The New York Knicks are red hot, and it has been years since we’ve been able to say that. Not only have they won five of their last six games, but they’ve been dealing with significant injuries that have decimated their frontcourt and forced players like Julius Randle to play extreme minutes. The extra work hasn’t bothered Randle one bit, as he continues to dominate. The Knicks have now scored 100+ points in three straight games, beating the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, and Utah Jazz consecutively.
On Wednesday evening, the Jazz started off the contest with a healthy lead. At one point, the Knicks were in an 18-point hole, but magic from new free agent signing Austin Rivers propelled them to victory. The son of Doc Rivers scored 14 straight points in the second half, including four consecutive three-pointers to force the New York back into the contest.
Believe it or not, this is the best start the Knicks have had since 2012, as Rivers finished the game with 23 points and shot 9 of 14 from the field. After missing the first five games of the year with a groin strain, Rivers has made an emphatic return, proving that he is capable of starting on any team with his aggressive defense and clutch offensive performances.
“I’ll tell you one thing, he’s never lacked,’’ Thibodeau said. “He never lacked confidence.”
“He wanted to play them one-on-one, including Kevin Garnett,’’ Thibodeau said. “Rivers wanted to play (Kevin). Austin really thought he could beat him.’’
The New York Knicks are seeing their players reach their potential, but why?
Confidence and motivation are two things you find in star players, and while Rivers might not be an above-average player, he produces flashes of elite talent at times. His father convinced him to join the team in New York, where he could earn more starting minutes and feel as though he was needed instead of just a complementary piece.
The victory over Utah not only produced an impressive result, but it also was the Knicks’ lowest turnover game of the season with 12. Every starting player had a positive +/-. Kevin Knox and Immanuel Quickley were the bottom of the team regarding minutes played, as Rivers earned 32. That number continues to climb considering his performances as of late, but point guard Elfrid Payton has also taken how much larger role on this team, posting 22 points and shooting 10 of 15 in the win.
Ultimately, this is a squad that is playing for each other and seems to have something special. Sometimes, playing simple basketball instead of getting too intricate and analytical can be a positive thing. Thibodeau told Rivers to go out there and play, despite not knowing the system altogether and missing significant time to open the year. Having fun can be the ultimate reason for success.