Knicks (17-17) are now tied with Toronto for fourth place in the East 🔥 pic.twitter.com/4f4h5T2pRQ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 28, 2021
The Knicks are now at .500 after beating the Pacers. The win wasn’t as pretty as Thursday night’s against the Kings when they scored 140 points, but it still counts the same in the standings. This was what I like to call a “Thibs win”, a grind it out game were several starters played over 40 minutes, Randle and Noel.
The good news is that it was a game the Knicks have usually lost in the past. The Knicks game out flat and looked out of sync the whole game. Coach Thibodeau had to call a time out less than 3 minutes into the game at the 9:41 mark in the 1st quarter when the Knicks were down 8-0. They didn’t score their first points until the 9:06 mark when Derrick Rose hit two free throws.
What concerned me
While I appreciate all types of wins, even the ugly ones, there were a few things that concerned me last night.
Like I mentioned the offense wasn’t crisp, it was out of sorts. Derrick Rose looked like we was playing his first game with the team. The Knicks had a hard time getting into the paint and shot 3 less free throws than the Pacers. The other was the turnovers, Knicks committed 21, while the Pacers only had 16. Part of the Knicks’ formula for success is protecting the basketball, they only average 13 turnovers per game, 10th best in NBA. This game could give Thibs and the front office the excuse they need to continuing playing Elf.
Knicks barely beat a weak opponent
The Knicks were playing without their starting Center, Mitchell Robinson, but the Pacers were down 3 starters, Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, and Caris LaVert. Also Jeremy Lamb only played 12 minutes because of knee injury. Maybe that’s why the Knicks came out flat, they thought this was going to be an easy win.
I have said it before the start of the season, the wins wouldn’t matter was much if the young players don’t contribute. When Taj Gibson went out with the strained ankle, it was the perfect opportunity to play Obi with Randle and even get Knox some minutes at the 4 spot. Instead Obi only played a total of 6 minutes and Kev only played 2 minutes. Frank despite having a great 1st game back against the Kings only shot the ball twice in played 11 minutes. Even Quickley, the one young player that gets consistent minutes off the bench only played 13 minutes despite going 3-4 from beyond the arc.
With every game especially a win there are positive things you can point to. Below are just a few.
While fans tend to focus strictly on the box score stats, especially the shooting numbers, which were good for Julius. He went 12-22 from the field and 2-5 from beyond the arc. He also had 6 assists and 10 rebounds. But would really stood out was how he got his numbers. He played great defense on Sabonis and Turner, neutralizing them both. He also got key rebounds, keeping Sabonis and Turner to 1 offensive rebound combined. This limited the Pacers 2nd chance points opportunities. Also, Julius hit big shots. All his points mattered, they weren’t empty stats.
Noel played like a warrior, Knicks played him 41 minutes tonight. While his stat line wasn’t impressive he played great man defense, took a lot punishment and made a key steal at the end of the game when it looked like the Pacers were going to make a comeback. For a guy that looks fragile, he sure played tough tonight. Knicks don’t win this game without Noel playing almost the whole game.
The last major takeaway was the play of R.J. Barrett. He went 4-6 from beyond the arc and went to the free throw line 7 times. He hit big shots in the 4th quarter. The Knicks were +14 when Barrett was on the floor in the 34 minutes he played. Have to mention that he missed 2 free throws that would have iced the game, but need to remember the kid is only 20 years old. He will learn from this and get better at late game situations.
The Knicks next game is against the Pistons, the worst team in the conference that just lost to the Kings. So the Knicks should be having a winning record after tonight’s game.
While the Knicks have been fortunate that they have caught some good opponents while they were dealing with injuries, every win matters. The Knicks should also be credited for not having many injuries and having good depth to withstand the ones they do have.
As the mid-point in the season approaches the Knicks are one of only 5 teams in the East that doesn’t have a losing record. They are also poised to do well in the 2nd half of the season due to their depth. If they can make a key acquisition before the trade deadline, they might find themselves battling with the big boys in the Conference: 76ers, Nets and Bucks.