Winning ugly is better than losing pretty.
The Knicks have been taking that to heart as of late. They’ve been grinding out wins against inferior teams, but their offense has sputtered greatly with Jalen Brunson not at 100%. Outside of JB, no one has stepped up to fill another scoring role alongside Julius Randle, who comes and goes with the wind.
The bench unit has been searching for scoring options, and while Deuce McBride and Quentin Grimes have both shown flashes, the Knicks seem inclined to pull the trigger and shake up the reserves before the trade deadline. Time is running out for McBride, Grimes, and Achiuwa to convince the Knicks’ front office and coaching staff that their talents would look good alongside Josh Hart off the pine
With that in mind, there was no better team to steady the ship against than the 7-32 Washington Wizards, a bottom-three team in the league. More importantly, the Wiz are notorious for their lackadaisical defense, which somehow is more notable than their iso-heavy offense. Sheesh. For once, I’m glad to be a Knicks fan.
Before tipoff, it was announced that Jalen Brunson would be good to go, but Josh Hart would be inactive for tonight’s game. His knee soreness is something that the team will definitely have to monitor moving forward.
Another wrinkle worth noting about tonight’s game was that the typical starting center for Washington, Daniel Gafford, would be inactive with a concussion. This paved the way for new acquisition Marvin Bagley III, former top-2 draft pick, to play a lot of ball.
Things got underway, and New York quickly jumped out to a ten-point lead with 4:14 left in the first frame.
Donte with the perfect pass pic.twitter.com/EqmCWefAKG— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 19, 2024
Note the notorious swiss cheese defense from Washington. Randle hit a couple shots, Brunson was draining timely buckets, and Hartenstein was dominating the boards as per usual. Things were looking good early.
Alas, a blowout it was not meant to be. Washington tightened up their D, hit a couple shots, and things were knotted at 22 apiece at the end of one. Super ugly stuff, with neither offense finding their stride.
With Hart out, Evan Fournier checked into the game! Could he provide the answer the Knicks were so desperately seeking?
Nope. Womp womp. Fournier shot 0-4 in six minutes.
The second quarter was more of that yucky stuff. Neither team strayed more than two possessions than the other in back-and-forth action.
Brunson had 12 of the 24 Knick points in the frame, which, and I cannot stress this enough, is not sustainable. JB is a dog and easily the best player on the New York roster, but it’s unfair to place the entire burden on him every single night. There are five dudes on the floor, and you won’t win sustainably doing that.
Tonight, as we’d soon find out, it would work just fine. The Knicks went into the half up one, with both teams struggling to find any rhythm whatsoever. This was going to be a slugfest until the final buzzer.
For the record: the Knicks’ bench scored five points in the opening half.
The third quarter was strikingly reminiscent of the first one; the Knicks pushed the lead toward double digits, but the Wizards were able to recover by the end. The offense looked a little better, and a couple more shots fell, but Washington had the same thing happen to them and kept pace.
OG added 13 in the frame, which went a long way.
New York led 65-56 with 5:43 left in the third, but a quick Wiz run led by the aforementioned Marvin Bagley III(who played a really solid, complete game tonight) cut the lead down to just one at the end of three. Knicks 73, Wizards 72. One quarter remaining.
DiVo came out HOT, hitting a pair of threes and delivering us this highlight sequence.
Again, the Knicks pushed the lead to nine with 9:40 left in the game, but Washington struck right back. Unlikely culprit Landry Shamet went on an individual 8-0 run to bring the lead right back to one. Again.
The Knicks needed to deliver a final knockout punch.
Enter Jalen Brunson.
Brunson kept. On. Scoring. 20 in the 4th quarter. 41 in the game. This was after turning his ankle pretty badly. His healthy one. We are lucky to call this guy a Knick.
Washington made things interesting, but when Jalen Brunson says it’s over, it’s over. Good night, Washington.
For good measure, here are his game highlights.
Jalen Brunson takes care of business in the Knicks victory— NBA (@NBA) January 19, 2024
41 PTS (20 in 4th) | 8 REB | 8 AST pic.twitter.com/DeLqiXKs1c
- An uncharacteristic 17 turnovers by the Knicks tonight. Six for Brunson, Five for Randle, and the other six sprinkled throughout the rest of the New York rotation.
- Seven bench points tonight. No further comment.
- Every starter played at least 38 minutes tonight. It’s the second leg of a back-to-back. It might feel like I’m hitting the same point here over and over again, and that’s because I am. Changes must come.
- Jordan Poole may be incredibly inefficient, but boy, his game is smooth. He has the prettiest misses in the NBA.
- Tyus Jones with a 2-point, 15-assist game. Only one turnover. A prime Rondo-nian stat line right there. Something to truly be proud of.
“Thoroughly unenjoyable game.” JA311 with a not-so-fun fact right there. But hey, a win’s a win. We’ll take what we can get in New York.
Next up is a reunion with our buddies RJ and IQ. See you Saturday night!