Knicks Pull Into 4th with Thrashing of Wizards. NY 121 Washington 105

Julius Randle vs Wizards. Photo courtesy NY Knicks.

They’re beginning to heat up.

Standard NBA knowledge is that the most important part of an NBA season is the last 30 games, heading into the playoffs. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has stated this as well, and for 3 years has had the Knicks playing their best ball those last 30 games.

This year on top of it the Knicks had one of the toughest early-season schedules in the NBA — with their opponents through their first 35 games having the 3rd highest toughness ranking (13.99) and to top it off, 21 of those 35 games on the road, with 8 back-to-back games. They came through it with a 20-15 record and on this night the schedule started to ease up — and NY took advantage, thrashing the 6-28 Wizards on a Saturday night in Washington, 121-105.

After having DEMOLISHED Philadelphia the night before in NYC, the Knicks took the bus down to DC and romped over the Wizards — leading by 26 in the 2nd quarter and making it look easy. Then they got a little too giddy at the end of the 1st half with a bunch of careless turnovers that allowed Washington to get within 20. Washington came out of the half with confidence and made a Kyle Kuzma-led run — pulling to within 5 points midway thru the 3rd.

But the Knicks dynamic duo of Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson made things right — hitting big buckets to thwart the Wizard rally, and get NY back on track in the 4th quarter for the blowout win.

“The first half I thought we did so many good things in so many different areas. I loved the unselfishness,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “But then we got to some homerun passes that were turnovers. And that gave them… I think we got it to 26 and they got a run that got it to 20, then they started the 3rd on a run — so we gave them hope that they could get back in the game, which they did. They play hard. Our players hear it from me ad nauseum, ‘No lead is safe in this league.’. They made a great run; we responded — which is to be mentally tough when you’re facing adversity is critical. And then we settled down and were better in the 4th.”

NY improves to 21-15 and are now in sole possession of 4th place of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. Only Milwaukee, Boston, and Philly are ahead of them. Washington falls to 6-29.

1. NY Romped Early; Randle Teared It Up

In this 4th game after the OG Anunoby trade — the Knicks again looked killer — with the defense as good as ever and the ball moving freely on offense. Anunoby seems the perfect piece to the Knicks engine — moving without the ball and always in the right place at the right time. Miles McBride has been unlocked on the 2nd team to take Immanuel Quickley‘s place.

And with Mitchell Robinson out for the rest of the year, Isaiah Hartenstein continues to Beast on the defensive and offensive end of the court.

Some suggested a player like Anunoby made Josh Hart redundant — but the opposite has played out, as Hart has been Everywhere on defense and offense in the Knicks improved motion offense.

Hartenstein, Hart, and McBride all played big roles in the Knicks ripping out to a huge 26-point lead in the 2nd quarter of this game.

And Julius Randle — coming off his worst offensive game of the year (8 pts pts on 1-11 shooting) came out tearing it up — efficiently. He rolled to the rim over and over again for scores — en route to a 39-point performance on 13-23 shooting (3-8 from 3; 10-13 in free throws).

2. Knicks Got Giddy — Careless Turnovers to End the Half

The Knicks were romping so easily that they got careless at the end of the half. Hartenstein whipped a pass behind the back to Randle too hard and it went out of bounds. Hartenstein stepped out of bounds on another play; Donte DiVincenzo threw the ball away; Jalen Brunson threw the ball away. Instead of having a 26- to 30-point lead, NY only led by 20 at the half.

3. Wizards Made 3rd Quarter Run

And then out of the gate to begin the 3rd quarter, Washington made their run. Deni Avdija (23 pts) started the run with a bunch of buckets and free throws, Jordan Poole (10 pts) joined the action, and then Kyle Kuzma (27 pts) got on a roll.

When Kuzma hit a 3 with 5:26 left in the quarter, Washington was within 5 at 74-69 NY.

Knicks timeout.

4. Brunson & Randle = Dynamic Duo to the Rescue

Julius Randle answered with a big 3 out of the timeout. Then rolled to the bucket for free throws next time down. Then Jalen Brunson (33 pts) drove to the bucket for free throws on the play after that. NY was back up by 11.

Kuzma answered with a bucket, but Brunson came down and hit a 3 and NY was up 12. DiVincenzo picked up a steal and a dunk and NY was back up 14.

The Knicks finished the quarter well and were up 16 heading into the 4th.

5. Knicks Thrash Wizards in 4th

Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson took over the 4th — the Knicks running their lead back to 19. Anytime Washington made a mini run to cut the lead down to 11 or 12, Randle or Brunson answered.

Hartenstein was again at the heart of the action — blocking shots, rebounding, feeding the open man — en route to 19 rebounds, 2 blocks, 4 steals, 8 pts, 2 assists, and a game-high +26.

Isaiah Hartenstein with a great block and keeps it in bounds rather than spiking it into the stands that gets the Knicks in the transition game,” said NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “You don’t have to run a play for him to be engaged as he stays engaged by wanting every rebound, challenging every shot and outworking you.”

Hart was everywhere and Anunoby was in the right place at the right time.

Quentin Grimes joined the action with a 3, and the Knicks rollicked. Thibs pulled the starters with 2 minutes left.


Bill Pidto did the play-by-play on the broadcast alongside Walt Frazier — Pidto’s first time ever — while Alan Hahn and Wally Szczerbiak were both in the studio. He was good and had good chemistry with Clyde (although it took a quarter, as early on Pidto kept trying not to step on what Clyde was saying, telling him “you go” a bunch of times as they both started to talk at the same time). By the 2nd half they were very smooth together, and there were some funny stories and ribbing.

The Boxscore


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