In the wake of his arrival at the trade deadline last February, Josh Hart has energised the Knicks with a spectacular winning streak in his first nine games. Simultaneously, there’s been a seismic impact made by newcomer OG Anunoby, who has kicked off his time in the Big Apple with impressive stats. Anunoby put on a show Tuesday night, punching in a top-of-the-team 23 points on a 9-for-12 shooting record, along with four significant 3-pointers. The Knicks indeed ran circles around the Trail Blazers with a commanding 112-84 victory, made even more colourful by the resonating ‘O-G’ chants from the electrified Garden audience.
Anunoby, an immediate crowd darling, left his distinct mark on the game with an intense two-way contribution, finishing plus-26 in merely 29 minutes. Such performance has shot his standing up to a commanding plus-111 in his 5-game unbeaten stint with the Knicks, following his departure from the Raptors in late December. Knicks’ coach Tom Thibodeau couldn’t suppress a chuckle when talking about Anunoby’s rousing start, ‘If Anunoby can keep up this pace, that’d be something’, he said, ‘Making the transfer mid-season, the challenge is all about adapting quickly. And OG’s kick-off has been nothing short of sizzling.’
OG finished with a game-high 23 points ? pic.twitter.com/c6A3qzFObs
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 10, 2024
Further igniting the Knicks’ flame were Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson, who raked in 20 and 12 points respectively along with Brunson’s seven assists, all without even stepping foot in the fourth quarter. This punishing blow to the Trail Blazers, now in a reconstruction phase (10-26), is evidence of the Knicks’ continuous ascent. Secondary but notable contributions from Quentin Grimes (17 points), Miles McBride (16), and Donte DiVincenzo (13) also bolstered the thrilling win. The Knicks’ latest triumph lifts their season tally to 22-15, boasting an impressive 15-1 record against teams entering with a losing scorecard.
Their single misstep against under .500 teams occurred mid-December versus the Jazz. Reflecting on the importance of these victories, Randle stated, ‘When the season concludes, the point differentials and seeding command attention. You don’t want to look back at games that slipped away. It’s all about staying on top of your game and taking care of business.’
Brunson, recently crowned Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week for the second time this season, is strengthening his case for his maiden All-Star designation. He was overlooked at last year’s All-Star, with Randle representing the Knicks. The point guard, however, with his $104 million contract, has been nothing but extraordinary, logging career peaks with an average of 25.6 points per game, 6.5 assists, and a 3-point percentage of 42.6 percent in the team’s first 37 matches.
As the Knicks prepared for the Tuesday match, they found themselves entwined in a five-way tie for the fourth to eighth playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Coach Thibodeau remains optimistic, believing winning more games will only strengthen Brunson’s case for an All-Star spot. ‘In my opinion, he fully deserves the recognition. But then again, it’s the aftereffect of consistent winning’, Thibodeau said, ‘There’s an abundance of prodigious players in the league, and many deserve recognition. When the time comes to vote, and mind you I can’t vote for my own players, it’s a challenging task.’,
‘At the end of the day, it boils down to the player’s contributions to winning streaks for those close calls. Here’s to hoping we continue to win and our players get the recognition they deserve. In my eyes, Brunson is fully deserving.’ Brunson, currently sitting at the number six spot among All-Star fan voting for backcourt players, has also reeled in an endorsement from Chauncey Billups, a former five-time All-Star Knicks player, and the Trail Blazers’ current coach.
Billups expressed his admiration for Brunson, saying, ‘Jalen is more than just a player – he is a winner. You can discuss his craftiness, his scoring ability, but what stands out is his winning mentality. He has an impressive knack for making significant and game-changing plays. Leading the league in taking charges shows just how much a winner he is.’ Brunson demonstrated a selfless approach by contributing primarily four points in the first quarter, allowing Anunoby to take up the scoring mantle.
Anunoby started off the scoreboard with a bang, sinking four out of five 3-pointer attempts and securing 16 points that propelled the Knicks towards a daunting 38-22 lead. McBride and Grimes, in their impactful roles from the bench, each contributed two 3-pointers in the first half, collectively amassing 14 points, pushing the Knicks far ahead with a 63-41 score at halftime.
Brunson and Randle rounded off the first half with 10 points each. Anunoby further impressed with a free throw in the second quarter, thereby matching his 17-point personal best with the Knicks. The third quarter saw the Knicks take a commanding lead of almost 40 points, indicative of their continued dominance of the game.
In essence, the explosive form of Anunoby following his transfer, the rock-solid performances of regulars like Randle and Brunson, and the key contributions from rising stars like Grimes, McBride and DiVincenzo, have helped solidify the Knicks’ standing, poising them as a formidable adversary in the East.
The team unity, ability to adapt and perform under pressure, and commitment to their craft have given the Knicks a commanding stature this season. Coach Thibodeau’s guidance and the players’ tireless efforts show a gleaming promise for what’s to come.
The subsequent games will undoubtedly pose their own challenges. However, as seen through Brunson and his team’s unwavering commitment, the desire for winning and recognition runs deep.
Wrapping up, it would be safe to say that the Knicks have built a well-oiled machine, driven by leadership, athletic prowess, and a winner-takes-all mentality. This tenacity, coupled with strategic play and adaptive potential, paints a hopeful forecast for the rest of the season.