Anunoby Fits Like a Charm. NY 112 Minnesota 106

OG Anunoby with 17 points and tremendous Defense. Photo courtesy NY Knicks.

In his first game as a NY Knick, OG Anunoby fit like a charm — coming up with big defensive plays, especially against Anthony Edwards off switches — and athletic scores and 3’s on the offensive end — to be the key ingredient in NY beating top-ranked Minnesota on a New Year’s day at Madison Square Garden, 112-106.

In fact Anunoby looked like the missing piece the Knicks had needed all along, providing length, athleticism, Defense, and 3-pt shooting at the small forward position — and making key plays to ignite the Knick defense and offense as NY cruised to a 13-pt halftime lead and blew Minnesota off the court in the 3rd quarter — NY up by 22 pts at one point.

But Minnesota is one of the NBA elite teams — coming in at 24-7 — and they made their run, pulling to within 4 points with 6 minutes left. That’s when Julius Randle took over — powering to the basket for key bucket after key bucket en route to 39 points to secure the Knick win.

And providing the backbone to it all — Isaiah Hartenstein — who played like a Beast inside, with 3 blocks, 3 steals, 3 assists, 9 rebounds, and blocking Rudy Gobert dunk attempts 3 (three) times point blank at the rim.

“First game — impressive,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards about Anunoby. “Just to be ready and kind of figure it out on the fly. Played smart, played off people well, played great defense, hustled , moved without the ball, shot good shots, made good plays, so very good start.”

On Anunoby’s 6’8 size and athleticism at the 3 spot, Thibs added: “It’s huge for us; just because of switchability and then when you add in β€” particularly when we mix and match with the 2nd group β€” Josh and Quentin and Julius all those guys are very good switching with each other. That changes things, it takes movement out of the game, and reduces I think, the amount of 3’s too.”

NY improves to 18-15. Minnesota falls to 24-8.

1. Minny Takes Early Lead Despite iHart Block of Gobert

Minnesota is led by All Stars Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert fitting like their missing piece this year.

But NY jumped out to a 14-12 lead when Rudy Gobert went inside for a dunk with 6 minutes left in the 1st quarter — and Isaiah Hartenstein met him at the basket and blocked his dunk.

Isaiah Hartenstein won’t get the headlines but his impact was big,” noted NBA Analyst Ross Krienes. “His willingness to do all the little things turn into bigger things with his rim protection, help defense, rebounds, sets screens, finds the open man, gets 50/50 balls and takes no play for granted. Never cheats you.”

Minnesota kept coming though — and finished the quarter on an 18-7 run to take a 32-23 lead.

The Knicks looked like a team still finding itself — this first game after the big trade of RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley to Toronto for Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, and Malachi Flynn.

2. NY Turns Game Around in 2nd Quarter

But after Minnesota scored the 1st bucket of the 2nd quarter to go up by 11 pts at 34-23, NY old timers Josh Hart and Quentin Grimes hit back-to-back 3’s, Jalen Brunson followed with a drive-and-1 for a 3-pt play, and then Brunson hit another 3 for 12 straight NY points and a 35-34 NY lead.

“It all started with OG’s defense and then good things happen on the other end when you force your tempo and play with ball movement along with willing to make the extra pass that leads to a an even better look,” noted NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “Don’t let the ball stick.”

With NY up 47-41 and 5 minutes left in the half Rudy Gobert went up for a slam and Isaiah Hartenstein met him at the rim, blocking his dunk. It was the second time Hartenstein

The Knicks started to cook as a team, as Anunoby started to fit in as the missing piece — grabbing an offensive rebound, defensive rebounds, and scoring twice on dunks late in the period.

QGrimes contributed to the offense early in the quarter, as did DiVincenzo late, with Hart and Brunson scoring throughout and then Randle took it to the rim for free throws and then a drive late in the quarter and NY took a 13-pt lead into halftime.

3. NY Blows Minny Off Court in 3rd Quarter

And that was just the buildup as in the 3rd quarter the Knicks clicked on all cylinders — again with Anunoby at the heart of it, and with Hartenstein the bulwark.

Hartenstein was everywhere — ripping down rebounds on both ends, making steals, scoring inside with great footwork on drives and getting fouled, providing big-man defense under the rim, and playing with that high energy that he brings.

Anunoby was grabbing rebounds, playing stifling D, hitting slams on the break, and hitting nothing-but-net 3’s from the corner. He was running a +25 in the game as the quarter ended.

Hart and DiVincenzo were playing their heads-up, hustling brand of basketball, and Randle and Brunson were driving to the rim.

The Knicks looked like a team that had just risen to another level as they took a 22 point lead late in the quarter.

Early in the 4th quarter, Hartenstein blocked Rudy Gobert point-blank at the rim for the 3rd time on the night!

4. Minny Makes their Run — Pull to Within 4 in 4th

But Minnesota is an elite team and they made their run, starting with a Jaden McDaniels 3 late in the 3rd and then again fueled by multiple scores by McDaniels early in the 4th, along with multiple scores by Karl-Anthony Towns, inside and outside.

When Towns hit a 3 with 6:40 left, Minnesota was within 4 at 99-95 NY.

5. Anunoby Steal, Randle Clutch Drives Power Knicks to Win

That’s when Julius Randle started to take over — making a big bucket with a drive inside with 5 minutes left to give NY a 6-pt lead.

Then the play of the game: OG Anunoby stealing the ball from Anthony Edwards operating inside — feeding a break that had Randle scoring on a drive for an 8-pt NY lead with 4:45 left.

Anunoby Fouls Out

Anthony Edwards free throws pulled Minny back to within 6, and Anunoby fouled out with 4 minutes left — and a sense of deflation fell over the MSG crowd and fans watching at home; what would the Knicks do down the stretch without him? That’s how important a piece he had become in the matter of 3 quarters.

Anunoby finished with 17 pts on 7-12 shooting (3-6 from 3) and a +19.

Randle Takes Over

But Randle answered again with a huge step-back 20 footer with 2 minutes left to maintain the Knick 8-pt lead.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored inside but Randle answered again with a huge 17 footer for a 107-99 Knick lead with 1:32 left.

Towns hit a 3, but Randle again came right back at them with a power drive-and-1 for the old ballgame — NY 110 Minn 102 with 23 seconds left.

After that it was free throws; the Knicks making them on desperation Minny fouls to stop the clock. A Great New Year’s Day win for the Knicks over one of the best teams in the NBA — and the beginning of a new future.


Precious Achiuwa played his first game as a Knick too — he was first man off the bench and had 3 rebounds in 9 minutes, scoring 0 points on 2 shots.

The Toronto-Cleveland game in the evening saw RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley play their first game for Toronto, forming their starting backcourt.

Barrett scored 19 pts on 6-12 shooting (1-2 from 3; 6-8 in free throws) with 9 rebounds, and Quickley had 14 pts on 5-13 shooting (3-5 from 3) and a +7 to lead Toronto to a 124-121 win.

Julius Randle rooted them on with a post on Instagram, calling them ‘little bro’s’.

A good night for all.

The Boxscore


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