Studs and Duds: Knicks blowout 76ers in the return of OG Anunoby

New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) in action against Philadelphia 76ers guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks looked to capitalize on breaking news as they disassembled the Philadelphia 76ers. OG Anunoby returned on this night after missing the previous 18 games.

While Anunoby got reacclimatized, it was Josh Hart stealing the show, posting a stat line of 20 points, 19 rebounds, and 10 assists. The Knicks have held three straight opponents below 80 total points for the first time in 24 years. The Knicks came away with a 106–79 win on Tuesday night.

Studs: History-making defense 

The New York Knicks have welded the most Thibodeau-style rotation that has ever been seen. From starters to reserves, the makeup of this team requires humility, poise, and stellar defensive play. The sense of urgency residing in New York is that of a championship-caliber team, learning mistakes early while maximizing the entire rotation.

Now, with the return of Anunoby, expectations for New York defensively have shifted in the right direction while putting the NBA on notice following three straight opponents not surpassing 80 points in today’s NBA.

In the last five games, New York is again ranked first in defensive rating. The offense is currently ranked 26th over the past five games, but that can be countered in a week with the return of OG, creating better looks in the half-court and transition. 

Studs: The return of OG Anunoby 

Missing the previous 18 games, it was a welcome sight to see OG Anunoby back on the Knicks. A defensive motor found few and far in today’s NBA, Anunoby scored 14 points, four rebounds, and two assists in his return.

Anunoby connected twice from downtown, both shots made from weak and strong side corners in the first half, a known sweet spot from Anunoby. Looking better than ever, the defensive versatility from Anunoby stuns opposing teams. The 76ers missed Joel Embiid, but Tyrese Maxey returned to action in this one.

Following the low-scoring win by Philadelphia in the prior contest without Maxey, his return was not expected to be stunted by an even grander return to the floor. OG Anunoby only played 28 minutes in this return, but the team’s pace, energy, and intensity were all on a higher level due to the return of the defensive maestro. The Knicks are now 13-2 when Anunoby is in the lineup this season.

Studs: Josh Hart masterclass 

Josh Hart has been playing at a Player of the Month level for the New York Knicks. Against the 76ers, Hart scored 20 points, 19 rebounds, and ten assists.

Over the past five games, Hart has averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists. Averaging a double-double this month while having two games of 19 rebounds is Hart playing way beyond expectations. If one has been watching Hart since last summer playing with FIBA, then they’ve always seen what Hart can do, but translating that effectiveness to the NBA has made Hart a remarkable player.

The cohesion of the New York Knicks has allowed Hart to maximize his skill sets in a rotation that leans more on a defensive-based game style. Hart has been excellent on both ends and is a tremendous example of the style of player Tom Thibodeau proudly relies on. 

Duds: The Knicks’ new additions are failing to make an impact

As the Knicks embark on a run this postseason, the performances from their most recent acquisitions have had a tough time acclimating themselves to New York’s rotation. Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic have been relegated to catch and shoot players off the bench in spurts as their defensive woes keep them away from more minutes.

Thibodeau played Josh Hart more minutes than Burks and Bojan combined, but that has more to do with Hart maximizing his effectiveness on both sides of the ball. In the last five games, Bogdanovic averaged 11 points, and his season average had dropped from 20 points per game to now 17 per game.

Burks return has garnered a poor reaction from Knicks fans following much excitement when announced. With only three games since his debut scoring in double figures, Burks has not been playing to the level he’s capable of, but he’s also now on a more stacked and defensive-minded Knicks team than the one he remembers. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ win over the 76ers 

The return of Anunoby and the masterclass from Josh Hart coinciding proves the ability of this lineup to run again. Both Hart and Anunoby started for the Knicks in this win as the engines behind a lead that ballooned to 33 points.

Jalen Brunson added 20 points and nine assists in only the cerebral way that Brunson can. With momentum on New York’s side early, Brunson extended the lead in the second quarter with a trio of threes and never looked back.

The slate of games ahead are against Portland, Sacramento, Golden State, and Denver. New York is returning to form at the perfect time to return to dominance ahead of the NBA playoffs. 

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