The New York Knicks just keep on rolling.
Two nights after falling in a close one to the Phoenix Suns, the Knicks shook off some shaky moments to pull away in the fourth quarter for a blowout win over the Chicago Bulls.
Given the recent history of the Knicks, you would be forgiven for believing that a slip up was on the cards, with consistency hardly a hallmark of the recent teams in New York,. Instead, they pulled away in crunch time, displaying the resilience that is quickly becoming their calling card.
The win moved the Knicks into sole place of the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference with nine games to play, making the once unthinkable prospect of a Game 1 at Madison Square Garden very much a realistic proposition.
Another 30 piece.- NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) April 29, 2021
Capping off an amazing April for @J30_RANDLE ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/AHV9rFQzC2
"We're just trying to stick with the bigger picture of making the playoffs so every night we gotta fight," rookie guard Immanuel Quickley said in a postgame interview. "We understand what we are trying to do here and that's create a culture. We come in here every day and work hard and the results come with playoffs. With great fans like this you just have to enjoy it."
The culture the Knicks are trying to create starts on the defensive end, with the team currently possessing the fourth best defence in the league, giving up 108.0 points per 100 possessions. The top three teams are the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz, leaving the Knicks in elite company on that end of the floor.
New York held Chicago to 34 percent from the 3-point line and perhaps more importantly restricted the Bulls to just 10 free-throw attempts. Overall, teams are shooting a league-worst 33.8 percent aganst the Knicks from beyond the arc.
The meteoric rise on the defensive end shouldn't be a huge surprise, given the history of head coach Tom Thibodeau, but it's hard not to be impressed when you look at the random mix of talent New York carry on the roster.
It starts with Julius Randle, who continues to force his name into the MVP conversation, then there's second year sensation RJ Barrett, the redemption story in Derrick Rose and of course there are the journeymen in Reggie Bullock and Nerlens Noel who play criticial roles on both ends. Perhaps the most unlikely is Quickley, with the dynamic fan favourite often igniting the returning Garden crowd with his ability to spark the offence off the bench.
.@IQ_GodSon on 🔥🔥🔥 in the 4th- KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) April 29, 2021
11 points in the quarter now pic.twitter.com/PBCfqXUALR
Averaging 11.6 points in just 19 minutes per appearance, the 21-year-old has provided instant offence, with the game against Chicago the latest example of his ability to score in bunches. Registering just two points through three quarters, Quickly exploded for 11 points in the fourth quarter alone, mixing in floaters, 3-point shots and trips to the free-throw line to spark a 37-19 final period.
"It's all credit to my teammates, my coaches, they put me in a position to be successful," Quickley said. "As a rookie I'm blessed to be in a situation where I have great teammates, great vets, great coaches around me."
Great vets and great coaches for rookies to prosper? Once again, not exactly how you would describe recent iterations of the Knicks.
N 🚫 E L- NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) April 29, 2021
FIVE denials by Nerlens pic.twitter.com/RAnqRHHmZu
New York are almost certain to return to the postseason for the first time since 2013. Expecting a long run would be premature, but that hardly matters right now. The Knicks are building a culture. A winning mentality and an environment for players to prosper. More than anything, that is the big take away for this season.
As for the now? Just enjoy the ride. It's been too long since Madison Square Garden hosted postseason basketball.
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