Studs and Duds: Short-handed Knicks fall to Boston Celtics

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives to the basket against Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It was a showdown in Madison Square Garden as the New York Knicks hosted the Boston Celtics. These are two teams living larger than their preseason expectations and carrying promising momentum.

Boston came into MSG on a seven-game winning streak against New York’s record of 17-7 since the OG Anunoby acquisition. It was a phenomenal showing by Jalen Brunson as he led the way with 34 points and nine assists, but the short-handed Knicks couldn’t stop the surging Boston Celtics, losing with a final score of 116-102

Studs: Jalen Brunson is on a burner

The “Jalen Brunson Show” has taken over the NBA. Brunson looked to grow an even larger fanbase this season, performing well in his first All-Star game while continuing his dominance from all three levels for New York. In the past two contests since returning from the break, Brunson is averaging 27.5 points per game and 10.5 assists.

The absence of Julius Randle and OG Anunoby has left Brunson with heavy-lifting duties as he takes it all in stride. Against the Boston Celtics, Brunson came out blazing, scoring 13 points in both the first and third quarters on 50% from the floor, ultimately finishing with 34 points and nine assists.

Studs: Josh Hart, keep up the podcast

The recent level of play from Josh Hart has been off the charts and a great luxury for the New York Knicks. Hart’s ability to play multiple positions effectively makes him an incredible weapon in a playoff setting.

Previously mentioned was the expected rise in play from Hart coinciding with his active role on one of the newer NBA podcasts, “Roommates Show.” Since debuting the new show, Hart has averaged 13.6 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. These recent averages are well above Hart’s season averages, however, the Knicks haven’t been winning too many games lately.

Duds: Did the Knicks’ trades make them better or worse?

Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks were huge acquisitions for New York at the most recent trade deadline. Such a seamless fit OG Anunoby was, yet the same can’t be said for the arrival of Bogdanovic and Burks. On primetime television against the Boston Celtics, both men combined for 15 points on 27.9% from the field.

The Knicks have a cascade of injuries derailing them in the standings, but consistency separates the good from the great. Implementing Bojan and Burks into the offense more for the time being adds a new level of versatility aside from Brunson’s usage being off the charts. Defensively, the Knicks have plummeted since the trade as well.

In the last six games, New York is ranked 26th in net rating and 29th in defensive rating. Leaning on what New York doesn’t have so often becomes an excuse. The ‘next man up’ mentality has been New York’s mantra all season and defensively has been abandoned under the guise of “not enough personnel.” 

Duds: Julius Randle injury update 

The recent status update of two-time all-NBA forward Julius Randle indicated there is a chance he will return before the end of the season. There has been speculation surrounding the severity of Randle’s injury, and there is no timetable for his return to the floor.

Speaking with the media before the season resumed, Randle went in depth with his current situation. It was his first time speaking publicly for the first time since his injury. Randle acknowledged that surgery is still possible:

“I’m never somebody to say never, so ultimately I have to do what’s best for myself to have a long career, have longevity in this.”

This current shoulder mishap now adds to the list of unfortunate injuries in Randle’s playing career. Many factors will ultimately dictate Randle’s return and the New York Knicks’ playoff outlook relies heavily on their star forward’s added presence.

The Knicks acquiring Bojan Bogdanovic may have been an insurance policy with Randle’s return date in question and New York’s high hopes for this postseason. Randle is said to be feeling “better and stronger” with hopes of returning before the season ends.

Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to the Celtics 

Health is New York’s most important matter at this current juncture. The defense, versatility, and dominance New York showed just one month ago has evaporated. The art of attrition is legit, and in an 82-game NBA season, health is the “lucky” factor winning teams all have in common.

Monday Night New York hosts the Detroit Pistons in what should be a great chance to bounce back into the win column. Updates on Mitchell Robinson and OG Anunoby were very promising as New York looks to get some much-needed depth soon. 

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