With the Knicks missing Julius Randle due to the shoulder injury he suffered against the Miami Heat, it wasn’t surprising that they’d enter this game short-handed. Then, the news that OG Anunoby was dealing with elbow inflammation caused him to be a late scratch. All hands would need to be on deck and the Knicks would need to find a rhythm without two of their three best players.
Immense pressure would be placed on Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo, who answered the call in the Knicks’ beat down of the Hornets. In a lopsided victory, the Knicks were able to collect their 30th win of the season, maintaining the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Knicks Rally in the Second Half to Tramp Hornets
The Knicks would struggle out of the gate, as they would exchange scores with the Hornets and only lead by three points entering the half. It looked like it would take a heroic performance from Jalen Brunson for the Knicks to have a chance at winning, and he would put up an incredible scoring performance to guide the team to victory. He scored 32 points on the night, shooting 54.2% from the field and picking up seven assists as well. Brunson is continuing to put up unbelievable scoring numbers and has firmly inserted himself into the MVP ladder by all metrics.
He’d lead a scoring barrage in the third quarter that propelled the Knicks to victory, as they dropped 44 points and put this game away. Donte DiVincenzo would join his fellow Villanova alumni in the offensive explosion, scoring 28 points on 45% shooting and adding six rebounds, going a team-best +24 on the court for New York. He’s become one of the most impactful scorers on the team since slotting into the starting five, and he’s having his best season in the NBA in his debut season with the Knicks.
While he only added eight points, Josh Hart would have a great impact on the contest, leading the team in rebounds (10) and tying Brunson for the team lead in assists (7). His role as a facilitator and defender proved valuable, as despite not having OG Anunoby they still held the Hornets to 92 points on the night. It doesn’t seem impressive to stifle the offense of a 10-win team, but even bad offenses (such as Charlotte) average 108.9 points per game. It should be noted that they were without LaMelo Ball, however, which played a role in their offensive deficiencies.
Miles McBride, who has continued to impress with his three-point shooting, drilled three of his six attempts from beyond the arc to add 11 points, and Isaiah Harteinstein would add 10 points and a team-best three steals in 16 minutes as he still nurses his lower-body injury. Precious Achiuwa has emerged as the Knicks have had problems keeping their frontcourt healthy, going +21 on the court and adding nine points on six shots.
It’s not a win that you look at in the same view as the one over Denver or Philadelphia, but it is one that you view positively because of what the Knicks had to overcome. Donte DiVincenzo played 42 minutes tonight, they needed their starters to show up and exhaust themselves and that’s exactly what they did. The Knicks are now 13 games above-.500 and 13-2 since the beginning of January, and they look unstoppable even after losing two of their three best players in the last 48 hours.
Resilience and tenacity have defined this team under Tom Thibodeau, who has his Knicks rolling right now to start the new year.