Assassins. Knicks Show Killer Instinct in Ripping Hornets. NY 113 Charlotte 92

Knick assassins and former Villanova teammates Donte DiVincenzo, Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart with Precious Achiuwa in the background. Photo courtesy NY Knicks.

The Knicks have reached a new level of ability: the Assassin level.

They have a killer instinct now, and can use their defense and their offensive weapons to eliminate their foe.

On a night where NY was down Julius Randle — who, good news, will only apparently be out a few weeks with the shoulder dislocation and not require surgery — and OG Anunoby, who was scratched just before game time with right-elbow inflammation — NY used their defense and the sharpshooting of Donte DiVincenzo and Jalen Brunson to assassinate the lowly Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte, 113-92.

DiVincenzo scored 28 pts on 10-22 shooting (5-15 from 3) and Brunson had 32 on 13-24 shooting.

The game was close at the half, NY holding a 46-43 advantage. But then NY brought their guns out in the 3rd quarter, defending and hitting their 3’s in a crisp brand of basketball to outscore Charlotte 44-24 and put the game away.

“You’re not replacing those guys individually, so you have to count on your defense and your rebounding and creating advantages for each other,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “We got the usual from Jalen, but I thought Josh was terrific and Donte was fantastic. Precious (was good) first time playing at the power forward. Jericho gave us really good minutes as well. Deuce’s defense was big too. Third quarter was 44-24 — that gave us a cushion there. Quentin too — I thought he gave us good minutes.”

“The thing that I love — love love — is that Precious has really played well, and Jericho has really played well,” added Thibs. “So we got quality depth, as we did at the beginning of the season when we had Mitch and Isaiah backing up, and then Isaiah went into the starting role. Everyone is functioning well, and we need everybody. The rebounding part of it is so important. You lose Julius, we have to gang rebound. We need everyone in there fighting for it.”

NY improves to 30-17, and are now in a virtual tie with Philadelphia for 3rd place in the East, after the 76’ers lost a late game to Portland. Charlotte falls to 10-35.

1. Close at the Half

This was supposed to be an easy game for NY coming in as Charlotte is having a rough season after injuries to LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward helped derail them, causing them to raise the white flag two weeks ago and trade Terry Rozier to Miami in a salary dump.

Miles Bridges (back from suspension) and top-rookie Brandon Miller are still formidable players to contend with but Charlotte came in with a 3-21 record in their last 24 games.

They played even with NY in the first half.

The Knicks were led by Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo, with Precious Achiuwa playing well in the starting power forward slot in replacement of Randle, and Josh Hart stepping into the starting forward role for OG Anunoby.

Isaiah Hartenstein was back for the second game after the ankle sprain that kept him out 2 weeks, and is still on a minutes limit — for the 2nd game in a row he played 16 minutes and doesn’t appear to have his rhythm down yet. Jericho Sims played an excellent 24 minutes as the backup center.

2. Knicks Kill Hornets in 3rd with Defense & Crisp Offense

The Knicks came out of the half and applied their killer instinct to eliminate the Hornets.

NY gang-rebounded, Defended, and played a very crisp, intelligent brand of basketball on the offensive end. Josh Hart was everywhere, and Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo were penetrating and scoring and distributing.

Hart finished with 8 points on 3-7 shooting, with 12 rebounds, 7 assists and a +15. He seemed to get every big rebound, and made tremendous passes on offense.

“Every team needs a Josh Hart who’s willing to do all the little things and so much more that many aren’t willing to do,” noted NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “Josh knows his role, plays hard through every possession, outworks you on the glass, defends, gets every 50/50 ball, finds the open man and just flat-out competes.”

Josh Hart. Photo courtesy NY Knicks.
  • The quarter started with Hartenstein dunking off a Brunson assist, and then Precious Achiuwa hitting a 3 and a deuce sandwiching a Brunson drive and NY was up 55-48.
  • Brandon Miller hit a 3, but DiVincenzo countered with a 3.
  • Brandon Miller hit a pullup, but Brunson countered with a drive-and-1 and NY was up 59-53.
  • Miles Bridges hit a J, but Brunson countered with a 3 and then fed Hartenstein underneath for a shot jumper and NY was up 66-55. Hornets timeout.
  • Out of the timeout, Brunson hit another floater inside, and then Hartenstein scored off a Donte DiVincenzo pass and NY was up 70-55.
  • Brunson was then fouled on a 3 by Frank Ntilikina — called a flagrant as Ntilikina moved his foot under Brunson. Brunson made all 3 free throws and NY was up by 18, at 73-55.
  • Then Donte DiVincenzo made back-to-back 3’s and it was over — NY taking a 21-pt lead.
  • DiVincenzo continued to make shots late into the quarter and then the 2nd team came in with Miles McBride hitting a 3 and then Quentin Grimes hitting a 3 and NY was up 90-65.

3. Knicks Cruise in 4th on Homecourt in Charlotte

NY continued to apply pressure at start of the 4th, with McBride and Grimes excelling.

On one play, McBride slipped through the pick staying on his man once then twice then three times — then stole the ball, fed the ball to Josh Hart down court who fed the ball back to McBride who hit a 3.  Hornet timeout. NY 98 Charlotte 69.

The Charlotte arena was filled with Knick fans, cheering NY on at a fever pitch.

Charlotte finally applied some pressure with about 5 minutes left and pulled to within 16, but Precious Achiuwa answered with a J. The Hornets pulled to within 14 with 2 minutes left but Brunson came back into the game and hit consecutive short jumpers to snuff out any possibility of miracle comeback.

The Boxscore


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