Chito Vera knocks out Frankie Edgar at UFC 268

On the main card of UFC 268, we saw a fun showdown in the bantamweight division. Former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar (24-9-1) was fighting in his backyard of Madison Square Garden as he took on Marlon “Chito” Vera (19-7-1).

For Edgar, this was his third appearance in the UFC‘s bantamweight division. The former lightweight champion spent his entire career fighting in weight classes where he was clearly the smaller man in the cage. Edgar entered this contest 1-1 in the bantamweight division.

This fight was a golden opportunity for Chito Vera. Vera was 7-2 in his last nine UFC appearances, granted one of those losses was an awful decision. His only true loss came last December when he lost to Jose Aldo.

Vera returned in June to defeat Davey Grant and looked sensational. Now, he’s taking on a former UFC champion with his eyes on the top ten of the bantamweight division. A win here would be huge for Chito.

UFC 268 Recap

Round 1

The UFC 268 bantamweight contest kicked off with immediate pressure from Vera but it’s Edgar who lands first with a nice right hand. Edgar’s movement looks really good in the opening seconds and he lands a couple of really nice left hooks.

Good combination from Edgar as Vera lands a leg kick. Chito plots forward but eats a clean right hand from Edgar. Nice leg kick from Edgar who continues to circle on the outside. Both step forward and trade in the center.

Vera lands a kick to the body but Edgar catches it and uses it to takedown Chito. Edgar postures up and lands a couple of really nice elbows. Vera trying to tie up the hands but he eats a few more really strong elbows from the former lightweight champion.

Chito starts landing some really nice elbows from the bottom but Edgar still getting the better of things here. Edgar’s top game looks great here in the opening frame. Another beautiful elbow lands for Edgar and then he stands up.

Chito lands a couple of really nice upkicks that forces Edgar back into the guard. Edgar goes right back to work on the elbows in the final seconds of the round. Great opening round for Edgar who is up 1-0 at UFC 268.

Round 2

Entering the second round at UFC 268 and Chito needs to get some momentum back after the first round. Chito starts forward to start the second round and he looks much more aggressive here. Good low kick lands for Vera and Edgar counters.

Edgar steps forward but eats a big right hand from Chito Vera. A blitz from Edgar who lands a beautiful right hand over the top. Vera lands a nice knee to the body but Edgar catches it and lands a takedown.

Vera immediately starts throwing elbows from the bottom. Edgar settles into the guard as he begins looking for ground and pound openings. Nice shots from the former lightweight champion. Good right hand Edgar but Vera forces a scramble and they get back to the feet.

Vera is getting very aggressive and he’s throwing heat. Edgar is circling around the outside and Vera is just stalking him here. Huge knee up the middle lands for Chito and the momentum is shifting here.

Knee to the body for Chito and Edgar goes down briefly but he’s okay. Nice kick lands for Chito Vera who is really finding his groove here in the second round. Leg kick for Edgar but Vera is walking right through it.

Nice right hand lands for Edgar. Lead elbow lands for Chito and Edgar is hurt. The round comes to a close and it’s all even at UFC 268.

Round 3

Entering the final round at UFC 268 and it’s anyone’s fight with the score one round a piece. Edgar starts the final round with a combination. Chito is working his kicks and Edgar lands another really nice combination over the top.

Vera tries for a big combination and just misses. Nice kick to the body lands for Chito and Edgar responds with a big combination. Side kick to the body lands for Chito. Edgar goes for a takedown but Vera defends well. Nice right hand lands for Chito Vera.

Big leg kick lands for Vera and Edgar lands a hook to the body. Edgar lands a nice lead left hook. Another nice combination from Edgar. Vera is stalking Edgar here but Edgar is doing a good job of scoring points.

Both step forward and land good shots but Chito’s appears to be throwing with more power. Edgar lands a nice straight left. Chito Vera lands a front kick up the middle and Edgar falls face first. This one is over and Chito Vera scores the knockout win.

Chito Vera def. Frankie Edgar by KO – Round 3

Justin Gaethje edges Michael Chandler in instant classic at UFC 268

Kicking off the main card of UFC 268 was arguably the most highly anticipated matchup of the evening. Former interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje (22-3) took on former title challenger Michael Chandler (22-6).

Originally, this fight was scheduled to be the third of the night, but with Trevor Wittman coaching Usman and Namajunas in addition to Gaethje, this fight was moved up. This was the first time we saw Justin Gaethje in over a year.

The last time we saw him was at UFC 254 when he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title. That loss snapped a four-fight winning streak that saw him capture the UFC interim lightweight title against Tony Ferguson.

Michael Chandler made his UFC debut back in January with a knockout of Dan Hooker. After that win, Chandler got a shot against Charles Oliveira for the vacant UFC lightweight title. After a dominant first round, Chandler was caught with a flush shot in the second and was stopped.

With that, both of these men are coming off losses in UFC lightweight title fights. Whoever won tonight was being looked at as potentially the next title contender.

UFC 268 Recap

Round 1

The UFC 268 lightweight contest started with both men meeting in the center. Gaethje looks for a leg kick early. Chandler clips Gaethje and Gaethje stumbles a bit but seems okay. Gaethje then lands a good shot which backs off Chandler.

Chandler holding the center but eats a right from Gaethje. Powerful leg kick from Gaethje and both men just start trading bombs. This fight is as advertised so far. Massive uppercut from Michael Chandler. Gaethje returns fire with a big shot.

Big leg kick from Gaethje. Massive right straight from Chandler and Gaethje’s chin is holding up her. Stiff jab from Chandler and the pace slows a bit. Another jab from Chandler. Big leg kick from Gaethje and Chandler lands another jab. Lead left from Gaethje.

Gaethje is rocked by a big shot from Chandler. Chandler charges forward and unloads on Gaethje. Gaethje lands an uppercut that rocks Chandler and now Chandler is in troulb.e Both men slow down near the end of the first.

Huge uppercut from Chandler. Lead elbow lands for Gaethje. Uppercut from Gaethje and now the tide is turning a bit. Big shot to the body lands for Chandler. Gaethje now is starting to unload on Michael Chandler. Crazy first round here at UFC 268. No idea how to score that one, but I lean ever so slightly towards Chandler.

Round 2

The second round at UFC 268 kicked off with immediate pressure from Gaethje. Chandler opens with a jab but his leg looks a little weak after that first round. Huge 1-2 from Gaethje and again Gaethje slams a leg kick.

Chandler lands a nice right straight with a jab behind it. Beautiful right straight from Gaethje and Chandler mixes it up to the body. Another body shot from Chandler but Gaethje lands a big leg kick. Gaethje pushing forward and lands a big uppercut.

Chandler might be in trouble here. Massive uppercut from Gaethje and Chandler goes down. This fight is almost over but Chandler grabs on to a takedown attempt. Chandler is badly hurt here and Gaethje is punishing him. Lots of blood leaking from Michael Chandler.

Halfway through the round and it’s all Justin Gaethje. Gaethje appears to be looking for a submission and he takes the back of Chandler. He lets Chandler up and Chandler plots forward. Powerful jab from Justin Gaethje and Chandler lands a big uppercut.

Takedown attempt from Chandler that Gaethje just shrugs off. Right hand lands from Chandler on the break. Another leg kick from Gaethje drops Chandler and Chandler pops back up. His face is a mess and I’m not sure how he’s still standing.

These two are just trading at UFC 268. Lead left from Gaethje and he lands a body kick. Chandler plots forward and lands a powerful 1-2. The round ends and it might be even at UFC 268.

Round 3

Entering the final round at UFC 268 and all the momentum appears to be with Justin Gaethje. They touch gloves to start the final round and here we go. Chandler looks much more fresh but eats a leg kick immediately as the round starts.

Jab from Chandler but another big leg kick lands for Gaethje. Nice right straight lands for Gaethje. Lead left hook lands for Gaethje. Chandler doubles up on the jab and lands a nice right hand behind it. Powerful uppercut from Chandler.

Another good uppercut lands for Chandler. Chandler pushing forward here and he’s ripping shots to the body here. Huge hook from Gaethje and Chandler waves him on. Chandler shoots in and gets a big takedown but Gaethje scrambles and ends up on top.

Chandler gets back to his feet and they rest against the fence. Back to striking and Chandler plots forward. Huge hooks to the body from Chandler. Gaethje might be hurt and then out of no where he rocks Michael Chandler.

Gaethje pouring it on but Chandler is just eating everything. One minute left and I can’t believe this fight. The two meet in the center with just a few seconds left in the fight. Leg kick from Chandler. Body kick from Gaethje. Somehow this goes to the end and I think Gaethje edges out a decision here.

Justin Gaethje def. Michael Chandler by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Knicks to celebrate Filipino-American Heritage night against Cavs

The New York Knicks will celebrate Filipino American heritage night when they face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.

The Knicks, in cooperation with the Rise Hoops, have allotted a blocked section for Filipino Americans. The lower-level ticket packages start at $85, while the upper-level packages start at $60. The discounted ticket prices come with a Filipino-inspired Knicks hat and a $15 food and beverage credit.

New York has the third-most population of Filipinos in the US with approximately 236,000, according to a research study in 2019.

In October 2019, around 800 Filipino American members of the Staten Island Philippine American Group (Sipag New York), Queens Long Island Basketball, the Outstanding Filipinos in America (TOFA), Xanders Basketball, and Rise Hoops watched the Filipino Heritage Night-featured game between the Knicks and the Chicago Bulls. Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray also graced the event and joined the enthusiastic Fil-Am community in the celebration.

Rise Hoops president and founder Banjo Albano said he’s been working with the NBA for a while now. Rise Hoops is a 360-degree basketball brand platform that bridges Filipino basketball fans in the Philippines and the US. Albano’s group has organized and hosted several of the league’s camps and NBA athletes’ visits, such as the LeBron James and Stephen Curry Tours in the Philippines.

“So, when the Knicks approached me to promote Filipino American Heritage night, it was a no-brainer,” Albano said.

Last month, reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Jordan Clarkson, and No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green made history as the first two NBA players with Filipino heritage to play in the same game.

Albano tried to push for the Knicks-Rockets game on November 20 to make it more special with the presence of Green. But the Knicks have already penciled their home game against the Cavaliers, Clarkson’s former team for the event to cap off the Filipino American Heritage month which is being celebrated across the US in the month of October. Even without Green, Albano said they had sold most of the lower-level tickets. Meanwhile, the Knicks have allocated extra tickets in the upper level to accommodate more Filipino American Knicks fans.

“I think [Knicks] were very happy with the overall reception of the Filipino Americans for the [Sunday] game,” Albano said.

Aside from Clarkson and Green, several Filipino Americans are around the league in the coaching and medical staff. Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra is the face of Filipino-American coaches in the US. Recently, the Sacramento Kings hired Jimmy Alapag as part of their G League team’s coaching staff under Bobby Jackson. Alapag is one of the most decorated former Philippine national players. Alapag also served as an assistant coach in the Philippine Basketball Association, Asia’s first professional basketball league.

The Knicks also employs the first Filipino to make it on the medical staff for an NBA and MLB team. Knicks physical therapist and wellness lead Erwin Benedict Valencia was raised and educated in the Philippines. Before joining the Knicks, he was the Rehabilitation Director of the Pittsburgh Pirates for eight seasons.

The Knicks are coming off a huge comeback win against defending champion Milwaukee Bucks last Friday on the road. They are looking to improve on their 6-3 start.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants: Devontae Booker faces lonely running backs room

Devontae Booker, New York Giants

Devontae Booker has fallen into place as the top running back for the New York Giants as they head into a game with his former team. The Giants face the Raiders in week 9, but their depth at the running back position is cut down due to injury at the moment and Booker is the next man up for Saquon Barkley.

Barkley has been in doubt all week, and was confirmed to be out even after his positive COVID-19 test was revealed as a false positive. That’s because of the ankle injury that has kept the running back out since the Dallas game, and Booker will continue for another week as the starter in Barkley’s absence.

But Barkley isn’t the only one dealing with an injury. The Giants will also have to sit Gary Brightwell, who isn’t able to make it off the COVID-19 list in time to play in week 9.

The situation places a lot on Booker’s shoulders, and also makes for lonely days in the running backs room.

Devontae Booker speaks on running back depth

“I mean, it’s been pretty much me in there,” Booker said, laughing about the matter on Friday. “I’m looking around like, ‘where’s everybody at?’ But it’s been tough, but just got to learn how to work through it and be safe.”

Booker does have some company, though. But you have to go a bit far down the depth chart before you get to the current backup running backs for the Giants.

The main names are Sandro Platzgummer and Elijhaa Penny. The former is a player that has hung around the level of the practice squad earlier this season, and the latter is more of a fullback.

Booker says there’s been days where those two are his sole company at the position.

“There were days like that pretty much all of this week,” Booker continued, pointing out that even running backs coach Burton Burns is absent thanks to a positive COVID test.

Booker’s numbers have been improving somewhat in the past three weeks, as the running back rushed for 41, 51, and 60 yards in the past three games. In his last game out, he also picked up 65 receiving yards.

Against the Raiders, the Giants will surely rely on him more heavily due to their lack of depth in the run game. Considering how the Raiders are a team Booker is familiar with, this may just be an opportunity for Booker to have his biggest game yet with the team.

Derrick Rose’s evolution sparks joy in second go-round with Knicks

During his first run with the New York Knicks in the ill-fated 2016-17 season, Derrick Rose became a meme when he proclaimed they’re a super team. A legal battle off the court divided his attention. His infamous AWOL poked a hole in his character. Another knee injury cut short his first stint with the team.

He plummeted into a dark place, as he described it, but found a way to climb his way back like the way he pulled the Knicks out from a 21-point hole to rout the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, 113-98, on Friday night.

In the words of Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer and his two-time All-Defensive First Team guard Jrue Holiday, Rose did “a little bit of everything” to fuel the Knicks’ biggest comeback in franchise history.

His season-high 23 points came in various forms, from his signature daredevil drives to floaters and pullups. He laced it up with eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals in a complete two-way performance that elicited Vintage D Rose tweets from fans.

He scoffed when a reporter asked if he still hates that label.

“What’s vintage about it? I wasn’t shooting threes. I wasn’t pulling up shots like I am now,” Rose said. But if you want to say it, you could say it, though. It’s whatever.”

Ten years removed from his historic MVP season, the 33-year old Rose remains defiant. But not in a way like he did in his first season with the Knicks when he refused to shoot more three-point shots.

Rose’s 0.9 three-point attempt in the 2016-17 season remains tied with his lowest mark in his career, which happened during his rookie year. Over the last five years, that gradually improved to a healthy 3.7 attempts per game. He’s hitting close to two triples per game, and he’s currently the second-best three-point shooter in the team with a top-20 45.5 percent mark.

“It’s not really vintage. Look at the tape,” Julius Randle said of Rose’s evolving game. “Who he was as MVP and who he is now, I would say he’s a much more complete. He’s a better player than he was then. [There’s] nothing really vintage about it. [He’s] evolved and become a much better player [when it comes to] understanding the game, clear mindset.”

Rose’s daredevil drives remain to eat the largest portion of his shot diet, as was the case on Friday night when five of his 10 field goals made came from the restricted area. But since the 2016-17 season, Rose’s frequency of shot attempts within less than 10 feet have decreased from 55.3 percent down to 42.1 percent this season. Last season, it was 42.9 percent.

His pullup game has evolved from 34 percent frequency in the 2012-13 season to 37.9 percent this year and peaked at 43 percent during his last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“That’s something that I’ve been working on the whole time, pulling out and just trusting my shot,” Rose said. “I’ve put a lot of work into my shot for the last [five years]. This is my 14th year. So, trying to adapt my game to how the young guys are playing and whatever presents itself.”

His catch-and-shoot game also dramatically changed from his first stint with the Knicks as he transformed from a lead playmaker to a combo guard off the bench. These days, Rose usually plays with a three-guard alignment alongside Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks, with RJ Barrett doing moonlighting at times. From 6.7 percent frequency in the 2016-17 season, his catch and shoot attempts have peaked at 18.9 percent this season.

Rose had a pair of catch and shoot opportunities which all came from behind the 3-point line on Friday night. But he missed both of them. It didn’t matter as he sank 3 of 6 pullups and made 7 of 10 within 10 feet.

Through nine games, Rose is averaging 12.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.0 steals against a single turnover in 22 minutes off the bench, making him a strong candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award.

Rose’s transformation from the youngest MVP to one of the oldest Sixth Man of the Year candidates this season came with maturity. He has the chance to duplicate what Bill Walton has accomplished at 33 during his stint with the Boston Celtics during the 1985-86 season. If Rose wins the award, he will join Walton as the only former league MVP to be named Sixth Man of the Year later in their careers.

Rose’s redemptive story remains one of the most inspiring career arcs in the NBA.

Rose is in a much better headspace now. He wants to do a Tom Brady. Based on his stellar play, it looks like he could pull it off barring any (knock on wood) serious injury.

“I’m playing with joy like happiness ain’t the same,” a cryptic Rose said.

Rose has come a long way. He has learned to manage his knees, his body, and the game better than it was a decade ago.

“I’ve been through a lot. I’m in a great place,” Rose added. “And I’m on a very talented team. I don’t have to score. It’s not on me every night to score 30 points, so I don’t have a burden on myself like that. I can go out there and play the game and try to affect by passing or just pushing the ball. So, I’m in a great place.”

Rose has come a long way. His evolution has sparked joy in his game. And it’s helping the Knicks in a big way.

“I feel like happiness is temporary and joyfulness is everlasting,” Rose said.

Restless for the most part of his career, Rose is finally at peace.

Follow this writer: @alderalmo

How the Knicks found their mojo back in franchise’s biggest comeback win

With 7:20 left in the second quarter, the Milwaukee Bucks tried to blitz a New York Knicks‘ pick and roll play.

Derrick Rose fought off a Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis double team and whipped a wicked pass to a rolling Mitchell Robinson. Bucks’ 3-and-D wing Grayson Allen, who gives up six inches vertically to the 7-foot Knicks center, had no choice but to foul.

It was too late.

Robinson slammed the ball. He completed the three-point play that was part of a Knicks’ 24-8 run.

“This is all about Derrick Rose orchestrating this team in getting back to this basketball game,” analyst Doris Burke blurted out on the ESPN telecast.

Behind Rose and a rejuvenated defense, the Knicks cut the once-imposing Bucks’ 21-point lead down to seven at the half, 63-56.

“Defensively, I think we lost our identity in the second quarter,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Rose played the whole second quarter. He pushed the ball and kept pressuring the Bucks’ defense until it broke down. Rose had eight in the pivotal second quarter, where the Knicks exploded for 37 points.

The Knicks came to Milwaukee distraught with a two-game losing streak. An 11-0 Indiana Pacers start buried them two nights before this match.

“We got to pick ourselves up and have a determination about it. I always say, you have to be mentally tough when you’re facing adversity, and that’s where we are right now,” New York coach Thibodeau said after a failed comeback attempt against the Pacers.

The early moments of this game felt eerily similar to their road loss in Indiana.

The defending champion Bucks, without Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton, started the game on a 6-0 run. Allen waxed hot from the outside as the Knicks were again a step slow to close out as they packed the paint to stop two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. At one point, Allen outscored the Knicks, 14-13.

The Bucks shot 8 for 16 from the outside en route to 38 first-quarter points. The pressure was mounting as the Knicks’ signature defense under Tom Thibodeau was virtually non-existent in the first 12 minutes of their last two games. Indiana racked up 36 first-quarter points against them and cruised to a wire-to-wire 111-98 rout that sunk the Knicks to a 5-3 record after a 5-1 start.

Thibodeau turned to his most trusted player to turn the tide. Rose, who has been with Thibodeau from Chicago to Minnesota and now in New York, led the Knicks’ stunning comeback from 21 points down to win by 15, 113-98.

It marked the first time in franchise history that the Knicks have overcome a 20-point deficit to record a double-digit victory since the NBA began tracking play-by-play in boxscores during the 1997-98 season.

Rose provided the Knicks with “a little bit of everything,” said the 2-time All-NBA Defensive First Team Jrue Holiday, who came off the bench for the Bucks in his first game back from an ankle injury. “Floaters, the way he got into the paint, and his leadership. I think down the stretch, he hit some big [shots].”

Rose returned in the fourth quarter to finish off the Bucks with 10 of his season-high 23 points. But buried underneath Rose’s offensive brilliance is the grittiness he showed that rubbed off to the whole team.

“I felt once we got going a little bit and we made a couple of hustle plays and that sort of galvanized us and gave us our energy,” Thibodeau said.

Rose’s first play in the second quarter wasn’t a basket. It was a steal. He poked the ball away out of Pat Connaughton’s hands, setting the tone for their comeback.

The whole team fed off Rose’s energy. Alec Burks and RJ Barrett had burst in their steps, closing out a pair of Rodney Hood corner three-point attempts. Obi Toppin outran Giannis Antetokounmpo in transition. Even Evan Fournier battled underneath their basket and made an awe-inspiring putback. Nerlens Noel defended Antetokounmpo with gusto. Julius Randle got on track, dropping 10 of his game-high 32 points.

Staring face to face with adversity, the Knicks blinked for a while but did not back down. They pushed harder.

Budenholzer pointed out the 11 free throws the Knicks had in the second quarter. New York had zero in the opening quarter. It spoke volumes about the Knicks’ change of tenor, turning more aggressive after a lackadaisical effort at the start.

“We got beat in the defensive and offensive boards. We just didn’t play well after a good start. Credit to the Knicks. I think they just beat us in every facet of the game after the first quarter handily,” Budenholzer said.

He was right.

What stood out was the Knicks’ dominance in the paint and the glass. They outrebounded the Bucks, 59-37, and had a massive 54-28 advantage in points inside the paint. Their rebounding dominance and low turnovers, committing only eight after five in the first quarter, kept the Bucks from running. Milwaukee could only cough up 10 fastbreak points, the lowest the Knicks have allowed in their first nine games.

The gritty, resilient Knicks are back.

They returned to what went work for them last season— outmuscling and outhustling their opponent.

After shaking off the rust of a long layoff, Nerlens Noel anchored the Knicks’ defense. Noel scored six points in his second game back from a knee and hamstring injury but registered a second-team best plus-22 differential mainly because of his stout defense. He produced 13 rebounds, three steals, nine deflections, and a shot block that had Thibodeau gushing in the postgame presser.

“Nerlens’ play was phenomenal,” Thibodeau said. “We probably overlook all the other aspects of his defense because we always talk about his rim protection which is obviously elite. But his pick and roll defense is terrific as well and just the way he can fly all over the court. And he’s got great length and it gives your team energy.”

Noel teamed up with Robinson to hold Antetokounmpo to 42.6 percent shooting and just seven rebounds. The Bucks’ main man finished with 25 points on a rough 7 for 17 shooting from the floor. It was his second-worst shooting night of the season since a 36.4-percent disastrous showing in the Bucks’ loss to Miami Heat last month.

“The challenge with a guy like Giannis is we gotta load up pretty good to him and they can make some threes. And they did. And still, you can’t get discouraged. You gotta keep going. Make sure you’re protecting the paint,” Thibodeau said.

“But you got to make sure you’re firing out and covering that [three-point] line. So it requires you to do two, three, four things on the same play. They’re pushing the ball on top of that. So there’s no relaxing.”

After a torrid shooting start, the Bucks just hit 8 of 27 threes the rest of the way. The Knicks closed out strong on Bucks’ perimeter shooters while packing the paint. Overall, the Knicks’ defense held the Bucks to a 40.2 percent shooting night.

“I thought a lot of guys stepped up and I thought our bench gave us a great lift when they came in and they got it within reach. And then when the starters went back in the third, I thought they played with great intensity,” Thibodeau said.

After Rose lifted the Knicks in the second quarter, Walker seemed energized. He hit a three at the start of the third quarter as the Knicks’ starters went on a mini-run, trimming the Bucks’ lead further down to four. Then Thibodeau staggered Barrett with the second unit to keep on pressuring Milwaukee’s disintegrating defense.

An Immanuel Quickley fastbreak dunk off a Noel steal tied the game at 80, and a Barrett cutting layup in the next play gave the Knicks their first lead.

Thibodeau described the Rose-Quickley-Barrett alignment as a group that can break the defense down off the dribble.

“It gets you downhill. That group has good chemistry and play good together,” Thibodeau said. “We haven’t done it a lot but [RJ] has always played great with that group. It’s good to have more scoring punch in there.

It’s a small sample size, but in 14 possessions that Barrett played with the second unit this season, the Knicks had an offensive rating of 150.0 and +57.1 efficiency differential, according to Cleaning The Glass. In contrast, the second unit with Burks in place of Barrett had a 133.3 offensive rating and +15.2 differential in 30 possessions.

It all started with Rose picking up the slack as Walker struggled for the second consecutive game. Walker was 0 for 3 to start the game. He wound up 2 for 8 from the field in 15 minutes and finished with five points and a single assist.

The Knicks got outscored by 10 points with Walker on the floor. In contrast, the Knicks were plus-31 during Rose’s 31 minutes. Rose added eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals in easily his best game of the season.

Randle took the cue and had a monster double-double, grabbing 12 rebounds, and adding four assists. Barrett continued his strong offensive performance with 20 points, his fifth straight game scoring at least 20. Quickley also played solid off the bench with nine points on 4 of 9 shooting.

The Knicks met adversity with resiliency in a game that could define their season.

“It shows a lot about the character of the team,” Randle said. “Great confidence building for us. We just gotta keep building.”

“If anything, this can thrust us forward into the area that we want to be of consistency,” Rose added.

They still have a long way to go. Fournier and Walker are still plagued with inconsistency, a clear sign that they are still adjusting. Thibodeau relied on last season’s core group to pull them out of the deep hole. Now comes the more challenging part — staying out of that hole for good.

“You want to develop consistency in terms of how hard you play, how together you play, how smart you play. You want to be able to count on that every night,” Thibodeau said. “So if you let your guard down or if you just feel too good about yourself, you’re gonna get knocked down. Everyone’s fighting for the same thing. It’s how hard can we fight and how long can we fight.”

Rose fighting off the Bucks’ blitz in that particular play in the second quarter was symbolic of how the Knicks should move forward. As Thibodeau always says, “don’t fight pressure with pressure.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

The Knicks have an awesome duo developing in the paint: “Twin Towers”

The New York Knicks are ecstatic to have veteran big man Nerlens Noel back in the lineup, giving them added defensive prowess in the paint. Noel has been dealing with a sore knee the past few weeks, holding him out of the preseason and start of the regular season, but he made a significant impact against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.

Noel featured in 24 minutes, three more than Mitchell Robinson, contributing six points, three steals, and 13 rebounds, five of which were offensive.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau realized that Noel was the hot hand, specifically with his positioning and ability to give his teammates more opportunities. There is a reason the team re-signed Noel to a three-year, $27 million extension after all.

However, the duo of Noel and Robinson can become something unique and special, with a focus on elite defense.

“Me and Mitch do similar things but we do it different ways,” Noel said, via the NY Post. “So I bring what I bring — being aggressive on the pick-and-rolls, hedging out and getting guys uncomfortable, as well as protecting the rim. Mitch brings what he brings with his size and physicality.”

Thibodeau mentioned how great Noel is on defending pick and rolls while also sustaining excellent rim protection. Noel didn’t seem to miss a beat regarding his stamina on Friday, despite missing the beginning of the year.

Nerlens envisions the Knicks having a “Twin Towers” duo, made up of height and quality defense.

“Mitch did a great job holding it down,’’ Noel added. “We want to get to the level of having two Twin Towers back and holding down the paint.’’

On the season, Robinson is contributing 7.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game, so combining their statistics, they both should contribute about 20 rebounds together on any given night.

Against the Bucks, the team came together defensively and made life extremely difficult for them in the second half of a resilient win. Thanks to fantastic interior defense and elevated perimeter defense, the Knicks overcame a 21 point deficit to win by 15. If the duo of Noel and Robinson can continue to develop and grow, we could see something special in the paint this season.

Yankees lose two fan favorites to waivers, letting them walk for nothing

andrew Velazquez, yankees

The New York Yankees allowed several fan-favorite players to walk late this week, being claimed off waivers. Acting as a few spark plugs during the regular season due to injury, fans began to show love for infielder Andrew Velazquez, who grew up in the Bronx. Outfielder Greg Allen also spent time with the Yankees in 2021, making 15 appearances and enjoying 37 at-bats.

Allen proved to be a catalyst on the base paths, recording five stolen bases on 15 on-base opportunities. He finished the year with a .270 average and .849 OPS. He contributed 10 hits, including four doubles and a triple. As a five-year MLB veteran, Allen hasn’t enjoyed too many chances to showcase his qualities, despite logging a .257 average in 2018 with the Cleveland Indians over 91 games. Allen was scooped up by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, the Yankees announced.

Velazquez, who has spent the last nine years fighting his way to the MLB, finally enjoyed a solid sample size with the Bombers, making 28 appearances. During that time, Velazquez posted a .224 average with one homer and six RBIs, logging a 33.8% strikeout rate and 1.5% walk rate. Velazquez was a solid defender, though, masking some of the deficiencies that Gleyber Torres allowed at shortstop.

The Yankees have bigger plans at the position, as they prepared to unload a massive contract for a free agent this off-season. Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story have all been linked to the Yankees in some capacity, so the winter months will undoubtedly be exciting.

Nonetheless, the feel-good stories of Velazquez and Allen won’t be forgotten, and if injuries continue to bite them in the butt, there could be new favorites next season. Preferably, they will be young prospects with more potential instead of journeymen who have little chance of sticking around.

3 standout players in Knicks’ resilient win over Bucks to snap losing streak

knicks, derrick rose

The New York Knicks overcame a 21 point deficit in the first half to beat the reigning World Champion, Milwaukee Bucks. Showing resiliency, The Knicks snapped a two-game losing streak, falling to the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers consecutively. Milwaukee has lost their last four home games after dropping another to New York on Friday evening.

The Knicks had contributions from a variety of players, but it was their bench who stepped up to provide fantastic defense in the second half, holding Milwaukee to just 35 points. For context, the Bucks enjoyed 38 points in the first quarter.

Three standout players for the Knicks in win over Bucks:

1.) Julius Randle

After a slow start, Randle caught on fire in the second half, finishing with 32 points, four assists, and 12 rebounds. Randle shot 50% from the field, hitting 11 shots over 33 minutes. After a quiet last few games, Julius seemed invigorated and confident every time he was on the floor, giving maximum effort and getting his team back in the win column.

The Knicks needed a performance like this from their All-Star, and he contributed heavily to the victory.

2.) Derrick Rose

Veteran PG Derrick Rose always shows up when the team needs him most, and he helped spark a full turnaround in the second half, adding 23 points, four assists, and eight rebounds in the win.

He shot 10-of-18 from the field and earned a +31 +/-, the highest of any Knick. Rose seems spry and quick with his decision-making, and while some might mention he looked like his vintage self, Rose seems to be playing fantastic basketball whenever called upon, which is part of the reason Tom Thibodeau helped sign him to a three-year extension.

3.) RJ Barrett

Young guard RJ Barrett piece together his fifth consecutive game with 20 or more points, shooting 8-of-21 from the field and contributing three assists and seven rebounds. Barrett wasn’t only great on defense, he moved the ball well in transition and found teammates effectively as a facilitator, taking what the defense was giving him.

Barrett continues to blossom before our eyes, and he has undoubtedly been the Knicks’ best player over the past few games. If he can continue to play at this level and show consistency, he could be in the running for his first All-Star appearance.

Giants Injury Updates: Two receivers returning to full health, Saquon Barkley’s ankle

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants are preparing to take on the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday afternoon, and it will be another uphill battle with injuries persisting on offense. The Giants were forced to play without Kenny Golladay, Saquon Barkley, and a limited Kadarius Toney last Monday against the Kansas City Chiefs, but they’re aiming to return several players to full health, who should contribute heavily towards a more efficient unit.

New York Giants injury update:

Kenny Golladay: Hyperextended knee

Free-agent acquisition Kenny Golladay has played in just five games for the Giants this season, recording 282 yards and zero touchdowns. He has featured in 73% of the snaps available to him when healthy, but a hyperextended knee against the Dallas Cowboys threw his season off a bit.

Luckily, Golladay is expected to return on Sunday against the Raiders, enjoying a full practice on Friday to prove his clean bill of health. The Giants desperately need him to be the big possession receiver they paid a significant amount of money for this past off-season. Quarterback Daniel Jones needs more support and pass catchers who won’t drop the football, — Golladay needs to be that option.

Kadarius Toney: Ankle/Thumb

Kadarius Toney was active last week against Kansas City but played a decoy role to help the remainder of the offense succeed (that plan failed miserably). Unfortunately, his impact was minimal, catching four passes for 26 yards.

Toney has been dealing with an ankle injury since before the season began and picked up a laceration on his thumb against the Chiefs. He was another full participant on Friday, so expect him to be heavily involved in the game plan this weekend.

Saquon Barkley: Ankle

Running back, Saquon Barkley escaped with a false positive COVID-19 test this week after coach Brian Burns contracted the virus. Barkley returned to the Giants on Friday but was unable to practice, still dealing with swelling on the low ankle sprain he suffered against Dallas.

I wouldn’t expect to see Barkley this weekend, and even next weekend is in question. It is entirely possible they wait until after the bye week to utilize Barkley in his usual role.