The New York Knicks may never lose again.
Or, at the very least, they may never lose a game for the next two weeks after stringing four consecutive victories to kick 2024 off, including Saturday’s 121-105 win in D.C. against the lowly Wiz.
Quoth MelleMehl: “We’re beating good teams and blowing out bad teams. Looking like another bomb trade mid-season for Mr. Rose.”
The Knicks, now in sole possession of the No. 4 seed in the East with a 21-15 record, dealt the Wizards (6-29) another L in hostile territory and moved half a game clear of No. 5 Miami after Boston did the same to Indiana yesterday.
New York will return to MSG on Tuesday to host the struggling Trail Blazers (.265), will go on the road for a couple of games to close next week at Dallas (.583) and Memphis (.343), and will then play four consecutive matchups at home against the Magic (.571), Rockets (.515), Wizards (.176), and Raptors (.400) before crossing the bridge to play the Nets (.444) at Brooklyn on Jan. 23.
To summarize, the Knicks will face five sub-.500 teams in their next eight games, two barely-.500+ squads at MSG, and only one team above .580 (Dallas) on the road. Not saying our dudes will sweep the field, but there is a chance by the time Denver comes to the Garden on Jan. 25 our boys might have a solid 10-2 record in 2024, worst-case scenario.
Undefeated in 2024— KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) January 7, 2024
Undefeated with OG
Undefeated with Clyde on the call
Julius Randle put it nicely after the Knicks clinched their fourth dub of the season and 14th (against just one loss) when facing sub.500 opponents: “Don’t play with your food. Take care of what you’re supposed to take care of and just keep improving.”
That’s because the Knicks dominated the Wizards until they didn’t, it looked like they would Knick the game, but ultimately came out winners as was their wont. D.C. stayed close in the scoreboard for most of the first frame, making it 23-18 with a little over three minutes to play.
Turns out Washington emptied their gun after that, allowing the Knicks to build their largest lead stretching to as many as 26 pops at some point. The Bullets weren't coming until they were.
“I think we got it to 26 and then there was their run that got it to 20 [at halftime],” Thibodeau said. “Then they started the third on a run. So then we gave them hope that they could get back into the game, which they did, and I knew that they play hard.
“You guys hear it from me ad nauseam, they—my players—they hear it from me ad nauseam: No lead is safe in this league.”
The Wizards made a strong effort and pushed hard, but at the end of the day, they didn’t have enough. Call it a teammate-diss or call it what you will, but Kyle Kuzma was asked after the game what the Knicks do well that Washington cannot replicate and he described it as a matter of “personnel.”
“We try to do what they do. They just got the personnel to do it.”— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) January 7, 2024
— Kyle Kuzma on the Knicks defense pic.twitter.com/kZubroYWeI
One day before, on Friday right after destroying the on-paper-contenders Sixers, Josh Hart talked about something similar inside the locker room of New York.
“We’re high-character guys that play the game hard, that play the game the right way, and I think 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,” Hart said.
On Saturday, the second game of a road back-to-back affair, Randle and Jalen Brunson was all the Knicks needed to navigate the capital waters. The former had an expected bounceback game dropping 39 points after failing to crack double-digit figures against Philly; the latter added 33 to go with eight assists.
"We just want to win and that's all we care about."— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) January 7, 2024
Jalen Brunson talks about the numbers he and Julius Randle are putting up recently: pic.twitter.com/JMMqOxyQKW
Kuz and Deni Avdija combined for 50 points themselves, but a struggling, humiliating-level Jordan Poole could only score 10 points on 10 shots, and not even that trifecta was enough to reach JB&JR 72 on the night.
“Collectively, we (Randle and him) have the same mindset,” Brunson said. “As long as we’re winning, we can get better the next day and keep going from there.”
The Knicks found another double-digit scorer in Donte DiVincenzo, who reached just 10 points in D.C., but didn’t need much more than their two superstars on Saturday, as well as Isiah Hartenstein’s monster rebounding and defense: 19 boards, two blocks, four steals, game-high +26 plus/minus for the German lad.
The bench stunk a bit with Josh Hart contributing to winning play for the most part as the Knicks went on to outscore Washington by 24 with him on the floor. Outside of Hart’s nine points and four rebounds, Quentin Grimes had six points while Deuce McBride contributed five-and-five points and dimes.
Precious Achiuwa, Malachi Flynn, and Jericho Sims combined for barely 10 minutes of run, two points, and a personal foul (all of those numbers put up mostly by Achiuwa alone).
After the game against the Sixers in which Flynn made his Knicks debut having rehabbed his injury, Thibs revealed the former Raptor is only going to be a “situational” piece on the team, which means Flynn’s not in Thibs nine-man rotation.
For now and unless further trades are made before the Feb. 8 deadline, the backup point role is for Deuce to lose. “We’ll see how it works out,” Thibodeau said about it.
On a similar note, touching on the big-man rotation, Thibs said that I-Hart will keep getting reps as the starter with Achiuwa as the main backup and Sims (who also returned from a mid-December injury of late) waiting on the wings. “Just stay ready,” Thibodeau said. “[Sims] will get another opportunity as we go along here.”
What did Tom Thibodeau say to his team after the Wizards cut the lead to five in the second half?— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) January 7, 2024
"You don't want to know" pic.twitter.com/kkZIFEikNJ
With the Knicks righting their wrongs before it was too late and things got more complicated than they should have, they coasted to their fourth victory in the OG Era, one that couldn’t have started better.
Thibodeau thinks his team has “a good core that’s been together for a while now,” which is the main reason for the winning start to this new chapter in franchise history. OG hasn’t been a walking firework in his week playing games donning the orange and blue jersey, but he’s improved the team on D will providing enough mojo on the offensive side of the game.
“We can absorb people coming in,” Thibs added. “A guy like OG is very serious. He wants to do well, and I think his mind is open. He plays incredibly hard on every possession, so even if it’s not perfect right now, it’s still gonna be good. Your hustle can make up for a lot. And that’s really what he’s doing.”
One thing is for sure, and that’s OG not having found a ball he cannot dunk.
Anunoby failed to crack the 10-point barrier for the first time since Dec. 20 when he was still playing basketball in Canada. He finished Saturday’s game with just nine points but contributed five boards, two assists, and one steal. Once again a double-digit plus/minus (+11) in the green, and the Knicks have now outscored opponents by an average of 21.3 points with him on the floor while going 4-0 in that span.
OG’s next game will be his 400th as a pro and he will clinch the milestone (knock on wood) inside the place he now calls home: Madison Square Garden in NYC.
As a final note, here’s a Katzbomb.
Tom Thibodeau if he would considering adding Taj Gibson to his coaching staff when Gibson is done playing:— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) January 6, 2024
Impresario Gibson? Puppet-master Taj? Thibs’ OG heir!? Color me excited!
Knicks vs. Blazers. Tuesday at 7:30 ET in NYC. Don’t miss it.