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The streaking New York Knicks came away with a statement win inside of a raucous Madison Square Garden against the Boston Celtics who relinquished the top seed in the NBA. Julius Randle and Immanuel Quickley each scored 23 points, and the red-hot Knicks along with Jalen Brunson kicked Boston out of the top spot in the overall NBA standings with their sixth straight victory, 109-94 on Monday night. Jaylen Brown was out due to personal reasons, however, that did not stop the betting world from favoring the Celtics by 2 points before the game started. Knicks will face a rest disadvantaged Brooklyn Nets team which was knocked out of its 5th seed in the East thanks to the Knicks. The men in orange and blue will then face the Boston Celtics again at the TD Garden Sunday, March 5th, a game in which a frustrated Jason Tatum and Marcus Smart will most likely circle on their calendars. Revenge can’t come soon enough for Coach Joe Mazzulla and the Celtics.
Knicks Still May Not Have Reached Their Full Potential Yet.
This is the reason the Knicks are a very dangerous team. Not only do they match up well at every position, but the Knicks also believe they can make a real run in the playoffs. The Knicks had a tough, physical identity before Josh Hart arrived. However, the addition of Hart further entrenches the Knicks already rugged hard-nosed style of basketball on both ends of the court. This kind of rugged Tom Thibodeau style of basketball is designed to wear opponents down during a game. What could this intense physical brand of basketball do to an opponent in a playoff series? Opponents must match the grittiness and urgency the Knicks play with under the most “well prepared” coach in the NBA, Tom Thibodeau. The Knicks are 7th in offensive efficiency in the entire NBA. This current nine-man rotation Tom Thibodeau has given the reigns to has exceeded expectations on offense. Knicks possess the third fewest number of turnovers per game in the entire league.
RJ Barrett Still Trying To Regain Form After Missed Time.
RJ Barrett is averaging 19.5-points to go along with 5.2-rebounds and 2.8-assists per game. During a thirteen-game stretch before Barrett’s injury against the Dallas Mavericks, Broadway Barrett was averaging 23.4-points per game on 43% from 3-point territory. During that hot thirteen game stretch, Barrett was also shooting 47% from the field and grabbed six total boards per game. Barrett missed 6 games due to a very badly lacerated finger.
The 22-year-old is currently searching for that rhythm. Some feel he’s still getting into shape after the time away from live basketball. Others feel he’s possibly playing through an injury, similar to what Isaiah Hartenstein went through earlier in the season with his Achilles. However, whatever the case is, many cannot definitely state that a 22-year-old has reached his potential. If one feels RJ Barrett has suddenly maxed his potential, then they need to look back on when they were 22-years old and think of whether or not they’ve performed at a better level at that age. Barrett isn’t in his prime and every player has their time. The maximum potential clock is not the same for everybody, therefore, RJ Barrett continuing to play through his struggles on a now shorter leash from Tom Thibodeau is the way to go.
Plus, understanding the importance of the intangibles Josh Hart brings on a nightly basis is crucial. With all that being said about RJ Barrett, he’s the true x-factor if he begins to elevate his game on both ends once the playoffs start. Confidence is key for RJ and that’s a good thing because he works hard. Therefore, staying the course and finding consistency is the way just like any other young player in the league. But since Hart’s arrival, Barrett is no longer a lock to close games, unless Barrett is playing respectable offense and defense. Barrett decreasing mental errors on both ends of the court is also crucial.
Josh Hart Continues To Prove He Was The Missing Ingredient.
The Knicks haven’t lost a game since the acquisition of Josh Hart. The heart and soul of the Knicks came mid-season and his accumulation of winning plays on a nightly basis is influencing the rest of the roster including Quentin Grimes. Even Knick fans watching the games aren’t going into a panic attack when the bench struggles anymore due to Hart’s consistency on defense when pressuring the ball, guarding the perimeter, and nabbing defensive rebounds. Hart’s overall awareness and activity on the offensive glass has been huge because it helps the Knicks refrain from blowing leads like they’ve done in the past.
Knick fans are getting a taste of winning basketball, especially when you take into account that Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart won an NCAA championship together at Villanova under Coach Jay Wright. Winning is nothing new to those two individuals. The Knicks are a solid team that can battle with the best of them. The scary thing about this hot stretch of basketball is the fact that Hart is still getting acclimated with this current Knicks roster, which is why one can say the Knicks haven’t seen their full potential yet. Knicks coaching staff is hoping Obi Toppin can benefit from the heightened transition play provided by Immanuel Quickley and Josh Hart. Obi Toppin gaining more trust from Thibs due to a rise in confidence and awareness on both ends would be crucial for the Knicks. According to Tom Thibodeau, the current squad is full of leaders and gym rats. Josh Hart exemplifies both traits.
Quentin Grimes Displayed Significant Potential During The 2023 NBA Rising Stars Game.
The Knicks are nine games above .500 and Quentin Grimes seemed to have boosted his confidence while showing off his skills against his peers during the 2023 NBA All-Star Rising Stars game. Grimes almost led his team to a trophy by scoring 27-points on 10-14 shooting from the field. Grimes shot 6-10 from three and began getting full court face guarded by his opponent at one point due to his blazing hot shooting. Coming out of high school, Quentin Grimes potential as high as any candidate in the nation back in 2018. Potential is high for the former Kansas Jayhawk and Houston Cougar. The stocky and physical starting shooting guard plays hard at both ends of the court. He imposes his physicality on the opposing wing player in an attempt to wear them down. Grimes ability to swiftly read defenses gives the Knicks another playmaking edge in different offensive scenarios. Some feel Hart will take minutes away from Grimes, however, Grimes is learning a ton from Josh Hart in the intangibles department. Grimes plays a similar style of basketball, however, the solid shooting Grimes provides puts his ceiling high than some people can fathom. Grimes style of basketball is tailor made for the playoffs.
Immanuel Quickley Playing The Best Basketball Of His Career.
Immanuel Quickley deserves 2023 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award considerations due to his play on both ends of the court for a fifth seed team in a tough competitive Eastern Conference. Quickley’s hot 3-point shooting and stifling perimeter defense has been championship level. The former Kentucky Wildcat has been learning from a former Villanova Wildcat, Jalen Brunson. The improved decision making, and his already flawless floater in the lane, plus the upper body strength he’s gained and deceptive speed is making Quickley a very dangerous threat for opposing backcourts. He’s arguably the sixth man of the year in many folks’ eyes. The backup point guard play has been so phenomenal, Knicks pulled him out of trade discussions completely.
Julius Randle Is The Best Version Of Himself EVER!
Julius Randle has been lights out! He’s averaging 25.1-points and 10.5-rebounds to go along with 4.1-assists this season. During the last three games of this current Knicks six game winning streak, Randle is averaging 32.3-points whilst shooting a scorching 3-point percentage of 45%. Knicks coaching staff has been encouraging Randle to shoot more t3-pointers. Randle even participated in the 3-point shooting contest during the 2023 NBA All-Star Weekend. The chiseled 6’8” rugged and physically imposing power forward has been in a very good mental space and that’s another reason why the Knicks are extremely dangerous for opponents.
Many could argue that this current season for Julius Randle is even better than the pandemic season two years ago when the starting point guard, Elfrid Payton, and the Knicks did not have Mitchell Robinson in the playoffs due to injury. This time around, the Knicks have a perfect fit in point guard Jalen Brunson who thrives in the playoffs. Brunson is an offensive killer and he’s definitely one of the reasons why Randle is looking more comfortable and confident on the basketball court. Long gone are the days of “point-guards” Kemba Walker, Alec Burks, and Elfrid Payton. The Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle duo could arguably be the best in the league right now. This definitely contributes to the Knicks being a real threat to make a run during the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Let’s not forget the ultimate influence a special player had in a younger Julius Randle. It’s a testament to Randles motor and sense of urgency he’s been playing with. Randle’s deep desire to win looks unmatched most nights.
Mitchell Robinson’s Defensive Impact & Offensive Rebounding Will Be Crucial In Playoffs.
Mitchell Robinson isn’t even fully in shape yet after missing an extended period of time with a thumb fracture. However, his immediate impact upon his return has been significant already, especially with Josh Hart and Immanuel Quickley defensively stifling their opposition on the perimeter. Mitchell Robinson is a load for opposing big men and opposing coaches due to his ability to consistently establish position for offensive tip dunks off missed floaters or 3-pointers. On defense, the Knicks are running teams off the three-point line and funneling opposing offenses into the paint for a Big Mitch block party invite. The Knicks haven’t had a weapon like this in the playoffs since former athletic center Marcus Camby. Knicks Assistant Coach Rick Brunson was also on that roster and Tom Thibodeau was an assistant coach at the time. That was the year the Knicks made it to the 1999 NBA Finals. Mitchell Robinson hasn’t started a playoff game for the Knicks. His time will arrive soon.
Jalen Brunson Is The Head Of The Snake.
Before Brunson’s arrival, Randle was the head of the snake for the Knicks. Now it’s Jalen Brunson who is currently the head of the attack for the Knicks offense. The point guard is averaging 23.6-points and 6.2-assists to go along with 3.6-rebounds per game. During a hot seven game stretch before the 2023 NBA All-Star break, Jalen Brunson averaged 31.9-points whilst shooting 50% from three point territory and 59% from the field. Brunson has proven his deadliness offensively during the playoffs last season in Dallas when Luka Doncic wasn’t available for a stretch. Brunson is more than capable of playing a crucial role in pulling the Knicks out of the first round. Clutch playmaking, decision making, and intelligent/feisty defense is what he provides and no stage is too big for him. Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Donovan Mitchell knows all about the playoff version of Jalen Brunson. Philadelphia 76ers has struggled containing Brunson as well. Milwaukee Bucks are best equipped to handle a team like these current Knicks due to their defensive minded wings and their length at every position, plus of course the former champion himself, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Overall, The New York Knicks have a complete team that competes ferociously every game. There is something special brewing at MSG and as the playoffs approach us, fans should be extremely proud and excited for what’s to come.