How the New York Knicks are finally meeting Tom Thibodeau’s expectations

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau
Dec 31, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA;New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts against the Toronto Raptors during the first quarter at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After losing five consecutive games last week, the New York Knicks have bounced back in a significant way, taking down the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic. In both contests, the Knicks held their opponents to under 100 points, and even more impressively, 84 points. The Magic scored just 84 in the Knicks’ win Monday afternoon on Martin Luther King day.

New York took a major step forward in their desire to climb the Atlantic standings, as they were down four games just two days ago. Now, they are 2.5 games behind Boston and are on the back of a nice two-game winning streak against quality teams.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau has undoubtedly made an impact on the organization, focusing on winning rather than player development. However, that doesn’t mean he’s ignoring some of his young playmakers, as both Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley earned playing time against Orlando.

“I love winning, so low-scoring, high-scoring, medium-scoring, it doesn’t matter,’’ Thibodeau said. “I just want to win. Whatever we have to do to find a way to win, improve every day, I want to be playing our best down the stretch.”

Being aggressive and tenacious are two expectations from Thibodeau, especially on defense. Before this small win streak ensued, the Knicks only kept opponents under 100 points once this season, and now they’ve upped the number to three.

“They showed a lot of toughness,’’ Thibodeau said. “I knew it would be a challenge for us — back-to-back, early start. We played with the lead for most of the game. Then we took the hit to start the fourth quarter. Having the ability to take a punch, keep fighting and finding a way to win that’s a big part of this league. I loved the toughness we showed down the stretch.’’

In both wins, the Knicks took an early lead but nearly blew it against Orlando, after they put together an impressive fourth-quarter. Luckily, the Knicks did just enough to scoot by, with Julius Randle connecting for 21 points and Elfrid Payton having a standout performance with 12 points and four assists (ESPN). Second-year player RJ Barrett has also been far more consistent, posting 22 against the Magic and securing 10 rebounds for a double-double.

The most impressive thing about this team is their resiliency. Even though they lost five games, they didn’t stop working hard and moving forward. That is the mentality you have to have, forgetting about the losses and building off the wins. Having a few young players to come off the bench has also been beneficial, as Quickley recorded 11 points in the first half.

Thibodeau and his squad will take on the Golden State Warriors on Thursday evening, and they are another team that has been struggling this season. With another stout defensive performance, there’s no question that they can overcome Golden State.