The New York Knicks are ceasing to be the aimless team that they were almost always for years and that this season they had been again. Last season, in which they reached the playoffs after finishing fifth, it threatened to become a mirage seeing what was happening in this one. But Tom Thibodeau’s men have reacted, they have won fourth of their last five games, seven of the last ten and with a 21-21 record they return to 50% of victories for the first time since December 7. Be careful that all this helps them to be the eleventh in the East, not even in play-in positions. You don’t have to have a party either, but you had to start somewhere.
That 21-21 gives them a three-game advantage over the next classified, some definitely sunk Atlanta Hawks, equals them to the tenth place of the Boston Celtics, the first occupant of the play-in, and leaves them, yes, three victories behind a sixth position, the one that marks the direct qualification for the playoffs, which now belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers and which, for now, seems a long way off. But little by little. Because although the objective of the Knicks has to be to move up the table, in the short term their main goal is to regain the spirit and the game that they had completely lost. Only from there will they have options to return to the privileged positions of the East. And it seems that they have got to work.
Tonight they have set a new example against the Dalas Mavericks who arrived on their best winning streak since 2016. Six consecutive wins were seen by the Mavs, the last against none other than the Chicago Bulls. But today the Texan team, which averaged more than 40% of triples in those last victories, saw how the rim closed for them: 8/37 in triples (21.6%). That left Luka Doncic, who had just handed out 14 assists against the Bulls, in just 5, with many of his teammates failing in completely liberated positions after passes from the Slovenian. But the point guard also contributed a lot to that poor shooting stat at 1/9.
Doncic finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds but with 34.8% shooting from the field. Great job from the Knicks on defense and especially from RJ Barrett. As the main defender he left the Slovenian at 2/8, the Mavs at 3/11 overall. As if this were not enough, he went on the attack to 32 points, becoming the youngest player in Knicks history to link two consecutive 30-point games. The forward, who started the season very well, then fell into the indifference that gripped the entire squad for weeks, but it seems that he has returned to the starting level. A level that a player like him is supposed to reach, a star project that is now in its third season in the league.
Along with him Mitchell Robinson stood out especially, with only one miss in the launch in the entire match. They both killed the game early in the third quarter, as the Mavs were trying to get back into the game for the umpteenth time (they had already seen each other down multiple times in the first half). There, with 58-51, the two linked several baskets that, crowned with a triple by Julius Randle, put a final 69-51 on the scoreboard. “It must be the best match of our starters so far this season. They have played really well, really hard,” Thibodeau congratulated himself at the end of the match.