Studs and Duds: Knicks stumble into a much-needed All-Star break

New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots the ball over Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) in the fourth quarter at KIA Center
Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

A well-needed rest is on the horizon as heading into the All-Star break, the New York Knicks have lost four straight games. An injury-ridden rotation has left the Knicks looking like a shell of their true potential, as many unexpected players have stepped up amid one another’s absence. Precious Achiuwa has been proving his worth game after game, but ultimately, the Orlando Magic coasted to a 118-100 win

Studs: Precious Achiuwa is here to stay 

Under the tutelage of Tom Thibodeau, the consistent production from New York’s frontcourt has been remarkable. Precious Achiuwa was criticized by Knicks fans on social media following his first few games, but allowing him more time and opportunity has shown the quality player he is.

A cascade of injuries has set Achiuwa at an average of 40 minutes per game, and in the time allocated, Achiuwa averages 14.5 points and ten rebounds on 57% from the field in his last eight games. A glimpse of offensive potential from Precious, paired with his mobility on the defensive end, has garnered much fanfare and excitement regarding his future with the New York Knicks.

Studs: Brunson: One Man band 

A noteworthy caveat to watching Jalen Brunson play basketball is he’s going to give his 100% every second he’s on the floor. In the opening quarter, Brunson scored 20 points against Orlando, ultimately finishing with 33 points, six assists, and five made threes on 62% from downtown.

The cerebral approach from Brunson had the Knicks up as many as 12 points in the first half. With MVP chants serenading the star guard on the road, the respect for Brunson has been a catalyst in the cross-country receptions New York has been receiving. Fans showing up in droves as pride in being Knicks fans have returned to the “crossroads of the world.”

Duds: The Knicks’ defensive woes 

Injuries galore have stunted the momentum and respect New York had built as one of the best defenses in the league. In the past five games and amid this four-game losing streak, New York is ranked last across the association in defensive rating.

It’s not time to panic, as the Knicks are shorthanded, but a precipitous drop from best to worst indicates a lack of execution. After a dominating streak of not giving up 110, sometimes not even 100 points, to opposing offenses, the Knicks have given up an average of 116 points per game in their last five. The return of OG Anunoby is highly anticipated at this juncture, being the machine he is, to help right the ship on New York’s recent defensive woes. 

Duds: Minutes played 

There has been recent backlash regarding how Coach Tom Thibodeau allocates minutes and how that results in higher risks of injury to the Knicks rotation. This rhetoric towards Coach Thibodeau has been a staple of the last 12 seasons.

Before Anunoby’s recent nine-game absence, he played three to five-game stretches of 40+ minutes per game. Precious Achiuwa is currently in a cycle of 41 minutes per game over the last five, while the Knicks simultaneously have the worst defense in the NBA.

When thinking of the long haul of playoffs, one must use a level of discernment if contending for a championship is the ultimate goal. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to the Magic

Losing four straight games shadows the fact that New York must get healthy. With the regular season nearly 70% done, the homestretch is on the way. Big games against the 76ers and Celtics headline the resuming of the season as New York embarks on making history in the upcoming playoff run.

It seemed the All-Star break would never arrive, but here it finally is. In the All-Star game, Jalen Brunson will represent the New York Knicks, as the cornerstone of this historical franchise finally gets a well-overdue opportunity.

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