The Charlotte Hornets came to town to face the New York Knicks on a night of qualifying for the NBA’s Elite Eight of the first annual In-Season Tournament. Lamelo Ball was absent from this one, as he was out with an ankle sprain. The Knicks executed well behind the tenacity of Julius Randle and won handily against a hungry Hornets squad with a final score of 115–91.
Studs: The Knicks’ front court dominated
A phenomenal start from the Knicks front court set the tone for the entire game. Mitchell Robinson had three blocks in the first quarter alone and six total in the contest as his running mate Julius Randle went 50% from the floor with 11 points and two field goals netted from behind the three-point line.
Randle posted an astounding 67.5 true-shooting percentage as he finished the game with 25 points, 20 rebounds, and five assists. A masterclass performance by Randle, and arguably his best performance so far this season. Randle has improved his shot quality, allowing the game to come to him more instead of forcing his hand as he looks rejuvenated coming off an ankle injury in the offseason.
Studs: Immanuel Quickley is on fire
Immanuel Quickley is the best sixth man in the NBA. The Knicks’ lack of execution down the stretch saw the Hornets bring the lead down to nine at the half before a 21-point barrage from Quickley in the second half put the game out of reach.
With 16 total points in the fourth and averaging eight points per fourth quarter over his last eight games, Quickley is essential to this team and will get the contract he deserves this offseason. The sixth-man label may insinuate a player is not on the same level as the starting five, but in Quickley’s case, he is the best player on the floor at times, and closing the game is just as important as starting in the NBA.
Studs: The Knicks’ rotation came up big once again
The Knicks’ rotation was incredible out of the gate. Following a heartbreaking loss to the Phoenix Suns, the Knicks began the contest on a 24-9 run and never looked back. Five Knicks players scored in double figures and had 21 assists as a team. Doing it by committee, Josh Hart had a season-high 17 points on 70% from the floor in 29 total minutes played.
Following this win, the Knicks are now in the Quarterfinals of the first-ever in-season tournament and will be playing the Milwaukee Bucks. Winners of this quarter-finals will meet in Vegas to compete for a championship and cash incentives.
Duds: RJ Barrett continues to struggle
RJ Barrett continues to struggle from the floor. After such a promising start to the season, Barrett has not looked the best, coming off a three-game absence for migraines earlier this month. Barrett has been shooting 32.7% from the floor since his return.
His most recent performance against the Hornets saw an aggressive Barrett as he went 9-9 from the free throw line, but shots have not been falling consistently. Averaging 19 points on the season after 22 points per game before his absence, Knicks faithful hope that the “pre-migraine” Barrett makes his emergence for the Knicks to be contenders in the Eastern Conference.
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Duds: Quentin Grimes needs to improve
Quentin Grimes’s lack of assertiveness has become a hindrance in the Knicks rotation when guys like Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart have been playing to the level they have.
Grimes is and has been the starting shooting guard for the New York Knicks and averages less than both Hart and Donte on the season. Posting pedestrian stat lines over his last four games, Grimes must assert himself to add the needed variety to such a deep Knicks rotation.
His lack of playmaking and scoring suggests he would better serve coming off the bench for the New York Knicks to be more formidable and make an impact.
Takeaways from the Knicks’ win over the Hornets
The Knicks’ disposition currently is to handle business against teams they are supposed to beat yet come up short against the best. This in-season tournament quarterfinals against Milwaukee will be the perfect test for the Knicks. Another chance to defeat a team rated one of the best in the Bucks on a national stage.
The Knicks have the depth, the defense, and the bench, but taking that leap from pretenders to contenders has been a challenge. Once the Knicks string together a few wins against much better opponents, the national narrative will also change, and the Knicks will be in winning conversations.
Friday, the Knicks are on the road to face the Toronto Raptors before the much anticipated In-Season tournament quarterfinals next Tuesday.