The New York Knicks have won back-to-back games in recent days, overcoming a strong Milwaukee Bucks team and an undefeated Cleveland Cavaliers squad on Tuesday evening.
The Knicks started off the season with two consecutive losses, but their latest win over Cleveland was impressive. They held their opponents to 86 points after they won their first three games of the season, scoring a low of 118. While the Knicks only reached 95, their defense put in the work.
New head coach Tom Thibodeau has harped on defensive efficiency, being aggressive toward opponents and dominating in the trenches. While the stat-line might indicate the Knicks shouldâ€™ve lost this game, they managed to do enough off the ball to help their team win. New York turned the ball over 25 times in the contest, compared to Clevelandâ€™s 13. On any given day, the team with that many turnovers should lose.
However, they received fantastic performance is from players like Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, and Reggie Bullock. Randle has been phenomenal this season, averaging 24.8 points per game, 10.5 rebounds, and 7.5 assists. He had a team-high nine turnovers in the win, which is an issue he must resolve, but he has acted like a star in every other category.
Improved point guard play has helped the New York Knicks:
Nonetheless, point guard Elfrid Payton has also risen to the occasion, helping his team overcome tough opponents. He opened the season with troubling statistics, scoring zero points against the Philadelphia 76ers but then rebounding with 27 against the Bucks and 14 against Cleveland. His influence and quality of play will make Immanuel Quickley’s adaptation to the NBA much smoother.
The expectation was that Quickley would steal the starting job at point guard rather soon, which would be a worst case scenario based on his youth. Payton winning the job and performing well lately allows Quickley to ease into his natural position, utilization his ability as a passer and opening up the floor for his teammates.
In fact, I think Quickley and Payton can be a fantastic duo, playing in different scenarios to spark offensive production. This would also suggest that options like Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina will be left behind as they climb the ranks and cement themselves as the top choices.