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Knicks 123, Grizzlies 113: “Good game to rest Brunson“

Ominous comment, prominent victory.

Memphis Grizzlies v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It doesn’t get much more prophetic than charluca8 and his comment from this matchup’s game thread, one he shared with the free world exactly 45 minutes after Tuesday’s tip-off: “Good game to rest Brunson.”

Just for context, the Knicks entered halftime in their home game against Memphis almost exactly at 8:30 pm yesterday, around an hour after the game started. I don’t know the exact score, but it’s fair to assume that by the time our commenter posted his message, New York must have held something in the 20-to-25-point ballpark. Good game to rest Brunson, indeed.

The New York Knicks (33-18) kept their homestand going on Tuesday against the depleted Memphis Grizzlies—the funny folks listed 10+ players in their injury report before game time, including all five usual starters—not without missing a few solid bodies themselves.

Among those injured and not playing yesterday for the Knicks:

  • Mitchell Robinson (30 consecutive games missed)
  • Julius Randle (5)
  • OG Anunoby (5)
  • Quentin Grimes (3)
  • Jericho Sims (1)
  • Evan Fournier (LOLitsajoke)

Yes, the Bears were missing all of their starters, but you can only go against whoever is in front of you. Not saying this was going to be a hard game, far from it, but they say it’s not over till it’s over for a reason. And hey, it’s not that the Knicks weren’t missing three starters themselves, to go with their main producer off the bench and a starter when the ball first tipped off last October.

The Knicks, however, did what they must and trounced Memphis from the start. At the end of the day, barring a dumb loss against the visiting Lake Show last Saturday, the Knicks had won nine straight before eating that rare L and all but two games since Jan. 1st.

That’s why New York went up 7-0, then 25-13, then 39-24, then 52-28, and so on and so forth... At the end of the half, the Knicks were leading the game 70-46. That’s a smooth 24-point advantage. So big, in fact, that the Knicks would need to lose every minute remaining in the game by one point and that would have even only taken the Grizzlies to overtime! Just imagine!

So of course, this being the Knicks, that’s exactly what they (nearly) did.

Truth be told, Memphis never really stood a chance and we all knew it. That, however, doesn’t take from the disastrous second half put together by the Manhattanites.

After shooting 64% from the floor and scoring the second-most points through two quarters this season, the only thing New York could do was bag 53 after the break. Yes, that’s enough to call it a day, but that’s also not gonna cut it in most games.

Hell, the JV Grizzlies dumped 39 in the fourth quarter alone on New York’s collective forehead. They cut a game-high 28-point lead down to a meager four points with just two minutes left to play. They put together, somehow, some way, a freaking 18-1 run only stopped by the magnificent def-3-sec-spotting prowess of pine rider Ryan Arcidiacono.

That clip above also features something that the game wouldn’t for much longer: New York Knicks starting point guard and first-time All-Star player Jalen Brunson.

Obviously, Brunson was playing with fewer than six minutes left in the game. The reason being a fairly close 104-95 score with that time on the clock and the Knicks trying to find a way to stop a team filled full of underdogs about to pull off the comeback of the century.

Less than an hour later, with the dub in the bag and the Knicks having kickstarted another winning streak against the Grizzlies, Brunson left MSG walking on his own, without crutches, per Fred Katz of The Athletic.

Wait, what!? Welp, exactly that.

This game perfectly defines the Knicks' current season and how everything can go south in a minute.

We’re all happy New York is boasting an extraordinary (and let’s be honest, unexpected) winning record that was already into the 30s under the W column before we even reached February. Boston is in a class of their own leading the Eastern Conference by five full games over the no. 2 seeded Cavaliers.

The Cavs, however, are just 0.5 games above both the Bucks and Knicks in third and fourth place, with the Sixers at an already-distant fifth position and trailing the top 4 by two games, having lost two straight and six of their last ten.

It’s easy to find the parallels between this season to date (and what might come) and the game played on Tuesday.

Superb start, collapse, disaster (?).

The Knicks have been able to navigate an endless row of injuries that started last December when Mitchell Robinson went down not having played a minute ever since.

Then, the Knicks consolidated RJ and IQ into (we thought) OG Anunoby and sparse parts. One of those, Precious Achiuwa, is now a more than solid nightly performer.

Then, the Knicks kept losing bodies while racking up victories, including Randle, OG, and Grimes of late. And on Tuesday, it was Brunson who was forced off the floor with five minutes to go shortly after followed by another injury (nothing worrying, it seems, as he was able to stay on the court) happening to teammate Josh Hart.

This all comes down to a numbers game. Combine the injuries with Thibs' maniacal tendency to use a super-short rotation, and by the time we reach April and the playoffs, there is a chance at least one or two Knicks—assuming they were able to remain healthy—have already topped all historic playing-time records.

Against the Pacers on Feb. 1 the Knicks used three serves logging 19, 12, and seven minutes each. Against the Lakers last Saturday, the Knicks used three reserves playing 19, 15, and three minutes each. On Tuesday against the Grizzlies, the Knicks used three reserves playing 31, 13, and 12 minutes each.

One of those was Taj Gibson, who is someone you probably don’t want on the court for a lot of minutes, if any. Another one was Malachi Flynn, whose minutes marked a season-high since arriving in New York. The remaining player to come off the bench was Deuce, who was the only creator on the Knicks roster yesterday and scored 12 points to go with three assists and boards apiece and two steals.

I haven’t mentioned the minutes played by the starters, but I’m sure it’s not hard for you to get an idea. Since the start of February, the Knicks are the only team with three players having logged 36+ minutes in at least three games each. Jalen Brunson would have most probably made it four men yesterday had it not been for his injury, and he still played 32 minutes.

It’s funny because we were all claiming for a “consolidation trade” back in December and that’s surely what the Knicks FO did to great results even with OG missing ample time of late.

Now, entering the final 36 hours before the trade deadline, it’s worth considering if the Knicks should make an “expansion trade” and turn, say, Fournier’s expiring deal in something like Alec Burks + Monte Morris, sign a bought-out player, and bring some firepower that can both boost the second unit and bolster the rotation.

The clock is ticking. Here’s hoping bad luck and an overly patient front office paired with a great-but-a-bit-mad coach do not waste a very special season in the making.

Sorry for not saying many (any) numbers. You can check those in our Scenes. That said, DiVo was great.

Next in town, Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavs on deadline day. Tip-off at 7:30pm. (This time it’d be reasonable if you miss it depending on what’s happened—or not—by the 3pm deadline.) Keep it going, Knickerbockers.