The New York Knicks (27-17) played a home game on the road on Tuesday by kicking off this season’s edition of last year’s Adam Silver’s creation, known as “NBA Rivals Week”, and defeating the Nets 108-103 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Kudos to the Nets for making it a contested affair till late in the game, and much respect to them for once more and the nth time this season, imploding in the fourth quarter and allowing the Knicks to complete a 32-18 final frame that all but gave the visitors their 27th dub of the season.
Here is what we heard from the protagonists on both sides of the Battle of the Boroughs before and after yesterday’s matchup.
On new starting center Jericho Sims and having to use players out of their usual roles...
“Just keep it simple. You don’t have to change anything. Play to your strength. Cover up your weaknesses. Understand who you’re on the floor with, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and execute. That’s all you have to do.”
“Every player’s different. Precious is not Isaiah. Isaiah’s not Mitch. Just play to your strengths.”
On the overall performance of the team against the Nets and earning a comeback victory on the road...
“I didn’t think we played particularly well, but I love how we responded in the fourth quarter. That said a lot about who we are. The bench, they were hustling, flying all over the place. That closed the gap and gave us the hope that ‘OK, we can get this done.’ Then when the starters came back they fed off that energy.”
“Finding a way to win when you’re not at your best is huge and that’s the bottom line. Just find ways to win. I think our team is doing that. Winning when you’re not at your best is huge.”
On having OG Anunoby and the better spacing he provides when on the court...
“I just think catch-and-shoot, our spacing on the floor is different, and then all players and everyone is different, so whatever your strengths are, play to your strengths.
“If you’re a downhill guy, understand the value of shots. So we’re trying to get to the rim. We’re trying to force the defense to collapse. We’re trying to get two onto the ball. So trust the pass, make your rim reads. Two on you? Spray the ball. Get to the line. Offensive rebound.
“The principle of a sound offense is forcing the defense to collapse. So that’s what we’re trying to do. Understand the value of shots. Everyone fits into it.”
“Maybe you’re a good cutter, maybe you’re a good driver, maybe you’re a good offensive rebounder. Maybe you’re a good catch-and-shoot guy. Whatever you are, play to your strengths. That’s playing smart.”
On Isaiah Hartenstein missing Tuesday’s game and his absence being a concern...
“Everything’s a concern.”
On having to rely on third- and fourth-string big men to fill the center spot...
“Jericho has filled in before. He’s played well for us. I think our record when he starts is 3–2. So we have a lot of confidence in him. We got hurt, unfortunately.”
“Then Precious came in and Precious was terrific in our last game (before Brooklyn). So next man get in there and get it done.”
On the Milwaukee Bucks firing of head coach Adrian Griffin on Tuesday...
“You never really can judge another organization unless you’re there. No one really knows. So I know if you’re asking me specifically about Adrian from my time with him both having coached him and having him on my staff: I know he’s high-character, I know his quality, I know he’s a great teacher, I know all those things. So it’s unfortunate, but that’s our business.”
On the Knicks' come-from-behind 4th quarter effort to win the game in Brooklyn...
“We just kept grinding. Obviously, they were pretty much beating us all game. They were playing well. They started the game pretty well. We couldn’t do anything about what we did in the past, we could only just be better going forward
“Our best quarter was the fourth tonight. Find a way to win. We got stops, the ball was going through for us and it was a big-time finish to the game.”
On the sequence (two blocks and a rebound leading to a fastbreak dunk) with about a minute left and the score tied at 101...
“Me and Jalen get a lot of shine just scoring points and stuff like that, but those are the plays that win us games. Those are the plays that maybe go unnoticed. But they’re winning plays and they help us win games.”
On his google celebration after putting New York 103-101 ahead following that sequence...
“Tunnel vision. [The atmosphere] was lit. It was special. We came back. Crowd really got into it. It was good to hear the New York Knicks chants in Barclays. That’s always fun.”
On struggling at the start of the game but eventually pulling off the winning effort...
“It starts with me and [Brunson]. We know we get a lot of attention so we have to make the right plays.”
“We didn’t play the first and third well, but, like coach said, we played our best when it mattered.”
On expecting Dennis Smith Jr.’s layup at the end of the game and blocking his shot...
“I knew that he had [a layup] against me (earlier in the game, in the first half) and flexed a little bit. So I figured he’d probably go to the basket because he thought shit was sweet. So luckily I was able to get a piece of it.”
On Tom Thibodeau’s mindset and coaching philosophy...
“Thibs instills confidence in the whole team, top to bottom. He says from the beginning of the year ‘There’s more than enough in this room to be successful, to win games.’”
“When someone goes down and someone doesn’t play we all know that Thibs has confidence in everyone in the room. He just says, ‘Hey, make the most of your opportunity. But there’s more than enough in this room to go out there and win a game and play hard, play the right way.’”
“That’s what he wants, just playing hard.”
Mikal Bridges (Nets wing)
On the Barclays Center crowd rooting for the Knicks more than the Nets...
“It’s not fun when you feel like you’re in an away game at home. So that’s for any person sitting in here, any person alive.”
“It felt like a friggin’ away game when they made their run.”
Jacque Vaughn (Nets head coach)
On closing the game on a 23-10 run and not scoring a single field goal over the final 3:47 of play...
“I thought, overall, the shots that we did get were shots that we made throughout the course of the night.”
”Unfortunately, we went on a little cold streak in the fourth but a big part of that was their ability to put pressure on us and offensive rebounding.”