The New York Knicks continued what’s been an extraordinary stretch with a 106-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings. Who stepped up for the Knicks?
Dec 4, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks center Kyle O’Quinn (9) celebrates his basket with guard Derrick Rose (25) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks have reached the quarter-mark of the 2016-17 NBA regular season. Despite playing 11 games without Lance Thomas, four without Joakim Noah, and two without Courtney Lee, the Knicks are 11-9 and still a considerable distance from their peak.
On Sunday, December 4, the Knicks continued to show glimpses of what could be with a 106-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
New York’s win pushes it to 11-9 through 20 games, which is the deepest it’s been two games above .500 since 2012-13. For those who don’t remember, 2012-13 was the year that the Knicks won 54 games and the Atlantic Division.
If the game against Sacramento proved anything, it’s that New York can play at an elite level when communication is strong and defensive consistency is emphasized.
DeMarcus Cousins scored 30 points, but the Knicks did an outstanding job of containing the All-NBA big man. From there, it was a matter of overcoming preventable turnovers, continuing to move the ball, and trusting one another.
The Knicks won as a team, but it was the following players who stepped up and stood out against the Kings at Madison Square Garden.
Dec 4, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) shoots a free throw during the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Carmelo Anthony may not have hit his third game-winner of the 2016-17 NBA regular season, but he was clutch. He hit a huge 3-point field goal to extend New York’s lead from two to five with 3:24 remaining and scored another three points in the final 35 seconds to secure the win.
When Anthony shoots the 3-ball well and thrives in the clutch, the Knicks have a chance to defeat any and every team in the NBA.
Anthony finished with a quality 20 points, four rebounds, and one assist during his team-high 36 minutes of playing time. He shot 8-of-20 from the field, 3-of-8 from beyond the arc, and 1-of-2 from the free throw line.
New York improves to 9-4 when Anthony scores at least 20 points and 2-5 when he fails to reach the 20-point plateau.
The fact that Anthony is consistently stepping up in the clutch is a sign that he’s getting back to being the ‘Melo of old. He’s letting it fly in clutch moments, with the most appealing aspect of his performance against Sacramento being that he was willing to work off-ball in such scenarios.
As the Knicks continue to win games, Anthony appears to be settling into his role as the closer for a team with high expectations and aspirations.
Dec 4, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) reaches for the net during the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek has been pleading with Brandon Jennings to take advantage of his scoring opportunities. Jennings’ uncanny ability to ignite the offense as a facilitator is invaluable to the Knicks, but his scoring proficiency can be just as significant.
Against the Sacramento Kings, Jennings let it fly as a shooter and was aggressive in drawing contact and getting to the line.
Jennings was electrifying, recording 19 points, three assists, and a rebound in his 26 brilliant minutes of play. He shot 5-of-7 from the field, 2-of-4 from beyond the arc, and 7-of-7 from the free throw line.
Jennings finished with a +/- of +10 and seemed to step up whenever the Knicks needed someone to weather the storm.
Jennings has been facilitating at an exceptionally high level, but he needed this game. His facilitating undoubtedly helps—New York is 6-3 when he dishes out at least five assists and 5-6 when he doesn’t—but he’s too good of a scorer to ignore that area of his game.
Jennings has been reluctant to shoot in 2016-17, but this performance should reassure him that Hornacek’s request to see him score more has a purpose.
Dec 4, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) drives against New York Knicks center Kyle O’Quinn (9) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
For the second consecutive game, Kyle O’Quinn was one of the stars of the show for the New York Knicks. It wasn’t another 20-point and 13-rebound performance, but O’Quinn was a monster on the boards and a defensive force to be reckoned with.
DeMarcus Cousins may have scored 30 points, but O’Quinn’s defense is a major reason why the two-time All-NBA Second Team honoree shot 9-of-30 from the field.
O’Quinn finished with four points, nine rebounds, three offensive rebounds, and four blocks in just 14 minutes. He led the Knicks in offensive rebounding, tied for the team lead in blocks, and was the spark New York needed to secure this win.
Most impressively, the 6’10” big man with a 7’5″ wingspan had yet another powerful showing on the defensive end of the floor to complement his efforts on the offensive glass.
Kyle O'Quinn on his recent offensive rebounding prowess (10 in the last two games): "You just wanna play. You'll do anything."
O’Quinn played with great energy and showed no fear in meeting Cousins at the rim or under the basket. He puts his size, strength, and length to good use against a Kings team that relentlessly took it inside.
If O’Quinn can maintain this level of energy and intensity for the remainder of this season, he’d solidify his role in the NBA and the Knicks would have a bench worth talking about.
Dec 4, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) drives around Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Kristaps Porzingis continues to struggle to find his range as a shooter after what was a torrid start to the season. It’s only been two games of poor shooting, but the fact that he was ice cold in back-to-back games was concerning.
Fortunately, Porzingis reminded the masses of the undeniable truth: whether he’s shooting well or not, he’s a threat to take over in any number of ways.
Porzingis shot just 6-of-18 from the field and 1-of-6 from 3-point range, but that isn’t the story here. Having been criticized for his lackluster production on the boards, Porzingis responded with a truly dominant display.
Porzingis controlled the glass with 14 rebounds and three offensive boards—gaudy statistics that were complemented by his 15 points, two assists, and four blocks.
Porzingis may have been subpar offensively, but he controlled the pace of the game on defense. He denied players at the rim without leaving his feet, out-rebounded DeMarcus Cousins, and even created second chances on the other end.
Porzingis struggling to shoot isn’t irrelevant, but his progress on defense and as a rebounder is far more significant.
Dec 4, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) drives through Sacramento Kings defense during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Derrick Rose is driving at will, getting into the paint, and terrorizing opposing defenses. His floater is working as well as it ever has, which has left interior defenders flat-footed as they attempt to determine whether to step out onto him or prepare for a finish at the rim.
Against the Sacramento Kings, Rose played yet another efficient offensive game and helped pace the Knicks with his scoring and facilitating.
Rose finished the night with 20 points, six rebounds, and six assists in 34 explosive minutes for the Knicks. He shot 9-of-14 from the field and made two of his three free throw attempts in what was a truly methodical display.
On a night where both Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis had cold stretches, Rose was the stabilizing force who helped keep the offense together.
The Knicks started the season at 1-5 when Rose scored at least 15 points, but that trend has been bucked. Since suffering that fifth loss in six games, New York has gone 5-3 when Rose scores at least 15 points.
If Rose can flirt with 20 points and provide a consistent six assists per game, then the Knicks will have prototypical production from a high-quality NBA point guard.