I am the opposite of the Philadelphia 76ers (23-11) because I don’t know how to start my stories but I know very well how to apply the final touches.
The New York Knicks (20-15) arrived in Philly on Friday looking for some capable opponent to play a basketball game later on the day but they could only find one good for 15 minutes. The outcome: Knicks 128, Sixers 92 inside Wells Fargo Center, PA.
The Knicks were the dogs at tip-off, which is reasonable considering the record put together by both franchises to date, the folks from Gotham just on the verge of avoiding the play-in, and the hosts from Cheesesteak Land solidly in possession of the no. 3 seed.
That lasted for all of a quarter-and-change, with the Knicks making it 29-all with 1:28 left in the first, taking the lead before the end of said frame, and never relinquishing on their way to reaching a game-high 39-point lead.
WHAT A GAME— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 6, 2024
JB 29 PTS | 3 REB | 1 STL | 1 BLK
QG 19 PTS | 8 REB | 1 STL | 1 BLK
IH 17 PTS (season high) | 6 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK
Deuce 15 PTS (season high) | 4 AST
OG 11 PTS | 2 REB | 1 STL
JH 10 PTS | 15 REB (season high) | 6 AST | 1 BLK pic.twitter.com/oIvudX3ckM
One day after the NBA released the results of the first round of voting for the All-Star Game and we found out both Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle had failed to crack the top-5 and top-10 lists at their respective positions in the East, the two and the whole NYC crew went to work away from home.
Yes, including the bench mob.
Just a couple of days ago, the main problem for these new-look Knicks was the second unit. On Friday, the second unit carried the whole team to their best win of the season.
“They sparked us in the first half, really got us going,” Brunson said about the reserves. “And continued throughout the game.”
It was a mixed bag of contributors and moments.
Miles McBride, fresh off filling his bag after a few years and more than a handful of months doing it as a very professional worker in New York, dumped 15 points on Philly finding the net on 4-of-8 attempts (all made treys) and also nailing the trio of freebies he was handed by the refs.
MMB went nuts in the first quarter, notching all four 3-point shots he hoisted to keep the struggling starters above water. 12 points in four minutes for an explosion we can only hope continues.
Lil Deuce also officially made it to The Show as he was the man asked by the man when all was said and done. Clyde ft. Deuce, Vol. I.
Josh Hart made meme history by throwing a touchdown inside a gym last Wednesday. He was this close to making legit NBA history on Friday, keeping up and finishing with the fifth-highest plus/minus for a reserve in 30 minutes: +46.
All Hart did? Dub-dubbing to the tune of 10 points, 15 rebounds, six dimes, and a swatted shot. Did Jalen Brunson care? Not at all.
Knicks history he made, though, as Hart joined a now-four-man club of Knickerbockers to ever put up such a gaudy stat: Wilson Chandler, David Lee, and Obi Toppin are the other living legends (all of them did it as starters, mind you).
There was room to improve, and you bet these guys knew and so they did in Philly.
Josh Hart on the second unit tonight:— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) January 6, 2024
"We played like s--t the last two games. I think we all came in, brought great energy. Get some momentum" pic.twitter.com/voC6bTL1Rb
Brunson asked Hart on the spot about his feelings coming off an outing for “the best plus/minus in NBA history,” to which Hart replied “Well, they staggered my minutes with you. So it was easy.”
Speaking of JB, he went back to his usual tendencies by forgetting about dishing out dimes (two assists) but scoring a team-high 29 only topped by Joel Embiid’s 30 points against the Knicks.
With Julius Randle misfiring wildly (1-of-11 from the field, no treys on three attempts, 6-for-6 from the stripe), the trio of OG Anunoby (11), Isaiah Hartenstein (17), and Donte DiVincenzo (14) was the one putting up points among those named in Tom Thibodeau’s starting five.
“Julius didn’t make shots but he played well and that’s the important thing—to do other things that help the team,” Thibodeau said after the curtain was brought down.
Quentin Grimes, who has found his best role coming off the bench, had himself a game.
Grimes scored 19 points shooting 46% from the field and 44% from range scoring all three of his free-throw attempts. He pulled down eight rounds and contributed two assists, a block, and a steal. It reads +37 for QG.
So good were the Knicks that Ryan Arcidiacono got four minutes of play. Jericho Sims ran for two. Malachi Flynn made a brief (but still!) debut.
The other former Raptor to come back home on Dec. 30, the Precious man Achiuwa, scored five points while grabbing three boards and swatting one rock. He bagged his first triple as a member of the Knicks two days after scoring his first basket near the rim last Wednesday.
“The way we’ve been able to gel so fast, it’s been great,” Brunson said. “We’ve just got to continue to get better.”
That’s more about OG than Achiuwa, but also applies to the Nigerian Big and the reshaped rotation.
Anunoby has yet to meet defeat as a Knick. He had a bad day on the stat sheet but another great on-tape performance. New York has gone from slightly above-mediocre against good teams to beating two of the best teams in the league in the past week, including wins against the Wolves on New Year's and the Sixers on Friday.
For the first time since Nov. 28 hosting the Hornets in the second-to-last IST game of the year, the Knicks held an opponent below 100 points scored. The Sixers finished Friday’s matchup posting a 92 Offensive Rating after not falling lower than 100.0 all season long.
“It’s a great win, honestly, for us,” Randle said. “Especially to come on the road and do this, it’s huge. Shoot, I’m happy we can get out of here with a win. Just keep building on it.”
“Any given night, any team can beat anybody. So no matter who it is, we have to have the same approach,” Brunson said. “Obviously, that’s a great team over there and they’ve done a great job throughout the first half of the season. And we just played well tonight.”
“We’re high-character guys that play the game hard, that play the game the right way,” Hart said. “That’s really showing right now in the style of play we’re doing, the wins that we’re getting—We just got to continue to do it.
“We can’t get too high, too low. In this league, when you’re at your peak, you have more room to fall. We have to continue to build and to grow and try to put together wins.”
Quoth StopCapingForTheRefs: “This was brutal, we made them look like the Pistons.”
Don’t rest on your laurels, Knickerbockers.
Back at it tonight, this time against the Washington Wizards (6-27) in D.C. It’s all looking like the perfect day for a Randle Bounceback Game. Tip-off at 7 ET. Don’t miss it.