The New York Knicks are coming off an impressive victory against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday evening, holding their opponent to less than 100 points for the first time in their season. The Knicks, on the other hand, scored 112, showcasing some of their offensive capabilities.
Point guard Kemba Walker proved to be the difference in the contest, as he displayed All-Star caliber play for the first time this season after an inconsistent start over the first three games. Walker can be the catalyst in their success against more prominent teams, but they still arenâ€™t entirely healthy as a veteran center Nerlens Noel has yet to appear this season.
The Knicks have held Noel out of their first four games of the regular campaign, let alone the entire preseason as well. Noel signed a three-year, $27.7 million deal this past off-season with New York but has dealt with knee soreness the past few months.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau indicated that Noel is close to returning, having ramped up pretty well up to this point.
â€œHeâ€™s ramped up pretty good right now,â€™â€™ Thibodeau said before the game. â€œHopefully it will be soon. Itâ€™s when heâ€™s ready to go. So heâ€™s been taking some contact. Heâ€™s real close.â€™â€™
In the meantime, Mitchell Robinson has done a phenomenal job as the starter, contributing 8.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and logging 1.3 blocks per game. The season is young, and with Mitch still increasing his stamina, the duo of him and Noel will hopefully be prolific.
â€œHe was almost back once and then he had some soreness,â€™â€™ Thibodeau said. â€œHe had soreness in his knee [but] the hamstring is fine. And that soreness is much improved.â€
The Knicks still managed to extract a victory against the 76ers without Nerlens, indicating their depth and efficiency on both sides of the ball. Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers raved about Thibodeau and his coaching style before the game, which proved to be true in the victory.
â€œI thought he was terrific,â€™â€™ Rivers said before Tuesday’s game Vs the Knicks, per the NY Post. â€œI personally think him and Monty were my choices. I wished they shouldâ€™ve split because I thought it shouldâ€™ve been split last year. But Thibs is a helluva coach. Worked with me for three years, felt like nine, But heâ€™s just good. He works his butt off. Heâ€™s in love with the game of basketball. If every player had that same passion theyâ€™d be better players. Same for coaching.â€™â€™
There is no question that Thibs is in love with the game of basketball, given his intensity when the Knicks are up 25 with one minute left in the fourth quarter. He demands greatness from his team at all times, making it a priority for them to play at 100% despite the score.
Thibodeau excretes passion and confidence, which rubs off on his players and elevates their level of play. That has played a significant part in the Knicks’ success since he took over as head coach last season.