Killer Instinct. NY 129 Charlotte 107

In 1978 the NY Islanders were a very good team on the brink of being a Great team. Having done well in the playoffs the prior few seasons, the final thing the young Islander team needed to do was develop a Killer Instinct: the ability to kill teams off — crush them — in games they were leading.

The Islanders developed that Killer Instinct in 1978 and 4 straight Stanley Cups followed.

That was another sport and another time but the NY Knicks are right now at that same threshold.

After being one of the final 6 teams playing basketball last year, but losing a dogfight series to Miami — the same Knick team is back this season. Full of young players getting better as a team.

On this Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks jumped out to a big lead in the 2nd quarter, but Charlotte made a run to pull to within only 10 points at the half. In the old days — of last year — the Knicks might have allowed Charlotte back in the game.

Not this team. Not this year. The Knicks blew Charlotte off the court in the second half, going up by 30 and winning, 129-107.

Killer Instinct growing.

“I love the way we started the game,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “I thought a number of guys made very unselfish plays. And then we got going defensively a little bit, and that got us some easy scoring opportunities, and we need those. And then our bench was terrific.”

“We’re being tested in a real good way right now,” added Thibodeau. “I like that our schedule is tough and has been tough. It tells us exactly where we are, it tells us what we have to work on, and if we’re doing the right things, the results will end up being good.”

NY improves to 5-4. Charlotte falls to 3-6.

1. Randle & Knicks Jumped In Front

Julius Randle went right at Charlotte from the tip — scoring on a tough drive inside, then stealing a pass, coming down court and hitting a 3 and it was 5-0 NY just like that. Jalen Brunson hit a deuce and NY was up 7-0.

2. LaMelo Was Balling — Kept Charlotte In It

But LaMelo Ball started balling — pulling Charlotte back to an 11-11 tie and keeping Charlotte running with the Knicks until late in the 1st quarter when the Knick 2nd team pulled out to a 32-25 lead.

3. Knicks with DEFENSE & CRISP Passing

The passing by the 2nd team — Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, Isaiah Hartenstein, Immanuel Quickley, and RJ Barrett was Exceptional. Barrett was swishing his 3’s and drives; Hartenstein was banging the boards, and Immanuel Quickley was hitting his shots.

The starters came back in the middle of the 2nd period — and their defense and passing was exceptional as well — with Julius Randle hitting his shot and powering inside for buckets — looking like vintage Randle — and Brunson hitting shots — NY pulled out to a 16 point lead, 62-46 with 2:53 left in the half.

4. LaMelo Keeps Charlotte Hanging In

But LaMelo Ball almost single handedly kept Charlotte in it — with spectacular drives to the basket, leaners, or 3’s. Quentin Grimes tried to stop him to no avail and NY tried DiVincenzo with his hounding defense on LaMelo, but Ball kept balling.

Charlotte scored the last 6 points of the 1st half, as Ball hit a jumper, then grabbed a rebound and fed Ish Smith for a score, and then fed Leaky Black for a layup with 19 seconds left to end the period with NY only up 10, 64-54.

5. Knicks Show Killer Instinct 2nd Half

Instead of being on their heels, NY came out of the half looking for the Kill.

The Knicks DEFENSE tightened, and Brunson, Randle, Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Grimes poured on the scoring. NY outscored Charlotte 18-5 to begin the period to take an 82-59 lead.

Again LaMelo Ball tried to rally singlehandedly — but Julius Randle and RJ Barrett answered.

The 2nd team came in late in the 3rd and blew Charlotte off the court at the start of the 4th — with DEFENSE and CRISP, unselfish passing.

6. Barrett Tremendous Efficiency

RJ Barrett as usual played with the 1st team and the 2nd team and was on his game as he has been all season. Barrett’s 3-point jumper silky smooth and accurate this season, as are his floaters and his free throws, and he’s been extremely efficient in going to the bucket and finding guys with good looks.

Barrett was 9-16 on the night (4-6 from 3; 2-3 in free throws) with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, a block, and a steal for 24 points and a +26. He is shooting 47.1 % from 3 and 86.7% from the free throw line so far this season, averaging 22.3 ppg.

The Boxscore

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