Following a tough loss to the Dallas Mavericks last Saturday, the Knicks were 10-13, losers of 4 of their last 5 games, and had two difficult games coming up against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks. Both Derrick Rose and Cam Reddish would be taken out of the rotation prior to the Cavaliers game, as Tom Thibodeau continued to search for better play out of his team. After all of these losses and changes, not even the most optimistic of fans could have predicted what happened these past 2 games.
Knicks Defense Stifles Cavs
Anytime Donovan Mitchell comes to New York for the rest of his career, Knicks fans will always wonder what could have been if a trade had been made for the superstar. However, seeing what the Knicks defense did against Mitchell and his new team on Sunday night might put some of those hypotheticals to rest.
So far this season, the Cavs have been one of the top offenses in the league as they are top 10 in both field goal and three point percentage. This offensive production was nowhere to be found Sunday night. The Cavs shot 35 percent from the field and only 23 percent from behind the arc as the Knicks won 92-81.
For New York, it had to be the defense this game as no one could really get it going on the offensive end. Jalen Brunson lead the team with 23 points, but it was really plays like these from Mitchell Robinson that defined this win.
Lock up Mitch 🔒 pic.twitter.com/rOURI64hlF
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 5, 2022
King of Broadway
Another game, another opposing superstar guard. This time it would be Trae Young, a name that will always mean something in New York. After yesterday's game he continued to cement his legacy as a Knicks rival as he displayed his new "King of Broadway" shoes alluding to his performance back in the playoffs two years ago. And although fans may not want to remember the end of that season, this defensive performance along with the Cavs game should have brought back some of the more fond memories from that season.
The Knicks would once again hold their opponent to under 90 points as they won 113-89. A theme of elite perimeter defense continued as the Hawks were held to 17 percent from the three point line. Trae Young himself did not make a single three pointer as he went 0-4 and was held to a mere 19 points overall.
Fortunately, the Knicks offense did find success last night as Randle put up an incredible performance with 34 points, 17 rebounds, and 5 assists. Quentin Grimes also contributed in a big way with 23 points on 8-11 from the field and 5-7 from three. As a team the Knicks shot 47 percent from the three point line which is an enormous step up from their season average of 32 percent.
What really makes these two wins stand out is not just the defense reminiscent of the 2021 Knicks, it is lineup changes working for Thibodeau. After the Mavericks loss, Thibodeau decided to cut the rotation down to 9 players by taking Cam Reddish and Derrick Rose out and inserting Miles McBride.
Keeping Brunson and Quickley as the only two points guards getting minutes has allowed Grimes and McBride to play most of the shooting guard minutes. Both players have a great understanding of their role which is to play hard defensively and hit open shots on offense. Grimes has been shooting the ball increasingly well after being put in the starting lineup. McBride has only made 1 shot since being inserted to the rotation, however his defensive impact has certainly been felt. In 43 minutes overall he has been a +27 plus/minus rating.
These past two games have been the potential to be building blocks for the Knicks reclaiming their defensive identity that lead them to their astounding 2021 season. It will be interesting to see if this new defensive effort continues when the Knicks travel to Charlotte tomorrow night.
- Brunson Comes Back, Knicks Get Back To 5th Place - March 20, 2023
- Knicks Struggle Without Brunson, Fall Back To 6th - March 13, 2023
- The Knicks Have Something Special Going On - March 6, 2023