The New York Knicks looked in midseason form in their preseason rout of the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Scoring 125 points, the Knicks showcased their new offensive playmakers in Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker, both of whom provided ample production.
With Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock departing in free agency, the Knicks spent some money to add more talent to the roster. With Taj Gibson earning the start with Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson both working their way back from injury, the veteran center performed well, playing in 21 minutes and scoring 14 points, including a three-point shot on two attempts.
Overall, it was an impressive opening performance for the Knicks, and they’re just starting to gel, indicating an upward trajectory. Having worked hard this off-season and preparing diligently, they seem to be on the right path to success, and dominating the Pacers’ starting team was an excellent first chapter to the story.
Three key takeaways for the Knicks in win over Indiana:
1.) Kemba Walker changes the dynamic of the team
It is pretty evident that new acquisition, Kemba Walker, will be a massive upgrade at point guard. Walker scored 12 points in the win, shooting 50% from the field and hitting two three-pointers on five attempts. He also picked up four assists, second on the team behind Immanuel Quickley, who recorded seven.
“The game tells you what to do and I think he reads the game extremely well,” Thibodeau said. “That veteran leadership, that shot-making ability, (heâ€™s) very good in the pick and roll, it puts a lot of pressure on you. And heâ€™s unselfish. He gets blitzes, heâ€™s gonna get off the ball. I thought he made the pass out of the blitz pretty effectively.”
Walker’s unique athleticism and capabilities provide the Knicks’ offense with something special at a position that has been weak for years.
2.) Julius Randle is in for another big season
All-star power forward Julius Randle didnâ€™t skip a beat in the team’s first preseason game of the season. Randle scored 20 points over 30 minutes, shooting 50% from the field and picking up nine rebounds. He didnâ€™t turn the ball over once, showing more efficiency with the rock and his hands. With Fournier and Walker allocating so much attention from opposing defenses, Randle should have a far easier time spreading the ball around the court and finding open looks at the basket.
“I thoughtÂ Julius (Randle)Â made a lot of good plays early on, he moved around, he got the ball hopping. â€¦ he drove it when he should have driven in, he shot it when (he should have shot it). Heâ€™s harder to guard like that and we can play off different guys. Iâ€™m very pleased with that.
Randle worked hard all off-season to improve his shot from beyond the arc and the elbow. If he can build upon last year, Randle is well on his way toward being one of the top players in the league.
3.) RJ Barrett is preparing to take a big Year 3 jump
The Knicks are hoping that third-year guard RJ Barrett will take a big step forward in year three. In the victory, Barrett scored 17 points, shooting 50% from the field and hitting three of six three-point attempts. He also picked up three rebounds and two assists, once again showing solid offensive abilities.
Barrett spent Monday night in the gym working on his shot before the first game, and heâ€™s gearing up for what seems to be a big season ahead.
“It was great to see him in the gym last night; heâ€™s back to his routine,” Thibodeau said. “Sometimes in training camp if weâ€™re practicing twice he doesnâ€™t have the time to do that, but his commitment is special, heâ€™s a great kid, hard worker, disciplined, and heâ€™ll keep getting better. Heâ€™s only 21, but heâ€™s putting a lot of work into the game.”