Studs and Duds: Knicks dominate the second half in big win over Houston Rockets

New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) hangs on the rim after a dunk against Houston Rockets guard Fred VanVleet (5) and forward Jeff Green (32) during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks looked to get back to winning ways against a young and formidable Houston Rockets squad. A returning Jalen Brunson rejuvenated the Knicks after missing the last two games. Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson combined for 61 points en route to a decisive 109-94 Knicks victory

Studs: Jalen Brunson is back 

Remarkably, Jalen Brunson scored 30 points with seven assists. This game marked the 30th 30-point game in Brunson’s Knicks tenure. The absence of Brunson in only two games indicated how vital he is to this team. The change in pace, deliberation, and poise all attributed to the addition of Brunson.

Saving his best for closing time, Brunson scored 12 points on 62% from the field in the fourth quarter. The absence of Brunson before this game was too much to withstand for the Knicks, as he is their engine.

Studs: Julius Randle bounces back 

Julius Randle gave Knicks faithful an uneasy feeling following his performances against the Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies. Without Brunson, instead of dominant performances, Randle averaged 19.5 points on 35% from the floor. A return to form from Randle saw him score 31 points and eight rebounds with the unbridled persistence fans have come to know. 

Studs: The Anunoby touch 

Since the OG Anunoby acquisition, teams have only scored an average of 100 points per game against the New York Knicks. New York also leads the NBA in defensive rating since January 1st. Anunoby’s efforts have been praised by teammates and coaches alike, with Tom Thibodeau stating, “He’s really a defense unto himself.”

With 35 minutes per game, OG’s extended playing times have been the product of how great of a disruptor he is, setting the tone in transition and lockdown defense on any player he’s up against. 

Duds: The Knicks’ bench needs an offensive initiator 

The apparent hole in the Knicks currently is the lack of prominent depth at the point guard position. Miles McBride saw limited playing time against Houston due to matchup concerns against the veteran Fred VanVleet and rising star Jalen Green. Reports have surfaced that New York is looking to move on from Quentin Grimes. In this effort, expect some help for Brunson initiating offense and a scoring punch off the bench. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ win over the Houston Rockets 

Sensational defense and depth played heavily in New York’s favor as Josh Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein came up big in this victory over Houston. The arrival of such fundamentally sound players to New York bodes well for the inevitable playoff push.

The Knicks are currently a fifth seed in the Eastern Conference while being favored in over half of their upcoming contests this month. With Brunson back in the fold, expect a surge from New York that ultimately results in a winning streak once again.

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