Prepare for success. Gird against a setback. Maintain your ground. The Knicks successfully did all three over the past week.
They returned to New York from a four-game, six-day Western Conference road trip after a 123–107 victory over the Portland Trailblazers, going 2-2 and holding the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
After losing three games in a row, including the first two of the recent road trip, the Knicks took the last two, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 112–108 on Sunday after a 122–117 loss to the Kings on March 7 to begin the stretch and falling 106–95 to the Los Angeles Clippers last Saturday.
They are 41–30 and one game in front of the 39–30 Brooklyn Nets, which host the Sacramento Kings at the Barclays Center tonight. The Knicks’ next game is Saturday at Madison Square Garden versus the Denver Nuggets (1:00 p.m.).
The Knicks had a nine-game winning streak spanning February 11 through March 5 that elevated them in the East seedings. With the regular season rapidly coming to a close, teams are urgently jostling for favorable playoff positions. The Knicks have 11 regular season games remaining and were three games behind the 44–27 No. 4 seed Cleveland Cavaliers when the NBA schedule tipped off last night (Wednesday).
The win over Portland was a demonstration of the Knicks’ resilience. Playing again without starting point guard Jalen Brunson, who is managing a sore left foot, they had six players score in double figures, including three off the bench placed by reserve point guard Miles “Deuce” McBride’s career high 18 points (4–5 on 3-pointers). The second-year player was also a menace on defense, harassing the Trailblazers’ future Hall of Fame guard Damien Lillard, who dropped 71 points on February 26 against the Houston Rockets.
Lillard still had 38 against the Knicks on 26 shots, going 8–17 on 3-point shots, but the Knicks minimized the damage. Down 33–20 at the end of the first quarter and 55–49 at halftime, the Knick dominated the third quarter, out-scoring the Trailblazers 34–20 to enter the fourth quarter up 83–75.
“We knew we wanted to finish this road trip [up] right,” said McBride in a postgame interview on the MSG Network. “We came out a little flat…at the end of the road [trip], we just wanted to make sure we finished it off right and [came] out with more energy.”
Immanuel Quickley, in the starting lineup for the 14th time this season and filling in for injured teammates, had a team high of 26 points and added 10 rebounds with only one turnover in 34 minutes. Julius Randle tallied 24, RJ Barrett 22, and Josh Hart 16 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.
Brunson has been exceptional in his first season with the team, although his sore foot has kept him sidelined for most of the past two weeks. He has only played in one half—the first half versus the Kings—over the Knicks’ last six games. They are 3–3 in those contests.
Brunson (23.8) is second of the Knicks in scoring, behind Randle (25.3), shooting an efficient 48.7% overall, 41.4% on 3-point attempts, and 83.3% from the foul line, and leads in assists at 6.1.