Check the Box: Knicks Clinch Playoffs. NY 118 Washington 109

The Knicks took care of business on a Sunday evening at Madison Square Garden —  applying defensive pressure in the 2nd half to grab a 20-pt 4th quarter lead and win easy over the feisty Washington Wizards, 118-109.

With the win the Knicks clinched a playoff birth — they will at least be the #6 ranked team in the East and they are aiming to keep their #5 slot — maintaining a 2.5 game lead over Brooklyn with 3 games left.

The Knicks became the 8th team in the NBA this year to clinch a playoff birth.

“It’s a great accomplishment because its one of the goals — one of several,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “It’s the next step along the way. So keep going. That’s where the focus is. We know how important the next game is. Get ready for Indiana. But just keep checking the boxes as we go. Be ready to play every night.”

NY was without Julius Randle (sprained ankle) and RJ Barrett (out sick); Washington was without Kristaps Porzingis, Bradley Beal, and Kyle Kuzma.

1. Feisty Wizards Up by 8 at the Half

The Wizards came in at 34-43 with nothing to play for except to lose and increase their probability in the draft lottery — but the players saw otherwise — playing for consideration in Washington’s future. Washington — playing free and easy — took a 61-53 lead over the Knicks at the half.

Corey Kispert — the 6’7 small forward in his second season out of Gonzaga — took charge of the Wizard offense — shooting from everywhere. He had 29 pts on 10-19 shooting (4-11 from 3). Kispert is having a fine 2nd season, averaging 10.8 ppg and .430 from 3 — and figures strongly in that Washington future.

And old man and former Knick Taj Gibson was being a pain in the ass — hitting 3’s — to the chagrin of his old buddies on the Knicks bench. Taj hit three 3’s in the first half and finished 4-5 from 3 for 11 pts.

Kendrick Nunn was also a pain — shooting 4-6 from the floor (3-4 from 3) for 11 points.

The Knicks were having no trouble scoring too — but they couldn’t seem to stop the feisty Wizards from scoring.

2. Knicks Applied the D in the 3rd

But the Knicks got serious in the 3rd quarter, applying the defense which opened up their offense. Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, and Jalen Brunson were creating steals, and turning them into drives — and hitting 3’s.

And Obi Toppin was slamming and driving to the basket with aggression. It was the Obi we saw the last 5 games of last year when he started with Randle out.

Toppin did everything — block shots, lead the break, hit windmill slams, and hit his 3.

Mitchell Robinson put up an Aegis underneath the basket — blocking shots, defending and rebounding. He then passed the baton to Isaiah Hartenstein who did his big-body work late in the 3rd into the 4th — providing a wall of defense inside, rebounding, and making expert passes on the offensive end.

3. Four Knicks with 20+ Points

And Quentin Grimes was doing his thing — playing a splendid all-around game — moving without the ball, hitting 3’s, penetrating, passing, defending.

The Knicks had 4 players score 20 or more points:

  • Jalen Brunson 27 pts
  • Quentin Grimes 27 pts
  • Immanuel Quickley 22 pts
  • Obi Toppin 21 pts

4. Robinson & Hartenstein Dominant Inside

Not to mention Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein combined for 17 pts, 19 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks.

  • Robinson’s line: 8 pts on 3-4 shooting (2-2 in free throws!), 11 rebounds (4 offensive), 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block in 26 minutes.
  • Hartenstein’s line: 9 pts on 4-5 shooting (1-3 in free throws), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block in 22 minutes.

5. Hart the Fulcrum of the Defense

And Josh Hart of course — providing the fulcrum of the Defense. He only finished with 2 points in 26 minutes, with 6 rebounds and 3 assists — but was the core element to the Knicks clamping down the defense in the 3rd and 4th quarters.

There was a minor scare when he went out of the game and to the lockeroom with a sprained ankle early in the 4th — but came back after being taped up and played later in the 4th. It looked to be a mild sprain.

The Boxscore

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