked inside a boiling MSG cauldron.
A couple of GOATs got to watch it all unfold.
Just three weeks before we reach the trade deadline. Saying that because outside of J-Hart the only other reserve to score points Wednesday was Quentin Grimes, who needed eight shots to reach 10 points (2-of-6 from three, five freebies). Describing that as ugly is falling way short.
Knicks vs. Wizards later today. Ran them out of the gym quickly, give the starters some good and needed rest, start putting together the tribute video for IQ and RJ. Tip-off at 7:30. Don’t miss it.