It has been a dispiriting 2022 for the Knicks. They went into Dallas last night (Wednesday) to play the Mavericks with a record of 27-38, 11 games under .500 and an excruciating 10-19 in 29 games since the turn of the new year. On Jan. 1 the Knicks were 17-19 with optimistic visions of being a playoff team. At that time there were still 45 games remaining on their schedule.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau’s squad was sitting in the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference but only one game behind the then 8th seed Washington Wizards, just two below the 7th seed Charlotte Hornets and trailing the 6th seed Philadelphia 76ers by a close three. But February was the Knicks’ undoing.
They began the month with a 120-108 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden, then a crushing 122-115 overtime defeat to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on national television after blowing a 21-point lead. The Knicks would ultimately drop 10 of the 11 games they played in February, and the tailspin carried over into this month, as they fell to the Philadelphia 76ers on March 2 followed by an abjectly deflating 30-foot, 3-point buzzer beater by the Phoenix Suns’ Cam Johnson last Friday to end the night stunned and on the wrong side of a 115-114 score.
The finish marked the Knicks’ seventh straight loss. So it was uplifting for them to come back on Sunday and impressively dominate the Los Angeles Clippers by 116-93 and 24 hours later demonstrate admirable resilience in erasing a 20-point late second quarter deficit to run the Sacramento Kings out of Golden 1 Center, their home arena, in the game’s final 24 minutes to take a confidence boosting 131-115 victory.
Knicks forward Julius Randle was spectacular in scoring a career-high 46 points. RJ Barrett continued his ascension by adding 29 and Immanuel Quickley, who is in a two-week stretch of playing the best he has this season, registered 27. The win gave the Knicks their first two-game winning streak in nearly two months. They won three in a row from Jan. 10 through Jan.15.
The Knicks were without Derrick Rose (out since Dec. 15 with an ankle injury and subsequent surgery), Obi Toppin (left hamstring strain), Nerlens Noel (plantar fasciitis) and Quentin Grimes (right patella injury).
“Julius got going and it was pretty terrific what he did,” said Thibodeau. “When he plays with that type of intensity, it lifts everyone. He was attacking the basket, he was shooting the 3, he was making hustle plays. It was a great all-around game from him in so many different ways.”
“Sacramento plays [at] a really high pace,” Randle evaluated, “and we had to get our transition in order and get stops and get our rhythm. Once we got stops, offense came a lot easier.”
The Knicks will play the sixth game of their current seven-game, 12-day road trip against the Grizzlies tomorrow and end it versus the Nets in Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon. They’ll be back at Madison Square Garden for the first time since Feb. 27 next Wednesday to host the Portland Trailblazers.