DiVincenzo Rips 38 But Knicks Lose to High-Flying Pacers. Indiana 140 NY 126

It was the game hours after the blockbuster trade of RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley for OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, and Malachi Flynn on a Saturday afternoon — the Knicks shorthanded as the new players won’t arrive until tomorrow.

Indiana is the highest scoring team in the league and they put it on overdrive — shooting 23-43 from 3 in beating the Knicks 140-126. NY hung in all evening as best they could, but every time they tried to make a run — Aaron Nesmith or Myles Turner or Bennedict Mathurin or someone else would hit a 3, with Tyrese Haliburton dancing and prancing for 22 points and 23 assists.

The Knicks hung in because of Donte DiVincenzo — who lit up Indiana for 38 points on 15-21 shooting, 7-11 from 3 — the kind of explosive offensive performance that many hoped RJ Barrett would threaten to do on a nightly basis.

Evan Fournier was plied from the bench for his 2nd game of the year — and he played 17 minutes and scored 10 points. He was even the central focus of the Knicks offense for periods in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Julius Randle powered inside for 28 pts on 9-22 shooting, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists, Jalen Brunson had 28 pts, and Josh Hart had 10 — but Indiana scored 140 pts.

Watching at home as a Knick fan, this was a game you expected to lose — a gimme — thoughts of the trade still resonating in the head.

“The defense is problematic,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “First half we hung in there pretty good. Second half — 70 something points. We scored plenty. But we have to play defense. They’re a heck of an offensive team, they spread you out pretty good, they can shoot, he (Haliburton) is very unselfish; makes a lot of good plays. Like I said, I thought the 1st half we did some really good things. The 3rd quarter they got the cushion on us and that made it difficult for us.”

NY falls to 17-15; Indiana improves to 17-14.

1. Haliburton Owned the Night

Wally Szczerbiak unleashed a Frankenstein monster when he crapped on Tyrese Haliburton after a Jalen Brunson-led Knick victory over Indiana on January 12th a year ago, when Wally said Haliburton was a “wanna be All Star”. The league made Haliburton an All Star, and didn’t put Brunson on the team — and then even left Brunson off the 3 All League teams after the season.

Haliburton has been playing fantastic basketball ever since that night, and danced and pranced in this game for his second consecutive 20+ point, 20+ assist performance.

This was the first time Haliburton had played the Knicks since that night — he was injured and didn’t play in two NY-Indiana games last April — and he admitted afterwards he sought revenge against Wally’s comments. Szczerbiak noted on the broadcast he personally apologized to Haliburton before the game.

Jalen Brunson arguably had as good a game — 28 points on 9-22 shooting (4-8 from 3) and 6 assists.

But Brunson is a ball dominant scoring point guard, whereas Haliburton is more a pure point guard who distributes first scores second and the difference in play was evident on this night.

Tyrese Haliburton has incredible court vision and can flat-out create while keeping his dribbling alive, playing at his tempo and valuing the basketball but what you love is how he truly makes everyone around him better,” observed NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “He truly knows and plays to each of his teammates strengths.”

2. Indiana Killed It from 3

One of the reasons why Haliburton had so many assists is because everyone on Indiana kept hitting 3’s.

The Knicks are missing Mitchell Robinson — so teams like Indiana drive to the basket more and then kick which creates open 3’s. NY was also shorthanded on this night with even Quentin Grimes out — and he normally does a good job defending Halliburton.

Jericho Sims was supposed to be available after having missed two weeks with an ankle sprain — but he didn’t suit up either.

3. Fournier Saw Daylight

And so with so many Knicks out, there was Evan Fournier leading the offense in the 3rd quarter — driving to the bucket for a score or a pass, or shooting a 3. He had 10 points on 3-10 shooting (2-8 from 3) with 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals.

He showed he can still open up the offense with his dribble drives. NY was not only undermanned — they were probably showcasing Fournier as trade bait.

4. DiVincenzo Offensive Explosion

But the story of the night for NY was Donte DiVincenzo — who was simply all over the place — hitting 3 after 3, or driving to the bucket for scores or slams, playing frenetic defense, and coming out of nowhere to rip down rebounds.

PS Donte DiVincenzo was the #17 pick in the 2018 draft when Kevin Knox went #8 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went #11. DiVincenzo was pretty high up.

5. McBride Plays; Signs Contract Extension

Miles McBride also saw 18 minutes of action, joining the 2nd team. He played well — 2-3 shooting (1-2 from 3) for 5 points and a +7 — leading one to think maybe he could take Quickley’s place — since McBride has shown he can score, hit the 3, and play tremendous on-ball defense on an NBA level and lit up the G league as a high-flying scorer before that.

McBride’s insertion into the rotation last season, replacing Derrick Rose, was one of the things that revitalized the Knicks. This year with the acquisition of DiVincenzo, McBride has been out of the rotation.

And just like that — as soon as the game was over the Knicks announced that McBride had signed a 3-year contract extension for $13M.

6. The Trade Gives Knicks Length & Athleticism

The loss seemed neither here nor there — with anticipation of the new Knick team that would be forming with OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa joining. Toronto was a scary team to play because of their length and athleticism inside — they had a bunch of 6’8 guys who came at you — and now the Knicks have picked up the bulk of that with Anunoby and Precious.

Anunoby is a defensive demon at the wing who plays off the ball well, hits the 3, and can rip it inside — he destroyed the Knicks for 29 points the last time NY played Toronto. Anunoby led the NBA in steals last year. Donovan Mitchell recently mentioned him as one of the top 5 defenders in the league.

Former Knick GM Scott Perry opinioned that the trade would be good for both teams:

The Boxscore



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