Celtics’ loss gives Knicks free ride to playoffs

The New York Knicks are officially back in the NBA playoffs!

Thanks to Kevin Love’s best game of the season, the Knicks (38-31) got a free ride to the playoffs after the Cleveland Cavaliers dealt Boston Celtics a 102-94 loss.

Love pumped in 30 points and 14 rebounds, both season-highs, as the Knicks heaved a sigh of huge relief at their homes after a painful overtime loss to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers last night.

It will be the Knicks’ first postseason appearance since Carmelo Anthony led them to the second round of the playoffs in the 2012-13 season.

Knicks’ All-Star forward Julius Randle immediately celebrated the franchise’s return to the playoffs on Twitter.

He’s right.

The Knicks still have plenty of work to do beginning tomorrow night’s matchup against the San Antonio Spurs. With three games left, the New York must sweep its remaining games and hope the Miami Heat (38-31) lose one game to grab the fourth seed in the East and a homecourt edge in the first round playoffs.

The Atlanta Hawks (39-31) momentarily sit as solo fourth after their come-from-behind victory against the Washington Wizards, 120-116, earlier. But the Knicks hold the tie-breaker with a 2-1 record over the Hawks if they wind up with the same record.

Meanwhile, Miami swept New York this season, giving the Heat the edge in case of a tie or even in a three-way tie with the Hawks. In this scenario, the Knicks will be the sixth seed. 

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Randle owns Knicks’ OT loss to Lakers: ‘Put it on me’

Julius Randle had it going against his former team Los Angeles Lakers. He delivered an All-NBA type of performance with a game-high 31 points, eight rebounds, and five assists that went with 4-of-8 3s. Except that he came up short in the end.

Randle pinned the blame on himself after the New York Knicks suffered a 101-99 overtime heartbreaker to the Lakers late Tuesday night.

The loss capped a 3-3 West Coast trip that was once feared that would make or break the overachieving Knicks’ season.

“Some would call it success,” Randle said. “I feel like we had a chance to go 5-1. I had a chance to close it out, make it a successful trip — four and two. Put it on me.”

In an ordinary season, a .500 road trip for the Knicks is already a cause for a big celebration. But this season has been extraordinary. With three games left, they are fighting for a homecourt edge instead of increasing their lottery chances.

Randle had two chances to end the Knicks’ seven-year playoff drought. But on both occasions, he failed with the pressure and fatigue weighing him down.

On Tuesday night, in a match that had playoff intensity, he played 44 minutes.

He almost had the game in the bag, but his floater at the buzzer of the fourth quarter rimmed out. The hard-fought match needed extra five minutes to decide the winner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the Knicks.

The loss not only delayed their march to the playoffs but has also brought them down to sixth seed in the East, losing the tie-breaker to the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat.

Randle’s miss magnified the Knicks’ biggest weakness against the Lakers, who survived without their point guards and LeBron James. The Lakers did it by dominating the boards, 53-41. They crashed the offensive glass with 14 offensive rebounds, none bigger than Wesley Matthews’ putback off a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s missed three-pointer with 3.1 seconds left in regulation.

But Randle was adamant none of that mattered had he hit the shot.

“I had a chance to finish the job,” Randle said. “I gotta finish the job. That’s really my focus. I’m not focused on the rebound. Things happen throughout the course of the game. You can’t blame one play. I’m looking at myself, and I gotta finish the job.”

Randle appeared on his way to atone for that big miss in the overtime when he hit a go-ahead three-pointer that capped the Knicks’ fightback from five points down in the overtime. But things began to unravel for Randle.

With a 99-98 lead, Randle had the chance to seal the win. But he traveled in the face of a Lakers’ double-team.

That crucial turnover with 38.8 seconds left paved the way for Talen Horton-Tucker to lift the Lakers to the victory.

Randle didn’t finish the job. And he owned it. He’s holding himself accountable. That’s what leaders do.

Randle‘s growth as the leader of the Knicks will be tested as they scramble for better positioning and avoid the play-in tournament. How he responds to this latest adversity will be telling of the Knicks’ chances to advance deeper. He‘s got three more cracks to make it right beginning against the San Antonio Spurs tomorrow night.

“It’s tough,” Randle said. “But we control our own destiny. We’ll rest, go back home and finish the job.”

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Knicks blow chance to clinch playoff berth, fall to LeBron-less Lakers in OT

knicks, lakers, derrick rose

Almost but not quite.

The New York Knicks couldn’t hold on to a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and came one rebound away from finally ending a seven-year playoff drought.

Instead, they watched Wesley Matthews beat them off the boards to send the game into overtime.

Then Talen Horton-Tucker had the last laugh in his matchup with his childhood hero Derrick Rose in the extra session.

Tucker hit the game-winning three with 21.1 seconds left as the LeBron James-less Lakers survived the Knicks in a 101-99 overtime thriller late Tuesday night at the Staples Center.

The Knicks failed to put up a decent shot in the last play, with RJ Barrett throwing up a wild shot in front of a Lakers’ suffocating defense.

“Rebounding beat us tonight. All we had to do is get that last rebound (on) the last shot of the game. Everyone’s got to get a body on everyone,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau lamented.

The Lakers outrebounded the Knicks, 53-41, and 14-5 in the offensive glass. 

It was a heartbreaking loss for the Knicks, who blew a golden opportunity to clinch a playoff berth after the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics earlier.

They also had one less problem with James opting to delay his return from an ankle injury. But they couldn’t capitalize. 

The loss sent them to a complicated three-way tie with the Heat and the Atlanta Hawks at 38-31.

Atlanta momentarily assumed the fourth seed while Miami moved up to fifth and New York tumbled to sixth with three games left.

The Knicks will try to punch a playoff ticket at home, needing only one win in their three homestands against the San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets, and the Celtics.

They wouldn’t be in this precarious situation had they didn’t lose poise down the stretch.

A Frank Ntilikina three-pointer gave the Knicks an 85-75 lead with 7:35 left in the regulation. But the Lakers battled back and came within five twice before a Matthews’ three-pointer, and Andre Drummond layup tied the game at 89 apiece.

Rose sank a floater to give the Knicks a two-point edge, 91-89, with 1:37 remaining.

Julius Randle, who showed up against his former team with a game-high 31 points, couldn’t bring the Knicks home.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed a wide-open three from the corner, but Matthews tipped it to send the game into overtime.

The Knicks battled back from five points down to lead by one in the extra time behind Rose and Randle. Rose appeared to have the clincher when he stole the ball from Tucker with a minute left. But a Randle turnover set up Tucker’s heroics.

Tucker, who also starred in Simeon Career Academy like Ross, delayed the Knicks’ march to the playoffs. The second-year Lakers guard came off the bench to contribute 13 points and 10 assists in an impressive showing.

“Not too many kids from Chicago can say they did that,” said Horton-Tucker, who is set to become a restricted free agent this summer. 

Rose scored a season-high 27 points with six rebounds, six assists, and three steals but still was not enough.

No other Knick scored in double figures besides Randle and Rose. Barrett turned in a dud with only eight points on 2-of-13 shooting, including 0-for-7 from deep.

The Knicks held Anthony Davis to 20 points on 8-of-23 shots, but he had plenty of help. Kyle Kuzma returned from sickbay to lead the Lakers with 23 off the bench. Andre Drummond, who shunned the Knicks in the buyout market, had a huge double-double night with 16 points and 18 rebounds.

If there’s any consolation for the Knicks, their defeat pushed the Lakers to 39-30 and just one game behind the West’s sixth seed Dallas Mavericks (40-29).

New York holds Dallas’ first-round pick in the coming Draft as part of the Kristaps Porzingis deal.

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Knicks News: Tom Thibodeau comes to Julius Randle’s defense

julius randle, new york knicks

The New York Knicks had a tough matchup against the LA Clippers on Sunday evening, but they emerged victorious thanks to a few stand-out performances. Reggie Bullock and Derrick Rose combined for 49 points, and while All-Star Julius Randle only had 14, his influence came in multiple ways.

Randle posted 14 rebounds, controlling the boards and using his physicality to overpower Los Angeles. For a team that ranks 3rd in a tough Western Conference, the Knicks beat them shorthanded, without Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks.

However, some might argue that Randle’s influence wasn’t up to par and if he continues that in the postseason, the Knicks might be in bad shape. Head coach Tom Thibodeau would have a different narrative for you, coming to Julius’s defense and the influence he has on a game by commanding double teams and significant defensive attention.

“They’re double-teaming him, he’s spraying the ball,’’ Thibodeau continued. “Everyone tends to measure people on points and shots and not the all-around game. The big thing is the perseverance, the way he rebounded the ball, the hustle plays he made. He played a great game without shooting the ball great. Then at the end of the game he made several big plays for us.

With Julius commanding so much attention, it opens up the floor for his teammates, specifically Bullock and RJ Barrett, who bounced back with 18 points and shot over 50% from three-point range. It is nice to have players around you that are capable of picking up the slack while teams are focusing on you.

“When you have that type of mental toughness, it’s huge for your team. I thought he played a great game, though he didn’t have a high number of points. But he had a great overall game. And that’s what he does for us. I told Julius after the game, the physicality he played with was huge for us.’’

Physicality, aggression, mentality. Those three factors play a massive part in Thibodeau’s system, and Randle not only ran the floor and played high-level defense, but he also stepped up and took what the Clippers were giving him, which ultimately opened up shots for his teammates. At the end of the game, though, Randle iced LA, hitting a few big shots to give them a commanding lead and, ultimately, the victory.

Randle showed one thing, even though teams are focusing on him and trying to shut him down, he still has a significant impact and can still hit contested shots when it matters most.

Knicks zero in on top 6 finish after ending 11-year spell in L.A.

With the New York Knicks’ outright playoff hopes falling apart after another awful start, Derrick Rose came to the rescue.

The Knicks came out flat again, but Rose, the former MVP turned super-sub, came in to inject life on a lethargic offense. 

Then Julius Randle woke up just in time to bring them home.

The Knicks hammered out a massive 106-100 win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon to remain at fourth seed in the East with four games left.

Rose scattered 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting and issued seven assists in the opening half as the Knicks recovered from a 10-0 Clippers opening run.

Randle came through with three clutch baskets down the stretch that killed any Clippers’ hopes of a comeback.

It was the Knicks’ first win in Los Angeles against the Clippers since 2010. Most importantly, it pushed the Knicks’ record to 38-30, avoiding a complicated three-way tie with the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat, both with 37-31 record.

The Knicks need only one more win and another Boston Celtics’ loss to secure at least a top-six finish for an outright playoff spot. The Celtics (35-33), the current seventh seed, are now three games behind after the Heat beat them earlier. 

“That would be big, but at the same time Thibs always talks about going through the finish line,” Rose said. “We know we’re not finished with what we’re doing.”

New York drew plenty of inspiring performances from Rose, Reggie Bullock, and RJ Barrett to mitigate the continued absence of Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley and the early offensive struggles of Randle.

Thibodeau praised Randle for staying the course, saying he had a big night all-around, Rose’s leadership, and the unsung heroes — Bullock, Barrett, Taj Gibson, and the rest of the team.

“The big thing is perseverance — the way he rebounded the ball, the hustle plays that he made. He played great without shooting the ball great. And then at the end of the game, he made several big plays for us,” Thibodeau said of Randle’s performance.

“When your leader steps up like that, with the way Derrick played in the first half, Reggie, RJ, and Taj (Gibson), that was huge. There was a number of guys — Elfrid’s ball pressure at the start of the second half — all those things matter.”

Bullock scored a season-high 24 points with five triples against the team that originally drafted him. His three-pointer with 2:10 left in the third quarter capped a 10-2 Knicks’ run for a 79-69 spread, their largest lead in the game.

Rose and Barrett hit timely threes in the fourth quarter every time the Clippers crept in. Then Barrett had a huge block on Paul George with 1:23 remaining in the game that preserved a 98-93 lead for the Knicks. Barrett also had a hand on holding Kawhi Leonard to under 35 percent shooting.

Leonard, the Clippers’ main man, finished with a game-high 29 points but bled for every point on 26 shots.

Randle, who struggled for only eight points until the final three minutes, drilled three consecutive jumpers to bail the Knicks out of trouble. His last shot — a stepback jumper over George with 39.7 seconds sealed the Knicks’ 38th win of the season.

Rose tied his season-high of 25 points to pace the Knicks. He added eight assists and grabbed six rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench as the ineffective Elfrid Payton continued to struggle offensively with just two points on a 1-of-5 shooting performance.

Barrett had a complete line — 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block. Randle wound up with 14 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists. He struggled on the field with 7-of-19 shooting but was sharp down the stretch.

With the Knicks’ seven-year playoff drought most likely coming to an end, Thibodeau was appreciative of their journey so far but reminded everyone they should not be satisfied. 

“The challenge for us here is to be hungry and don’t change now,” Thibodeau said. “This is what we’ve done all year. Just concentrate on improvement and the next opponent, and that’s what we’re looking forward to doing. I think we’re learning a lot on this trip, and we’ve learned a lot all season long. The toughness to win on the road, to be playing against these teams, it’s telling us a lot. But there’s a long way to go.”

The Knicks will close out this once dreaded West Coast trip against the struggling Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

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Knicks’ Julius Randle blasts Jae Crowder for trash-talk comments

new york knicks, julius randle

The New York Knicks are in the middle of a tough West Coast trip right now, having lost their last two games of the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns. They are preparing to take on the LA Clippers and the Lakers in the coming days, but the Knicks must find a way to forget about their most recent games, especially a hostile and aggressive loss to Phoenix on Friday evening.

The Knicks held a commanding lead in the third quarter but allowed Phoenix to make a comeback and emerge victorious, being outscored 38-17 in the fourth. While Julius Randle scored 24 points and shot 50% from the field, their three-point percentage was degraded compared to recent games. The squad finished with a 34.4% success rate from beyond the arc, while the Suns hit on 43.9% of their attempts. They desperately missed rookie Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks in that category, as the seven additional three-point shots the Suns hit were just about the difference in score at the end of the game.

However, this game got a bit zesty at times, especially with Randle and Suns power forward Jae Crowder, who got tangled up at the bottom of the basket at one point. Randle is known for having a hot-head at times and occasionally lashes out at players or even referees for inadequate calls and actions. Both Randle and Crowder got in each other’s faces, proceeding to clash, landing Julius a technical foul.

After the game, Julius had select words for Crowder, stating his frustration and how Crowder handles his trash talking.

Per Stefan Bondy:

“He’s [Jae Crowder] just a frontrunner. He didn’t say a word in the first half. They were down and they tied the game up and he got a stop on me and wanted to say something. That’s just who he is. Everybody in the league knows it. But I’m not worried about him.”

At the end of the day, Crowder has helped Phoenix become one of the toughest teams in the Western Conference, and he has played a big part in their success this season. While his actions can be a bit abrasive, Randle needs to temper his reactions and ignore the trash talk. The postseason will only be worse and more intense.

Knicks lose poise in Phoenix; Thibodeau likes this road trip: ‘Iron sharpens iron’

A head-scratcher at the end of the third quarter sealed New York Knicks’ fate in Phoenix.

In just a blink of an eye, the Knicks gave up four quick points that tilted the momentum and proved to be the harbinger of doom.

The Knicks lost to the Phoenix Suns for the second time in 11 days, dropping a painful 128-105 loss on the road Friday night.

It was their second straight blowout loss after opening their West Coast trip with two easy wins.

The Knicks’ lead over the Atlanta Hawks (37-31) shrunk to just half-game. Miami Heat (36-31) pulled within a game after beating the Minnesota Timberwolves, 121-112, earlier in the night. Boston Celtics (35-32) slipped two games behind after a 121-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls. 

The Knicks blew an opportunity to keep their closest rivals for the fourth seed after squandering a seven-point lead in the second half.

Derrick Rose’s three-pointer gave the Knicks an 88-81 lead with 1:01 left in the third quarter. Then it went all downhill from there.

Torrey Craig tipped in a Devin Booker miss with 0.8 second left before Cameron Payne scored off a lazy inbound pass by RJ Barrett.

The bizarre sequence capped off a 9-0 Phoenix run as the Suns took their first lead since the first quarter.

Payne inflicted so much pain on the Knicks that paralyzed them in the fourth quarter.

The Suns capitalized on that Knicks’ blunder and continued to wax hot. They went on a 22-6 run in the first six minutes of the final quarter. That took the wind out of the Knicks, who ultimately lost their composure.

Taj Gibson and Julius Randle picked up a technical foul each in an ugly fourth-quarter display for the Knicks.

Gibson, who felt Chris Paul undercut him in a rebound battle, poked a bear in Paul with an elbow shove.

Paul was cruising on his 36th birthday, but once he smacked the floor, he fired back with seven straight points for a 114-99 Suns’ lead.

Paul wrapped the win as his birthday gift to himself with a double-double (17 points and 11 assists).

Randle was the next Knick to lose his poise, pushing Jae Crowder after a heated exchange before the play. Crowder responded with a big three-pointer right after.

The loss dropped the Knicks to 2-2 in their crucial West Coast trip with the two Los Angeles teams left in the schedule.

“They’re a terrific team,” Tom Thibodeau tipped his hat to the Suns (48-19), who remained in the hunt for the league’s best record. “It was a very competitive game until the fourth (quarter). I thought, for three quarters, our defense was very good. We felt we need to play 48 minutes to win.”

Just like in their first meeting at the Garden more than a week ago, the Suns buried the Knicks with red-hot outside shooting in the second half.

Phoenix shot 12-of-20 three-pointers in the second half after going 6-for-21 in the first two quarters.

Crowder, in his first game back from an ankle injury, was lethal. He hit half of his 12 three-point attempts to lead the Suns’ second unit with 18 points.

Phoenix ruled the bench scoring, 46-36, with New York missing Immanuel Quickley (ankle) and Alec Burks (knee contusion).

Deandre Ayton outclassed Nerlens Noel. The Suns’ third-year center was dominant with 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Noel was limited to five points and five boards with no steal or block shot.

Gibson tried in vain to pick up the slack with 11 points and six rebounds off the bench. Derrick Rose had 17 points but didn’t score in the fourth quarter.

Randle led the Knicks with a double-double (24 points and 11 rebounds) but scored only three points in the fourth quarter.

Barrett (23 points, eight rebounds, and three assists) was having a terrific game until his mental meltdown at the end of the third quarter.

The Knicks are hard-pressed to bounce back as they swing to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Sunday and the Lakers, who might have LeBron James back by then, on Tuesday.

“I’m not worried about both of them. I’m just worried about the next one,” Thibodeau said. “I like these games for our team. I think it shows us where we are and the things we need to work on. That old saying ‘Iron sharpens Iron.’ Hopefully, we can improve. It will help us down the road.”

The Knicks (37-30) will need to win three of their last five games to avoid the play-in tournament.

After this rough West Coast trip, the San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets, and the Boston Celtics await them at home.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @@alderalmo

 

Knicks cannot cheap out with Julius Randle as extension talks loom

new york knicks, julius randle

Julius Randle represents the most recent star to be a part of the New York Knicks organization, with the last player being Carmelo Anthony. Retaining Randle at all costs must be a priority, as the Knicks could be looking to extend him during the summer to ensure that he remains in New York for the foreseeable future.

Having earned his first All-Star appearance this year, averaging over 24 points, double-digit rebounds, and 5.9 assists, he has become indispensable. Without him, the Knicks would be nowhere close to a playoff-contending team, as they currently sit in the 4th seed in the Eastern conference, just slightly ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics.

The Knicks have a serious string of games coming up as they prepare to take on the Phoenix Suns, LA clippers, and Lakers consecutively. They will need Randle and his scoring efficiency to extract a few victories during this tough stretch, as they try to cement themselves in the 4th seed.

However, as Randle continues to dominate, the Knicks will have to make a serious decision on his future with the team since he only has one year left on his contract. President Leon Rose will undoubtedly pick up the final year of his deal, which will pay him $20.745 million in 2022.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the Knicks and Randle could be looking to host extension talks over the summer:

The sudden drop of an anticipated 2021 free-agent class has caused a ripple effect for the coming offseason — teams have turned their attention to extending their own 2022 free agents.

Randle is a prime example and, for the Knicks, has gone from a maybe to a must-have…

The Knicks can add up to four years to Randle’s contract, and both sides intend to talk over the summer to see if they can come to an agreement, sources said. But salary-cap rules limit the raise in Randle’s salary to a max of 20%.

The Knicks will have to come close to paying Randle an average of $30 million per season, while his average the past few years was just under $20 million. That is a massive increase for a player who has shown just one year of elite-level play. However, they feel confident he’s going to remain consistent since his work ethic and mentality have changed for the better, and head coach Tom Thibodeau has offered him better leadership.

From another perspective, the Knicks realistically can’t let him walk, so they don’t have much of a choice but to sign him as a 2021 free-agent class dwindles. Most players are staying with their respective squads or picking up their player options, so the market won’t be flush with elite-level talent like he was supposed to be.

Report: The New York Knicks are a life-long commitment to Julius Randle

new york knicks, julius randle

It takes resilience and grit to be a great player in New York, as the media and fans can be extremely hostile. The New York Knicks have been a floundering organization for years, and not even Carmelo Anthony to take them to a title in his prime. Great players come and go, and it has been quite some time since the Knicks were a destination for stars around the league.

However, the rise of Julius Randle has attracted attention from some of the best players in the NBA, and the Knicks have a fantastic opportunity next FA period to acquire a star to pair with their leader.

This season, Julius has averaged 24.1 points, 5.9 assists, and 10.2 rebounds, all career highs. He is shooting .461 from the field and .420 from beyond the arc, almost 50% better than his previous success rate.

The development of Julius has been one of the best stories of the season, and he’s made a transformation that nobody expected. Knick fans were ready to write him off this year and trade him at the deadline, but he has now become an indisposable factor that must be retained for the final year of his contract in 2022. Randle will account for $19.8 million and base salary next year, and if cut, the Knicks would only have to pay four million in dead money. However, they simply can’t afford to let Randle walk, as he represents the catalyst behind their success.

Randle insists that he wants to be part of something special from the ground up, which is exactly what the Knicks have done this year with new head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“I want to be a part of building something from the ground up. There’s no better place than New York to do it, no better organization or fan base that’s hungrier … than here in New York,” Randle said on The Woj Pod. “I want to be a part of that, honestly, for the rest of my career. I wanted to be one of the greats here … I don’t think there would be any better place to win other than here.”

The 26-year-old All-Star’s influence hasn’t only seen his statistics increase, but he has helped rejuvenate and develop some of the Knicks’ other players.

RJ Barrett has seen a major increase in production and efficiency this season with Randle by his side, and point guard Derrick Rose has turned back the clock and looked vintage at times. Thibodeau understands what he has in Julius — when he plays well, the team mirrors.

“That’s what you want from your best players … bringing out the best in his teammates,” said Thibodeau, who has been praising Randle for months. “And he’s doing it in every different aspect of the game, from the way he’s shooting the ball, the way he starts games, the playmaking, the defense, and just the way he works every day. You couldn’t ask for anything more. He’s having a terrific season and we want him to continue to grow and that’s what I love about him. He’s never satisfied — he wants to keep getting better.”

Ideally, New York will retain Randle and add another superstar to pair with him. They already have an extremely deep bench with Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin adapting to the NBA level. They should attempt to retain Rose and Nerlens Noel, as they will also have Mitchell Robinson available next year on the final year of his rookie deal.

Knicks news: 3 keys to beating the Nuggets in Denver

new york knicks, rj barrett

Let the games begin, the New York Knicks are scheduled to face off against the Denver Nuggets, who are currently locked into the fourth seed in the Western Conference on Wednesday evening. Denver is no pushover, as the Knicks prepare for a four-game stretch where they take on the Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, and Los Angeles Lakers, all of which are in top-six seeds in the West.

This will be a true challenge for the Knicks, who have won 12 of their last 13 games but haven’t had any significant challenges, aside from Phoenix, who represents their only loss during that stretch. Nonetheless, New York is more than capable of hanging with these teams, as the Knicks should’ve beat Phoenix if not for Julius Randle struggling and Chris Paul working some magic at the end. Randle having inadequate games is an anomaly these days, having posted 28 points against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday and 31 points against Houston on Sunday.

Three keys to beating the Denver Nuggets for the Knicks:

1.) Defense, defense, defense

The main task for New York is to limit any given team defensively, using their aggressive and suffocating style of play.

The Knicks rank first in the NBA in points allowed per game, with just 104.6. In comparison to Denver, they are allowing an average of 109.9, which is a significant difference. However, Denver has three elite scorers on their team, including Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., who are averaging 19+ points per game. However, Jamal Murray suffered a season-ending injury, so he won’t be available for Denver’s remainder of the season, giving the Knicks a slight advantage.

If the Knicks realistically want to walk away with a win, they are going to need to play elite defense, which we know they are capable of doing. As long as they can stop Denver from blowing this one open and scoring 120+ points, the Knicks will have a chance at keeping a close. The usual method for New York is late-game fatigue, which allows their opponents to turn on the afterburner’s and hit shots to pull away. The squad has done a much better job closing out games and playing solid defense, meaning they will need to continue that trend.

2.) Limit the big two

As stated before, stopping Jokic and Porter Jr. must be the priority. Jokic is averaging 26.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 8.5 assist as a center, which is absolutely mind-blowing. Porter has earned 18.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and has turned the ball over just 1.2 times, showcasing his skills.

The Knicks have a great defense, but this team is capable of blowing out anybody with ease, and they are also enjoying a nice win streak of their own. They most recently fell to the Los Angeles Lakers but have won nine of their last 11 games.

3.) Julius Randle must play ELITE basketball

There’s one simple truth to New York, as long as Julius Randle is playing elite-level basketball, the rest of the team rallies around him. His co-star, RJ Barrett, turns up the notch when Randle is hitting shots consistently. It doesn’t seem like the first time All-Star is ready to slow down anytime soon, showing off impeccable stamina and consistency the past few months. In addition, veteran point guard Derrick Rose seems rejuvenated, even looking like his vintage self at times. Pairing Rose with Randle and Barrett has proved to be a nice trio.