Studs and Duds: Knicks turn in poor defensive effort in loss to the Pacers

Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) shoots the ball while New York Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) defends in the first quarter at Gainbridge Fieldhouse
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

In the second half of a back-to-back, the shorthanded New York Knicks were defeated on the road by the Indiana Pacers. The Knicks’ role players stepped up on the offensive end, but a weak defensive effort saw the Knicks get dominated down the stretch. The Pacers came out on top with a final score of 140–126. This game marks an unfortunate end to 2023, but the Knicks have a tremendous outlook for the new year following the acquisition of OG Anunoby

Studs: Knicks make shocking trade to bring positive 2024 outlook

In shocking news, the New York Knicks traded RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and a 2024 second-round pick to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, and Malachi Flynn. Many questions surrounded the Knicks as of late, and now there is a clear-cut path to what direction the front office is leaning.

Anunoby is a former NBA Champion and bonafide All-NBA defender. Leading the league in steals last season, expect Anunoby to pick up right where he left off and be a tremendous addition to what this Knicks team is building. The additions of Achiuwa and Flynn add needed depth to the center and point guard positions. 

Studs: Donte DiVincenzo sets a new career high

Donte DiVincenzo’s legend with New York grows every game. Nothing prepared fans for the incredible 38 points on 71% from the field, seven threes made, and only one free throw.

Setting a new career high, DiVincenzo was a flamethrower on the offensive end, dropping 15 points in the first half, and finishing the game with an 88.6 TS%. This level of efficiency and volume from DiVincenzo may have been a preview of what’s to come following the trade of both RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. 

Studs: Josh Hart steps up in starting role

Getting the starting nod as well due to the effects of the trade was Josh Hart. With a double-double on the night, Hart was second on the team in rebounds only behind Julius Randle.

The defensive acumen of Hart and his tenacity on the boards demonstrate the Knicks will soon be back where they should be in team defensive rankings. The acquisition of Anunoby means Hart will be off the bench but in a much more prominent role to fulfill versatility in the absence of Quickley. 

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Duds: An embarrassing performance from the Knicks’ defense

The Knicks were shorthanded, but the defensive effort seen was one of the worst all season. The Pacers scored 140 points, joining the Clippers and Bucks as the only teams to do so versus New York this season. Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson both went exactly 9/22 from the field, scoring 28 points on 40%.

It was Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton who stole the show. Accumulating 22 points and 23 assists, Haliburton joined Magic Johnson and John Stockton as the only players in NBA History to accomplish such a feat in back-to-back games.

The intensity of narratives surrounding both Brunson and Randle could be seen in their play, overexerting themselves at times offensively, which set the tone and led to a lack of defensive effort. 

A positive outlook on 2024

The 2023 finale shouldn’t be seen as a loss, regardless of the final score. The Knicks got better, and that will be made clear to the Knicks faithful in time. The emotions have run wild with social media hot takes involving the trade, but the NBA is a business. OG Anunoby is bringing championship-level experience to the Knicks; that is not true for anyone else on the current or former roster. It’s a new era of basketball in New York City.