Studs and Duds: Knicks fall to Boston on the road

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0)  shoots over New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) during the second half at TD Garden
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a short road trip once again, the New York Knicks went head-to-head with the Boston Celtics. They had a tremendous tempo out of the gate, but sustainability seems to be the tougher task for the Knicks. Six players scored in double figures as New York lost 123–133

Studs: RJ Barrett getting back to form

RJ Barrett has been finding his footing as of late offensively. As the third pillar on this team, New York goes where Barrett takes them as he relieves Brunson and Randle from exhaustion. Over his last five contests, Barrett is averaging 18 points per game, as well as taking the step defensively guarding the opposing team’s best player in stretches.

The gradual emergence of Barrett indicates the best as yet to come as he gets back to how he looked to begin the season, averaging 22.5 points per game. 

Studs: Quentin Grimes showed out 

Before the contest, reports surfaced that Coach Tom Thibodeau would be starting Divincenzo over Quentin Grimes. Grimes found himself in a horrendous slump as of late, and coming off of the bench seemed to be what he needed.

In his best scoring outing since early November, Grimes had 13 points on 50% shooting from the floor. Removing Grimes from the starting lineup allows him to exercise more without caution on the offensive end. Time will tell if Coach Thibodeau is committed to this move long-term. 

Studs: “The Hitman”

What a tremendous game from Isaiah “The Hitman” Hartenstein. The big man serviced the Knicks with a career-high 16 rebounds to make up for the injury sustained by starting Center Mitchell Robinson. Always staying ready so he doesn’t have to get ready, Hartenstein has emerged as a fan favorite due to his tenacity, passing ability, and endurance.

A rest may be on the horizon for Robinson to heal, and that means more time for Hartenstein, who would have a starting job if it not for how great Robinson has been this season. A backup the level of Hartenstein is a luxury for the New York Knicks. 

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Duds: Julius Randle had a passive outing

Poor performances overall by two of the three pillars saw Julius Randle have a more passive outing. Following a five-game span where he averaged 28 points per game and five assists, Randle scored 20 points and had six turnovers against the Boston Celtics.

Shooting below 50%, Randle showed questionable judgment and only played four minutes the entire fourth quarter. The aggressiveness he sustained against Milwaukee was nowhere to be seen, and his defense was subpar throughout the contest. 

Duds: Brunson unable to knock home a triple

Jalen Brunson also had a tough night. The star point guard has faced much criticism in the media lately due to the emergence of fellow guard Tyrese Haliburton. Scoring 23 points on the night, Brunson went 0/5 from three and was outplayed by Celtics guard Derrick White down the stretch.

Brunson suffered an ankle injury in garbage time, but the cohesiveness of the Knicks begins with Brunson. Consistently leading by example will be vital to his growth as he takes the next step to an all-star caliber point guard. 

Dudes: The Knicks’ defense was unable to contain the Celtics

The defense from the Knicks has been one of the bottom ten over the last five games. Six Celtics players scored in double figures, and they connected on 19 threes in the contest. Matching the Celtics’ offensive output was a good sign, but being better defensively will catapult the Knicks into winning conversations.

The Celtics and Bucks have shot a combined 51% from downtown in the most recent meetings against the Knicks. Seeing as those are the top two teams in the conference, a wide gap exists, and defending the three-point line will minimize that expeditiously. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to the Celtics: 

Having three players score 20 points or more and six total in double figures is a great sign that the Knicks are on the right path. Two huge threes from Randle cut the lead to just nine on the road, but maintaining defense in transition and on the three-point line will shape New York into the team many Knicks faithful want to see.

A game at home against Toronto precedes a monster five-game road trip. Four of the five teams are currently .500 or better, making this a great test of fortitude for the New York Knicks.