Goooooooood morning world! Your New York Knicks are on a four-game win streak after an impressive game against Zion and the Pelicans. Julius Randle continued his dominance with 32 points, making five 3-pointers. The All-Star deserves all the praise, and the team would not be a playoff contender without him. A surprise catalyst on the offense as well has been Alec Burks, who came off the bench and scored 21 points. The Knicks currently sit at 29-27 and are tied for the 6th seed in the eastern conference with only 16 games left to play.
It has been a brutal few seasons for the Knicks, who have ultimately become a laughing stock of the league. Now in 2021, New York has turned heads and made a name for itself. Now they aren't a contender but have immensely improved and kickstarted a true rebuilding process. The most important thing they are building is a winning culture. It's apparent that there are a true bond and brotherhood on this team. One guy falls, and the whole team shoots to pick him up.
The team has the perfect combination of rising stars and solidified vets, which has equated to a formula of success. Julius Randle has a new sense of rejuvenation in his career. He improved on all of his weaknesses (shooting, passing, and defense), and earned himself his first All-Star nod. His turnovers are down, and he is making plays on the open floor. He has a career-high 6 assists per game, and career-high in scoring, with 23 points per game on 56% shooting.
RJ Barrett has taken a huge stride in his sophomore season. Since the All-Star break, Barrett has averaged 19.2 ppg, 5.2 rebounds, and over 3 assists, while shooting 56.2% and a 42.3% three-point percentage. Immanuel Quickley has emerged as a surprise contributor off the bench and will be an incredible asset at the point guard position for years to come. Obi Toppin is playing 11.6 minutes per game and making an impact on both ends. Derrick Rose is playing his best basketball since his Bulls days, Reggie Bullock has been a defensive-minded fiend, and Alec Burks is providing scoring surges throughout the season.
You can also point their success to Thibodeau's defensive scheme. The New York Knicks have finished bottom 10 in defensive efficiency in each of the past five seasons, so something needed to change immediately. Since Thibodeau has taken over, the Knicks have been top-5 in the league in defensive rating all season long. Thibs has garnered some praise across the league, especially from Pelicans Head Coach Steve Van Gundy, prior to the game.
“They’re a great defensive team. [Tom’s] got some really tough veteran guys leading the way and they’re an outstanding defensive team and an extremely competitive group, and [they have] a lot of guys who have been through the battles and those guys are bringing along some of the young they have,” - Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy
Defense wins the championship, a statement that is old as the tale of time. The Knicks are dominating the defensive game, and their ratings show. The team holds the third-best defensive rating in the NBA at 107.8, only behind the Lakers (105.6) and 76ers (106.4), who are both top championship contenders. Even without the shot-blocking monster Mitchell Robinson, the team has proved to have the "next man up mentality". Who would've thought Nerlens Noel, a $5 million dollar pickup in the offseason to serve as the backup center, has anchored this formidable defense. He ranks 1st in the NBA in defensive plus-minus and 2nd in NBA in block %.
Nobody is saying the Knicks are going to win a championship this season, but the narrative is now being made that they are a destination for talent. The prestige of the "Mecca" is returning, and Thibs has brought great respect back to the Knicks.
New York has a big game coming up on Friday. They'll face off against former New Yorker Kristap Porzingis and NBA phenom Luka Doncic. A win against Dallas would give the team a five-game win steak, the first since Mike Woodson's 2013-14 season, which brought them to the playoffs.