“Defense their Best Offense”. Knicks 111 LA Clippers 97

Dante DiVincenzo with the fast break bucket in the 4th after stealing the ball from James Harden.

The Knicks came on with a relentless defense in the 4th quarter to turn a 76-76 tie into a rout, easily beating the LA Clipper “super team” 111-97 on a Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

Julius Randle had his best shooting night of the season, scoring 27 points on 9-21 shooting including 3-8 from 3 with 10 rebounds, and RJ Barrett was tremendously efficient — scoring 26 points on 9-16 shooting (2-4 from 3, 6-6 in free throws).

But it was the Knicks DEFENSE in the 4th quarter by the 2nd team that carried them to the runaway win — with Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, and Isaiah Hartenstein making interceptions and hustle defensive plays to ignite the Knicks transition offense, and then grabbing offensive rebounds as well to pour on more offense if they missed. RJ Barrett scored in transition on dunks or drives and Immanuel Quickley orchestrated.

NY went on a 13-3 run to start the quarter, kept pouring it on to build a 14-pt lead, and then the starters came back and did the same thing with Mitchell Robinson and everyone on the Knicks playing the same way and with Julius Randle hitting killer 3’s and before you knew it NY was up 16.

“The ball pressure was really good,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards about the start of the quarter and the 2nd team. “Getting some turnovers; some steals — I think we had 13 steals. Getting those easy buckets off the steals; we had a lot of deflections. Overall activity was very good. That team has a lot of weapons, so it puts a lot of pressure on you at all times.”

“Defense was their best offense,” summed up Walt Frazier on the broadcast.

NY improves to 3-4, with 3 of the losses coming in the final minutes. The LA Clippers were playing with James Harden for the 1st time, giving them a big 4 of Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook, coached by the well-regarded Tyronn Lue. They fall to 3-3.

1. DiVincenzo & Knicks 2nd Team Takes It in the 4th

Donte DiVincenzo seems the perfect pickup by the Knicks in the off season. His constant harassing defense, ability to move the ball on offense, find the open man, cut, sneak in for rebounds, and hit the 3 has given NY another weapon on the 2nd team.

With the game tied 76-76 at the start of the 4th, Josh Hart kicked things off with a 3 from the corner, and then after an RJ Barrett drive and find of Isiah Hartenstein underneath, Hart intercepted a pass for a fast-break transition slam by RJ Barrett and NY was up 7 at 83-76.

DiVincenzo played tough D on James Harden but was called for a touch foul as Harden flopped a bit out of bounds. NY challenged but lost the challenge and Harden hit 3 free throws to make it 83-79. It was LA’s last hurrah.

Quickley then made an amazing pass to Hartenstein for a bucket down low and RJ Barrett made 2 free throws next time down and NY was up 87-79.

Donte DiVincenzo then stole the ball from James Harden and was off to the races for a transition bucket. Next time down DiVincenzo grabbed an offensive rebound off a Quickley miss, fed Quickley, who fed him back on the baseline for a 3 and the Knicks were up 92-81. LA Timeout.

It was the play of the game — epitomizing the frenetic hustle and unselfish way NY was playing. DiVincenzo hit another 3 before the 2nd team sat down, leaving with NY up 97-83.

2. Mitch Beasts Inside

The starters came in with 7 minutes left in the 4th and played the same frenetic defense that the 2nd team had — with Mitchell Robinson owning the offensive and defensive boards, and making a key steal with 4:30 left and NY up by 12, that led to a Josh Hart jumper for a NY 104-88 lead. LA Timeout.

Robinson finished with 13 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 steals.

Mitchell Robinson doesn’t need plays called for him to impact the game,” noted NBA analyst Ross Kreines on Twitter. “He impacts the game with his activity on the glass, especially the offensive glass which creates 2nd chance opportunities along with his motor, effort, runs the floor hard and he challenges everything at the rim.”

3. Randle with a Great Night

Coming off ankle surgery in the summer, Julius Randle had looked out of rhythm on offense in the first 6 games of the year — although he was playing good ball in all other facets — rebounding, passing, and defense (especially against Giannis Antetokounmpo in the prior game).

On this night his shot finally started to fall and he had a big offensive game with 27 points.

“He just got some easy ones, and I think once that happened — he saw the ball go in, he found a rhythm” said Thibs afterwards about Randle. “I’m not worried about him scoring the ball. We know how gifted a scorer he is.”

Finally at the end of the 3rd, Ivica Zubac gave Randle a hard time on a couple of drives, blocking his shot inside. But Randle was back at it in the 4th, hitting big 3’s and his free throws (he was 6-6 from the line).

4. Barrett So Efficient

RJ Barrett was back after missing 2 games with left knee soreness and he looked fully recovered. His efficiency in scoring has been terrific so far this year, and this game he was tremendous — hitting the 3, driving efficiently to the rim, making good passes, and hitting his free throws (6-6).

Thibs praised Barrett afterwards: “He’s grown. He’s a gifted scorer. He’s making plays. He’s getting downhill. Defensively I think he’s made great strides, he has to continue to work. But just having another wing — their wings are long — so just having that size is critical.”

It is only 5 games (he missed 2 with the knee soreness) but Barrett is now shooting 44% from 3 and 85.2 percent from the free throw line. His shot just looks SMOOTH — on the free throw line where you hear that solid SWISH when he shoots, and on his 3’s and on his floaters. His looks have gotten great — finding teammates on drives — and his overall game seems a level higher since the strong playoff performance vs Miami last year and then leading team Canada to the Bronze medal this summer in the FIBA World Cup.

Jalen Brunson had an off shooting night — 2-12 for only 7 points — but he played heady ball at the end of the 4th, intercepting a pass on Defense and handling the ball with assuredness on offense. Quentin Grimes had 3 points in 21 minutes.

The Boxscore



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