The New York Knicks embarrassed the Houston Rockets on Sunday evening, outscoring them by 25 points, having a bit of fun at the end of the contest, and playing more relaxed basketball. Julius Randle posted 31 points, shooting nearly 50% from the field and three-point range. He also contributed seven rebounds and six assists on his way to another stand-out performance, and the Knicks clearly rallied around him.
With only eight games left in the regular season, the Knicks are currently sitting at 36-28, having won 11 of their last 12 games, with their only loss coming against the Phoenix Suns thanks to a little Chris Paul magic.
Winning at this rate is incredibly difficult to sustain, but the Knicks might’ve figured out the perfect equation to curate a successful mentality and peek at the right time. As they head into a difficult West Coast stretch, the Knicks have their biggest challenge of the season, playing Phoenix, the Clippers, and Lakers consecutively. That string of three games will really prove to fans and analysts whether the Knicks are the real deal or not.
Nonetheless, it starts with one game at a time, and veteran point guard Derrick Rose understands that even though Houston was the worst team in the NBA, remaining competitive and in the right mindset can be the difference.
“We’re fighting for something,” Rose said. “We know that down the stretch we want to be playing our best basketball, giving our best effort and playing with urgency. It’s all about picking the other person up. We need to know it’s going to be a grinding game.”
Three keys to beating Memphis for the Knicks:
1.) Elite defense
Memphis is coming off a tough stretch of games, losing three of their last four and falling to the Orlando Magic by just one point in their latest defeat. The Grizzlies are one game over .500 and host a few talented players like Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas, and Dillon Brooks.
They are capable of scoring adequately on any given night, so the Knicks must utilize their league-best defense, as they are currently allowing just 104.6 points per game. As long as they are aggressive and attack Morant in the paint, they can easily walk away with a victory on Monday evening.
2.) Strong center play without Nerlens Noel
While the Knicks did demolish the Houston Rockets on Sunday, they did suffer one major blow. Center Nerlens Noel suffered a left ankle sprain after clashing knees with Christian Woods. This could prove to be a significant issue, and the Knicks desperately need their depth centers to step up in his absence. That will mean Taj Gibson and Norvel Pelle will be earning more playing time.
3.) Good Ole’ Julius Randle
The catalyst on any given night is Julius Randle, and while everyone seems to be waiting for him to stop producing, he continues to prove everybody wrong. Most fans were ready to get rid of him after the 2020 campaign, but this year has been entirely different, as he is averaging 24.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 10.3 rebounds per game, all career highs.
Again, as long as Randle is playing well, players like RJ Barrett continue to thrive. Barrett has experienced an astronomical leap in efficiency from the field end downtown, which has sparked the Knicks’ offense regularly during this winning stretch. Consistency on that end remains a catalyst for success.