Studs and Duds: Knicks’ defense suffocates 76ers en route to dominant 128–92 win

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) controls the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are now a remarkable 3-0 in 2024. Boasting the best defensive rating in January so far, the OG Anunoby trade is beginning to shift the tide of how high the Knicks can fly. Seven players scored double figures, and Jalen Brunson led the way as the Knicks annihilated the Philadelphia 76ers with a final score of 128–92

Studs: Jalen Brunson shines bright

Jalen Brunson was the star of the show. With 29 points on 55% from the floor, Brunson looked like the scoring threat Knicks faithful became accustomed to pre-Anunoby trade. He continued his streak of dominant performances in nationally televised games this season.

From all three levels, the shiftiness and footwork of Brunson continue to be a marvel as he does it with intangible fluidity. In the last five contests, Brunson is averaging 24.8 points and 8.6 assists. The New York Knicks “number one fan,” Stephen A Smith, even had to say a word following the obliteration of the MVP-led 76ers team. 

Studs: It’s Grimes Time

The pillars in Brunson and Randle usually do the heavy lifting for the Knicks, but on this occasion, the role men made their presence felt down the stretch. Quentin Grimes put on a shooting clinic, scoring 19 points with four made threes on the night. On display was Grimes’s best scoring output in over 12 games. Before the trade, Grimes voiced his frustrations with his role and finally had a credible performance.

Studs: Nova Madness

Aside from Brunson’s Herculean efforts, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo have been lights out for the New York Knicks. Hart posted an NBA season-best +46 plus-minus en route to 10 points and 15 rebounds on the game

DiVincenzo’s winning mentality has been contagious; he’s a brilliant starter next to Brunson. In DiVincenzo’s last four games, he is averaging 19 points, still riding that wave of momentum after a 38-point surge against the Indiana Pacers. These two are the definition of glue guys and expect big games from both as the Knicks make a historic playoff run. 

Studs: OG leads the Knicks to defensive dominance

Since making the trade for OG Anunoby, the New York Knicks have the best defensive rating in the NBA. A mix of tireless efforts and winning mentalities has shaped the culture, and Anunoby raises the ceiling even more.

Defensive versatility throughout the lineup is an incredible luxury in the modern NBA, and New York has the versatility on both sides of the ball. Transition defense and half-court positioning have been phenomenal, much like what Divincenzo brings; having Anunoby on the floor raises the efforts of his teammates, creating a contagious continuity on both sides of the ball. 

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Duds: Julius Randle breaks his streak 

Following a 19-game streak of 20 points or more, Julius Randle put on his worst shooting display nearly all season. Scoring eight points on 1/11 from the floor, the only positive in that output was the fact Randle didn’t continue to force looks that hindered his team.

The Knicks maintained a sizable lead following the first quarter and didn’t look back, as Randle himself dished out five assists with decent defense down the stretch. Second half of a back-to-back, the Washington Wizards are in for a long game Saturday night when Randle returns to form. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ win over the 76ers

Big nights from Isaiah Hartenstein and Miles McBride showed that even in a tough night from Randle, the Knicks can get it done by committee. With a three-game winning streak in 2024, the trade for Anunoby has shown tremendous signs and only raises the potential of how far the Knicks can go this season.

Early signs indicate the ceiling has risen, and the best has yet to come for the New York Knicks. Coming up are games against the Washington Wizards and Portland Trailblazers as the Knicks look to extend the winning streak to five games.