Not Just a Win — Feb 29, 2020: NY 125 Chicago 115

This wasn’t just a win. It was a vision of the future — of RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson providing a core star tandem for years to come, helped out by other stars, either acquired or home grown.

Barrett Star

Because when you watched RJ Barrett in this game — big 6’7 NBA body going to the basket and absorbing contact with relish; in all kinds of ways to score; or hitting 3’s when he wasn’t doing that, and playing great Defense — you come away saying, ‘you know, I wouldn’t want anyone else in that draft. Not Ja Morant as terrific as he is, he is small (and Elfrid Payton played him even 2 weeks ago); and not Zion Williamson who has been great so far (if not much of a highlight reel) but you have to worry about those knees with his build; nor anyone else being offered up in rookie of year talk.

Barrett was the #1 player in the nation entering his first year of college ball and he looks all of that now. Remember when Zion Williamson was asked on draft night what it feels like to be the best player in college ball, he said “I don’t know you have to ask RJ Barrett.” The Knicks may have gotten the player of the draft. Barrett finished with 19 points on 8-10 shooting, 3-4 from 3, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and a +19.

Robinson Star

And Mitchell Robinson — Beast. He is getting better and better, especially lately when he seems to have hit a realization point — ‘found it’ — that magical moment, according to Wally Szczerbiak on the post game, when you figure out the NBA game and it slows down for you. You all of a sudden anticipate where your teammates are going to be and where the opponents are going to be. Mitch was all everything in this game, scoring, slam dunking, blocking shots, ripping down rebounds on both offensive and defensive boards — the biggest, baddest man on the court. He looked like Wilt Chamberlain — a young Wilt Chamberlain who was taller than everyone else and more athletic than anyone else on the court.

Robinson was The reason why the Knicks Dominated inside and won this game. He even dribbled and scored on a drive at one point — after snaring a rebound and going baseline. He finished with 23 points on 11-16 shooting, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, in 29 minutes but again the boxscore seemed tame compared to how he played. So many times, Chicago players dribbled into the lane, saw Robinson, and went back the other way.

And ps Robinson continues to lead the NBA with a historical high field goal percentage of .732.

Cream on Top of the Cake: Knox

To add cream to the top of the cake, Kevin Knox had his best game of the season. His Defense has improved recently as has been mentioned, and he did a nice job offensively: 4-9 shooting (2-3 from 3, 2-2 on free throws) for 12 pts, 6 rebounds in 21 minutes.

Everyone Balled — Payton, Randle, Taj, Moe, Ntilikina!

And Elfrid Payton, Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis, Maurice Harkless, and Frank Ntilikina all balled — a total team effort. Even Wayne Ellington played well.

The Game: the Beginning

The Knick starters came out with great energy, and jumped out to a 10 point lead near the middle of the 1st quarter. Taj Gibson especially, was balling — cooking Wendell Carter inside. Taj had 7 of the Knicks first 9 points, with 4 rebounds in the first 4 minutes.

But the second team gave the lead all back, on a 10-2 Chicago run. The Knicks dominated inside; but Chicago was hitting 3’s to stay in it and then even get the lead. Ntilikina entered the game with 2 minutes left in the 1st quarter and left with 3 minutes played in the 2nd quarter, due to 3 fouls he picked up guarding Chicago’s Coby White.

The Game: the Middle

The game then see-sawed in the 2nd quarter until the Knick starters went on a 16-2 run to end the half, on the play of Barrett and Robinson and Randle, and Taj Gibson with strong inside play and defense, and Moe Harkless doing the right things, and Elfrid Payton who was penetrating and passing and hitting up Robinson for alley oop slam after alley oop slam. At the half, Payton had 0 points, but 9 assists and a +16.

The Game: the Ending

Chicago came back in the 3rd though, cutting the Knicks 13-point halftime lead to 3 entering the 4th. The Knicks hung onto that lead throughout the 4th quarter — Chicago pulled to within 2 on a Coby White 3 with 9:28 left, but the Knicks kept pushing it back to a 5-pt lead.

“We bended but did not break”, said Knicks coach Mike Miller afterwards.

Frank Ntilikina played good ball on the second team during this period, keeping the Knicks with the lead with heady play at the point, and hitting a big 3.

Also Kevin Knox made two huge dunks at the start of the quarter. and hit a 3. Mitch Robinson slammed home an alley oop pass from Ntilikina and Portis powered his way inside for a bucket, and hit a hook shot as well.

The starters came back in for the last 6 minutes. And it was Payton to Barrett and then Randle making Big plays. Taj Gibson played heady ball down the stretch too, as did Moe Harkless. NY had a 7 pt lead with 4:08 left, then moved to a 10 point lead, and the game was theirs.

Randle finished with 22 points on 7-15 shooting, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and a +17. His drives and scoring down the stretch was a key to the win.

For Chicago

Coby White hit his usual 3’s and finished with 22 pts on 7-17 (4-8 from 3) — more than Barrett’s 19 pts — but there isn’t a GM on this planet who would choose White over Barrett after watching this game, I think. And Zack LaVine was doing his thing — 26 points on 10-25 and 4-8 from 3. Wendell Carter Jr had a tough night — 6 pts on 1-5 shooting, 9 rebounds and a -15 in 18 minutes , schooled by old man Taj Gibson who had 17 pts on 5-6 shooting (7-8 free throws), 8 rebounds and a +12.

The Boxscore


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