The New York Knicks went 21-45 in the 2019-20 season, and were expected to be one of the worst teams in the 2020-21 season. That may still prove to be true, but they’ve actually played good basketball so far- and particularly great basketball of late.
The Knicks — as seven-point road underdogs — took down the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, improving their record to 4-3 on the season.
And all four wins have come over the last five games. The Knicks got their first win with a stunning 120-113 victory — as 13-point underdogs — over the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 27, and followed that up with road wins — against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Hawks — in three of four games.
Julius Randle — the No. 7 overall pick of the 2014 draft by the Los Angeles Lakers — has been taking his game to another level, averaging close to a triple-double so far this season: 22.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 7.4 assists. In Monday’s win over the Hawks, Randle had 28 points, 17 rebounds, and nine assists in 43 minutes.
He’s also been getting it done on the defensive end, which has to especially make first-year Knicks head coach — and defensive guru — Tom Thibodeau happy.
Via https://t.co/z3Ysv2BNkM’s admittedly wonky defensive data, among players defending at least 10 shots a game Julius Randle has the best defensive FG% differential..
Opponents are -14.7 percentage points worse at 32.2% vs. Randle.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 5, 2021
Some quick thoughts/notes on the Knicks 113-108 victory over the Hawks:
*Julius Randle continues to be very productive at both ends of the floor. We knew he could score, but he continues to be an excellent facilitator and has really improved his effort and focus defensively…
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) January 5, 2021
R.J. Barrett — the No. 3 overall pick of the 2019 draft — is also showing signs of making a leap in his second season, with 25-plus points in each of the last two games, and 11 assists and six rebounds on Monday night.
Before tonight’s performances by Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, the last Knicks duo to each post at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game was Lonnie Shelton and Bob McAdoo at Milwaukee on Dec. 16, 1977.
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) January 5, 2021
It’s very early in the season, but the Knicks are truly playing impressive basketball so far. If Randle can keep playing anything to this level all-around, and Barrett can indeed take a big step forward in year two, perhaps the Knicks can contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.