In the second half of a back-to-back, the New York Knicks were on the road facing the Los Angeles Clippers. The incredible performance by the Knicks in the prior contest against Phoenix made this clash unpredictable going in. Now, with three of five road games out of the way, New York’s inability to string together convincing performances continues to hinder them as they fell to a surging Clippers squad 144–122.
Studs: RJ Barrett is returning to form
RJ Barrett showed up and has looked more like himself pre-migraine with every new game. Barrett’s efficiency is back to expected levels, with greater confidence and more room to navigate on the offensive end. Averaging 19.5 points per game in the last five contests, he put in 18 points and eight rebounds versus the Clippers. Barrett imposing himself bodes well for the Knicks just as long as his running mates can do their part also.
Barrett can be a more dominant player, but his best attributes lie in the Knicks’ ability to turn defense into offense. However, that was a rare case against the Clippers and has been overall inconsistent as of late.
Studs: Donte DiVincenzo is money from deep
“The Big Ragu” Donte DiVincenzo was ready to go, knowing his back-court mate’s previous 50-point game would have him hounded by a tenacious Clippers defense. In the zone offensively, it has been mentioned that DiVincenzo’s humility with his scoring output makes him the perfect complement compared to the previous starter, Quentin Grimes.
DiVincenzo scored 18 points, including five made threes in the contest. Over his last three games, DiVincenzo is averaging 14.6 points per game while taking the toughest assignments on the defensive end.
Studs: A double-double from The Hitman
Showing up against his previous team, Isaiah “The Hitman” Hartenstein scored 12 points and 10 rebounds, with six of those being offensive boards. To add to his defensive presence, Hartenstein had a team-best three blocks on the contest, but the interior defense without starting center Mitchell Robinson has been a large load.
A day of rest is mandatory as the Knicks front court, including newly acquired Taj Gibson. They will have themselves a handful up against Anthony Davis on Monday Night.
Duds: The Knicks’ defense has been nonexistent
The Knicks’ defense lately has been nearly nonexistent. Over the past six games, New York has allowed the second most points in franchise history.
Going back to 1964, the current iteration of New York has similarities to a Bob Boozer and Len Chappell-led team, as they gave up 70 points in the first half to Los Angeles and 144 overall in the game. The Clippers shot 22 free throws in the second quarter alone as Knicks faithful took to social media to pull a commonly used trope of “Knicks vs refs.”
Unfortunately, along with 22 free throws (only eight more than the Knicks for the entire contest), the Clippers shot 16 threes on a 48% clip. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 61 points on an astounding 68% from the floor. These defensive woes have turned the Knicks from a top team on both sides of the ball to bottom feeders in the defensive rankings.
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Duds: The Knicks’ top stars failed to make an impact
Following the offensive explosion in the previous game against Phoenix, Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle combined for 44 points on 43% from the floor. Compare that to the opposing team’s best two players, and a commonality exists with the New York Knicks; they take their foot off the gas too often.
In this contest, Randle only had four rebounds in 30 minutes played. The cornerstones of the Knicks must lead the committee by example, and a lackadaisical defensive presence spells the worst for New York.
It is becoming more evident that the drastic change from a top-five defense to what has been as of late indicates possible cohesion issues and a trade of some sort may be on the horizon when your star All-NBA power forward has fewer rebounds than Brunson. A change of scenery may be necessary to catapult the Knicks as contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to the Clippers
New York must formulate a way to string together convincing wins to be in winning conversations. The constant inconsistency from the Knicks has been a hindrance, as well as the poor rotations.
Star sixth man Immanuel Quickley saw limited time against the Clippers down the stretch when his scoring prowess is paramount in his minutes allocated.
Upcoming games against the Lakers and Bucks will be tests, and no matter the performances of Brunson and Barrett, the likelihood those go the Knicks way will rest on how Julius Randle approaches the games.