Studs and Duds: Knicks go down to the wire in narrow loss to the Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3) shoots the ball against New York Knicks guard Miles McBride (2) during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden
Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Going down to the wire, the New York Knicks hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jalen Brunson scored 20 points in the second half, while his supporting cast saw much improvement from the Knicks’ previous game’s performance. An unorthodox fourth quarter saw a clutch performance from Brunson, yet the Thunder escaped with a one-point win, 113-112

Studs: Another Jalen Brunson Masterclass 

A 30-point night from Brunson was just another day in the office. Over the last week, Brunson has averaged 36 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. The tougher the competition, the better the performance from Jalen Brunson. Never shy in the light, Brunson made a clutch layup, giving the Knicks the lead with only 4.1s remaining.

Speculation rose on that play and a few others throughout the contest; many New York fans took to social media to air their grievances against the officiating. A missed foul call ended up being the difference in the game as Shai-Gilgeous Alexander made a fadeaway jumper for the one-point win. Regardless, taking the first seed in the western conference down the wire shows potential with this Brunson-led rotation in the playoffs. 

Studs: Isaiah Hartenstein could be this team’s starting big man

This season has been a rollercoaster with players in and out of the rotation. The hustle and dexterity from Isaiah Hartenstein have made particular depth conversations at the center position even more intriguing.

Hartenstein made a strong statement with 17 points, 12 rebounds (six offensive), and five assists against Oklahoma City. The five assists were orchestrated seamlessly, and a tremendous putback over Chet Holmgren set the tone for Hartenstein who delivered at every turn as the total repertoire was on display.

Lingering injuries to Mitchell Robinson, now recovering from an ankle sprain, impact the center rotation, but upon his return, a slow ascension to his former glory may be best found in a bench role. The permanent starting job for Hartenstein going forward gives the Knicks added variety and raises the floor significantly. His aggressiveness and poise against Nikola Jokic and now Chet Holmgren has made for the most impactful games of Hartenstein’s New York tenure. 

Studs: Marathon Men 

A 45-minute night for the always-prepared Josh Hart and Miles McBride made stellar performances. Both men have combined for 11 games of 40+ minutes in the past ten games, with Miles McBride (six) having only one more than Josh Hart (five). In the most ‘Josh Hart’ of Josh Hart games, he scored 13 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists.

Miles McBride bounced back with 19 points and four made threes. Both players were catalysts in a 12-point lead the Knicks generated over the best record in the West. With the final result aside, both players have developed maximizing their role on this team and expect long nights like this often going forward.

Josh Hart says he’s approaching the rest of the season as if “this is the team that we’re going to have.”

Duds: Injuries could get in the way

Moreover, the alarming post-game quote from Hart only raised more questions concerning the returns of Julius Randle and OG Anunoby. That brilliant approach on the part of Hart game to game, given recent circumstances, but acknowledging to the press a level of discernment regarding a full rotation can be looked at in various ways in such a crucial part of the season.

Only eight games remain and as ‘in the dark’ as the public is on the status of Randle and OG, their teammate had more words for the present than much hope for a return from the two shortly. New York fans took to social media to air their frustration and disappointment, but these are not confirmed reports. Josh Hart just played his fifth game of 40 minutes or more in the last ten games with no complaints.

Duds: The Knicks drop two winnable games

Big wins over teams like Sacramento and Golden State have been countered with tough losses to San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Any hope of a return from OG and Randle subconsciously, one may take their foot off the breaks, but Hart understands this point of the season. The confidence from Hart in New York’s capabilities as currently constructed is a great sign, but the lasting narrative if they don’t return will be ‘what if’ for years to come. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to the Thunder

Looking ahead, back-to-back matchups against teams over .500 mean a sense of urgency for the Knicks. Losing the last two in demoralizing fashion, learning, and growing is all the Knicks can do, especially with the mindset of ‘this is the rotation we’re going with’ expressed by Josh Hart.

A new month, albeit a short schedule for the remainder of the season, means a fresh approach against great competition. The Knicks have upcoming games against conference rivals in Miami, Milwaukee, and Boston. Great previews of playoff action and intensity await. 

Mentioned in this article:

More about: