These New York Knicks are great, but they aren’t doing anything they had not done before.
Back in the 2001 season, New York limited opponents to a meager 951 total points through January. Since the introduction of the three-point shot in the 1980 season, that’s the fewer points a franchise has allowed through the first month of the season—no other team has surrendered fewer than 1,000 points in January, ever.
That’s an average of 86.4 PPG allowed, which is way better than the 1,406 total points and 100.4 PPG surrendered by the 2024 Knicks. Of course, things have changed massively in the past 25 years, and the current basketball scoring economy in the NBA has the most unexpected of fools dropping 60 points like he’s playing against JV squads.
That 2001 squad would crash out of the postseason quickly, falling 2-3 to the Toronto Raptors in an era in which the first round of the playoffs still consisted of a five-game series.
The 2024 squad is coming off a season in which they reached the Eastern Conference semi-finals. They were expected to make another equally-if-not-better postseason run had health respected them and one trade or three bolstered the first and second units.
Some of those things have happened, some of those things have (and may will) not. But the tides are surely turning.
JalenBrunsavior knows all about it: “You’re finished Miami. We got a giant defensive wing and a shooter now. FINISHED. You hear me? Finished.”
After dropping out of the playoffs at the hands of eventual runner-up Miami last May, New York hosted the Heat for the second time this season and blasted them with gusto, beating the visitors 125-109 inside the Garden on Saturday and clinching the three-game regular-season series against the South Beach Herons.
The Knicks will enter next week ranked as the no. 4 team in the East and boasting a 29-17 record that has the team just a game behind the third-place Sixers and half a game above fifth-place Cleveland.
New York improved to a ridiculous 12-2 record this calendar year and added another win to their ongoing streak of six, the longest in the NBA, counting Saturday’s victory at MSG.
Took care of business at home— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 27, 2024
Brunson 32 PTS | 8 AST | 5 REB
Randle 19 PTS | 9 REB | 3 AST
OG 19 PTS | 4 AST | 2 STL
Josh Hart 14 PTS | 9 REB | 5 AST
QG 12 PTS | 4 REB | 1 STL
Donte 11 PTS | 2 AST | 1 STL pic.twitter.com/XAcNZoWIhV
Nobody in the Association has won more games than New York (12) this month. Nobody has a better win percentage (85.7%) in January. Nobody is grabbing more offensive rebounds (34.1%) in the past 27 days. And perhaps most importantly in the era of monster scoring, nobody is limiting opponents to a lower effective field goal percentage (49.7%) than these Knicks.
New York is the only team with an Opp EFG% below 50%. The Cavs are second at 50.1% and no other team is below 51% with Boston ranking third (51.4%) and the next-best team already at 52.8%.
Both Josh Hart and OG Anunoby arrived in New York via mid-season trade in the 2023 and 2024 campaigns. This month, among players with at least 10 games played, they rank fourth and fifth in defensive rating with figures below 100.
Not only them, but six Knicks (three starters, three reserves) are ranked inside the top 16 players in that metric in January.
Of 16 players with DRtg of 103 or better, six of them play basketball for New York. More than 37% of them. Let that marinate for a second.
And hey, if you’re still not convinced about the greatness of this team or you’re more pleased by the offensive side of the ball, well, you can always check Tom Thibodeau’s favorite statistic: Net Rating.
OG leads the way, followed by non-All-Star-starter Jalen Brunson. Backup-turned-starter Isiah Hartenstein, along with Hart in 11th place, cracked the top 10 easily. And a bit lower in the ranks you can also find the other two starters of the squad, Julius Randle and Donte DiVincenzo, with the exact same 14.2 mark. Not bad!
The Knicks didn’t seem to realize the ball had tipped off on Saturday until deep into the first quarter. They allowed Miami to run the score up to 13-4, then 19-9 but ultimately closed the gap to finish the frame down just three following two crucial 3-point made by Deuce and Hart, as well as a buzzer-beating shot converted by Precious Achiuwa.
That was it for the Heat barring a classic explosion from Jimmy Butler in the third quarter that saw Miami climb back from a 13-point deficit to tie the game at 86 before Randle hit another buzzer-beating bucket from three to make it 89-86 entering the final stanza.
Julius and OG fell just one point short of reaching 20 on the weekend matinee, the former grabbing nine rebounds and the latter dishing out four dimes to go with a couple of steals.
Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 32 points on the spot, adding eight dimes, five boards, a steal, and a block to that score. The result? A game-high +24 on the plus/minus column.
Jimmy Buckets (28) was the only Heat player breaking the 20-point barrier on Saturday. The Knicks shot 51.7% from the field to Miami’s 46.6% figure. New York limited Miami to hitting 37.8% of their threes compared to bagging 51.5% themselves on the day.
There was a no-contest winner on the boards, with the Knickerbockers pulling down 46 rebounds to the Herons’ 38, and while Miami ran the floor fleetly scoring 25 fast-break points (New York finished with 11), the Knicks mauled them inside dropping 52 points in the coated area thanks to the pairing of iHart (limited to 16 minutes on his return following a two-game absence) and former Heat Achiuwa.
Even the bench was above their level with a couple of contributors scoring in double-digit figures (Hart dumped 14 points and earned a +30 +/- while Quentin Grimes scored 12 points in 24 minutes of play), Precious grabbing 10 boards, and Hart following him closely with nine rebounds.
Julius Randle has suffered an apparent right shoulder injury and will NOT return to tonight's game.— Knicks Fan TV (@KnicksFanTv) January 27, 2024
Wishing Randle the best pic.twitter.com/tohr84V3hp
With the Knicks leading by 17 and less than 4:30 on the clock, Julius Randle went for a layup but found Jaime Jaquez on his way to the rim, hitting the floor and falling square on his own right (non-shooting) shoulder.
He left the court immediately, was ruled out for the rest of the game, and suffered no damage according to the early X-ray results.
For now, we wait. (That said, things are not looking good and it’s fair to expect JR to be out at least a few weeks, if not months before being able to return).
“You hope for the best,” Thibs said. “That’s where we’re at right now.”
“We got to stick together,” Brunson added. “We can’t just have one person pick up the slack or anything.”
Sour note on a huge win, the sixth consecutive and the 12th in the past 14 games. Two more to go, the first scheduled for Monday, in a month for the ages in New York City.
Coming up next: Knicks at Hornets. Tip-off at 7:00 ET. Don’t miss it.