Studs and Duds: Knicks improve to 4-0 in the New Year with dominant win over the Wizards

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) shoots the ball over Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija (8) in the second quarter at Capital One Arena
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks remain undefeated in the OG Anunoby Era. Julius Randle bounced back in a big way, and Jalen Brunson continued his all-star-level play. In the second half of a back-to-back, New York showed grit and tenacity en route to a dominant 121-105 win over the Washington Wizards

Studs: Julius Randle returned to form 

The consistency of Julius Randle this season made his last game an anomaly to witness. A measly eight points on horrendous shooting splits, Randle returned to elite form, totaling 39 points, seven rebounds, and five assists on incredible efficiency.

The maturation of Randle’s game this season has been key to the foundation of the New York Knicks. The supporting cast of New York played for Randle in the previous contest, knowing how much of a slow night he had in contrast. But Randle is back to form and saw a lower-scoring night from the rolemen of New York. 

Studs: Jalen Brun-HIM 

A masterful performance against the Washington Wizards saw Brunson score 33 points on 75 TS%. Brunson insists upon himself as a top guard in the NBA with his level of play across the board. In his last nine games, Brunson is averaging 28 points and 7.9 assists from the field. 

The Knicks are on tremendous timing as the pillars, Brunson and Randle, have played like one of the best duos in the NBA. Following the win over Washington, Brunson made it clear winning is the only narrative that surrounds this Knicks team. 

Studs: Isaiah Hartenstein is filling some big shoes

Isaiah “The Hitman” Hartenstein may go down in his Knicks tenure as “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.” Over the last four games, Hartenstein is averaging 13.5 rebounds per game. He also leads the NBA in both blocks and steals for January.

The rise of Hartenstein following Mitchell Robinson’s injury has been remarkable to watch. With a game-high of 19 rebounds from Hartenstein, his confidence level while also playing great defense and passing guarantees him a big payday this offseason. Knicks faithful are just hoping it’s with their team. 

Duds: The Knicks’ defense slowed down in the third quarter

New York never gave up a lead the entire game and now sits at 14-1 versus teams below .500 this season. The glaring weakness, if any, was the 24-11 Wizards run in the third quarter. A minor issue, but in the past, the Knicks can get lackadaisical defensively, relying on their offense to mitigate the defensive woes.

An old Thibodeau saying of “don’t play with your food” saw Brunson and Randle put the run to an end, combining for 18 points in the fourth quarter to coast New York to a solid sixteen-point win. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ win over the Wizards:

Since the OG Anunoby acquisition, the Knicks have not allowed a team to score 110 points. In the modern NBA, that is unseen over even a two-game stretch, but what Anunoby brings to an already polished and high-IQ Knicks team can’t be understated. The Knicks have had a top-two-rated defense since the start of the new year and look to build on that Tuesday night when the Trailblazers visit Madison Square Garden. 

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