Jalen Brunson and Quentin Grimes combined to shoot 11 for 20 from the three-point zone to spark the hot-shooting New York Knicks‘ sweep of the Windy City mini-series.
The Knicks shot 17 of 44 overall from 3, two nights after hitting 18 of 34 on the same floor, to run away with a 114-91 blowout win against talent-laded but struggling Chicago Bulls Friday night at United Center.
Brunson made a career-high six 3s, while Grimes (22 points) and RJ Barrett (27 points) added five and three each for the current hottest team in the Eastern Conference.
The growing chemistry of the Knicks’ new backcourt, alongside Barrett’s rise from an early shooting slump, has fueled their surge from 10-13 to 10-16, just half a game behind the fifth-seed Philadelphia 76ers, in a matter of two weeks.
Tom Thibodeau is thrilled that his tough decision to shorten the rotation and firmly entrench Grimes as the Knicks’ starting shooting guard is paying off.
“Terrific, terrific! I just think the shooting really helps a lot, and obviously, the defense helps our team immensely, and it gives us high energy. It gives us multiple efforts. So that backcourt is probably, I love the way our perimeter is playing right now.
You throw RJ (Barrett) in there and then throw the bench in there like we’re mixing and matching. Deuce (McBride) has given us great minutes, [Immanuel Quickley] has been phenomenal.”Tom Thibodeau postgame via Knicks digital
Brunson continues to be the backbone of the Knicks’ offense but Grimes, and to some extent, McBride and Quickley off the bench, have plugged the most glaring hole that haunted them at the start of the season — perimeter defense.
During this six-game winning streak, the Knicks have transformed into a defensive juggernaut, leading the league in defensive rating (97.7) with the Memphis Grizzlies, currently the best team in the Western Conference, as the only teams limiting their opponents to under 100 points per 100 possessions.
The biggest reason for this significant Knicks defensive bump is their stunning turnaround from allowing the most 3s made (14 per game) to having the best 3-point defense. Their last six opponents have only averaged 8.5 3s per game. That’s a 16.5-point swing.
And that’s just half of the job. Equally impressive is their jump in the perimeter scoring during this hot stretch.
Amid the six-game winning streak, the Knicks have become a top-10 3-point shooting team, sinking 36.8 percent of their 35.3 attempts. That’s quite a jump from shooting the league-worst 31.3 percent during their first 23 games of the season.
Grimes has picked up steam during this stretch, averaging 13.5 points built around a scorching 45.7 percent of 5.8 three-point attempts per game.
“I’m not surprised, first and foremost, but at the same time, he works really hard. I mean, everything he does in the game, you see him doing it in practice. He’s just a tremendous worker, and it’s paying off, and it just, he’s just doing what he does.”Jalen Brunson on Quentin Grimes via MSG Network
Grimes is feeding off Brunson’s leadership.
“It’s been tremendous. Having a leader like that in the locker room, on the court, and off the court. When he’s off the court, he’s being vocal to us, talking about different coverages defensively. He’s been a great leader for us on all cylinders. Really.”Quentin Grimes on Jalen Brunson via MSG Network
The Brunson-Grimes backcourt has combined for 44.0 points, 8.5 assists and 3.5 steals, and nine triples during the Knicks’ sweep of the Bulls.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo