Studs and Duds: Knicks make a statement in win over rival Nets

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets forward Royce O'Neale (00) during the second quarter at Barclays Center
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

An incredible defensive effort saw the New York Knicks defeat the Brooklyn Nets in the Barclays Center. With now back-to-back games holding opponents below 110 points, the Knicks look more like that top-five defense seen in the early season. In a 121-102 victory, the Knicks never gave up the lead, led by the tenacity of Julius Randle and company. 

Studs: Julius Randle is continuing his dominance

There is no questioning how great Julius Randle has been as of late. Averaging 27 points, eight rebounds, and five assists on 57% over his last ten games, Randle has shown, after much criticism in the early season, that he is the best player on the New York Knicks.

Continuing his dominance against Brooklyn, Julius went for 26 points and seven rebounds in what was a much more relaxed affair than we’ve seen from him in the past five games. The tenacity makes opposing defenses dread guarding Julius Randle.

“One thing you don’t wanna see [as a defender] is Julius Randle with a head of steam coming downhill.”

Tom Thibodeau on Julius Randle

Studs: The Knicks have a phenomenal supporting cast 

Donte DiVincenzo may be one of the best off-season acquisitions in recent history with how well he has played for New York. Shooting 44% from three on the season his legend continues to grow as he has become a fan favorite in New York City. Scoring 23 points and eight rebounds against Brooklyn, Donte is one of a dynamic pair that should be better known as the “Swiss Army Knives.” 

The second half of that pair would be the ‘Nova veteran in Josh Hart. With ten points and a team-high 13 rebounds, Hart has been expected to help fill the void of the injured centers plaguing the Knicks, and he’s delivered as he always does. Hart currently has the most ten rebound games by a shooting guard since the 2017-2018 season.

Every time Immanuel Quickley enters the game good things happen for the Knicks. He fits the culture effortlessly with his “go to work” mentality. Quickley had an efficient 19 points on 58% from the floor. It’s getting to the point where opposing defenses game plan against him. Now averaging 14.6 points on 52% in his last five games, the motor of Quickley has become contagious for the New York Knicks.

Studs: The Knicks’ defense held the Nets down

The Nets shot 36% from the field and abysmal 31% from three-point range. The Knicks, previously ranked last in December, have turned back into a juggernaut over their last two contests defensively.

Ranked second in defensive rating over the last two games, only trailing the Oklahoma City Thunder, New York has looked dominant in this sample size and is trending perfectly to how they will set the tone in upcoming big matchups. 

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Duds: RJ Barrett is continuing to struggle

RJ Barrett’s conversations are present. The fifth-year forward has not strung together a stretch of great games in quite some time, and it’s becoming alarming for the New York Knicks. Before watching the rest of the game from the sideline, Barrett had four points in the second half and finished with 14 points and five rebounds.

Barrett is supposed to be the third option for the New York Knicks, but the weight of being a prolific defender and consistent scorer may have Barrett playing very uncommonly as of late. In his last five contests, Barrett is averaging 14.8 points on 40% from the floor. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ win over the Nets

The Knicks played on-brand basketball against the Brooklyn Nets and looked like a well-oiled machine overall. When turning defense to offense this team hums, capitalizing on their strengths and continually executing defensively will restore their defensive-minded balance ahead of some tough contests. The Knicks are certainly turning heads with these latest performances, and they have a couple of days off before hosting the Milwaukee Bucks in Madison Square Garden.