How the New York Knicks are finally meeting Tom Thibodeau’s expectations

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

After losing five consecutive games last week, the New York Knicks have bounced back in a significant way, taking down the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic. In both contests, the Knicks held their opponents to under 100 points, and even more impressively, 84 points. The Magic scored just 84 in the Knicks’ win Monday afternoon on Martin Luther King day.

New York took a major step forward in their desire to climb the Atlantic standings, as they were down four games just two days ago. Now, they are 2.5 games behind Boston and are on the back of a nice two-game winning streak against quality teams.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau has undoubtedly made an impact on the organization, focusing on winning rather than player development. However, that doesn’t mean he’s ignoring some of his young playmakers, as both Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley earned playing time against Orlando.

“I love winning, so low-scoring, high-scoring, medium-scoring, it doesn’t matter,’’ Thibodeau said. “I just want to win. Whatever we have to do to find a way to win, improve every day, I want to be playing our best down the stretch.”

Being aggressive and tenacious are two expectations from Thibodeau, especially on defense. Before this small win streak ensued, the Knicks only kept opponents under 100 points once this season, and now they’ve upped the number to three.

“They showed a lot of toughness,’’ Thibodeau said. “I knew it would be a challenge for us — back-to-back, early start. We played with the lead for most of the game. Then we took the hit to start the fourth quarter. Having the ability to take a punch, keep fighting and finding a way to win that’s a big part of this league. I loved the toughness we showed down the stretch.’’

In both wins, the Knicks took an early lead but nearly blew it against Orlando, after they put together an impressive fourth-quarter. Luckily, the Knicks did just enough to scoot by, with Julius Randle connecting for 21 points and Elfrid Payton having a standout performance with 12 points and four assists (ESPN). Second-year player RJ Barrett has also been far more consistent, posting 22 against the Magic and securing 10 rebounds for a double-double.

The most impressive thing about this team is their resiliency. Even though they lost five games, they didn’t stop working hard and moving forward. That is the mentality you have to have, forgetting about the losses and building off the wins. Having a few young players to come off the bench has also been beneficial, as Quickley recorded 11 points in the first half.

Thibodeau and his squad will take on the Golden State Warriors on Thursday evening, and they are another team that has been struggling this season. With another stout defensive performance, there’s no question that they can overcome Golden State.

Seventh Heaven: Knicks survive Magic

The New York Knicks went to their defense and their big guns when the going got tough to pull off an ugly 91-84 win Monday at The Garden.

Struggling all game long, Julius Randle picked the right time to come alive.

Randle pumped in seven points and pulled two huge rebounds inside the final 93 seconds that carried the Knicks to their second straight win.

The Knicks moved up to 7-8, a big turnaround from last season. It took them 28 games to reach seven wins last year.

But it wasn’t easy. The Knicks showed tremendous growth and a lot of fight to pull off the close win.

“It was a tough one for us. [It’s] Tough to have a back-to-back schedule. Two early games are even tougher. [Magic] were a good team. We stayed together. We get it done,” Randle said postgame. “We got the job done.”

Randle helped the Knicks get the job done by continuing to make plays despite his worst shooting performance this season.

“When shots are not falling, you have to find another way to help the team,” Randle said.

“I stayed mentally strong the whole game. The body is fine. I had hard long summer to prepare for this.”

The Knicks’ starting power forward looked exhausted at times as he struggled to shoot. He went 5-for-19 from the field. But he still willed his way to a massive double-double of 21 points and 17 rebounds.

Barrett also had another strong performance coming away with 22 points, including a transition basket off a Magic turnover that gave the Knicks a four-point cushion, 85-81, down the stretch.

The sophomore wing added 10 rebounds and four assists.

Immanuel Quickley scored 11 points off the bench, but Elfrid Payton played solid (12 points and four assists) to earn the nod to close out the game. Payton was a team-high +/- 20 in this win.

The Knicks nearly squandered a 14-point lead as the Magic got hot in the fourth quarter.

“They showed a lot of toughness,’’ Thibodeau said. “I knew it would be a challenge for us — back-to-back, early start. We played with the lead for most of the game. Then we took the hit to start the fourth quarter. Having the ability to take a punch, keep fighting and finding a way to win that’s a big part of this league. I loved the toughness we showed down the stretch.’

The Knicks missed 10 free throws in a game that had the 90s vibes.

Magic coach Steve Clifford and Thibodeau, who both came from the 90s Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy tree, had a chess match.

With both defensive coaches exchanging tactical moves, neither team shot well. The Knicks shot 35.6 percent, but the Magic were worse with 33.7 percent.

It marked the second straight game that the Knicks have held their opponents under 85 points and under 35 percent. Orlando, though, fared better than Boston, which only scored 75 against New York’s defense in a 30-point rout Sunday.

The Knicks made their free throws when it mattered. They sank their last seven at the line to survive the Magic’s comeback.

Orlando took the lead briefly on a Terrence Ross’s magical heave with the shot clock winding down, 81-80. But they fell apart in front of the Knicks’ tenacious defense.

Nikola Vucevic paced the Magic, who fell to their sixth straight loss, with 24 points and 14 rebounds.

The Knicks will fly to the West Coast and play another back-to-back game against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday and the Sacramento Kings on Friday before closing out the tough week schedule in Portland on Sunday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks: 3 keys to beat the Orlando Magic

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

The New York Knicks are having an arbitrary season, showing a lack of consistency and then blowing up against the Boston Celtics following a five-game losing streak. At 6-8, the Knicks are just good enough to demand some respect — against the Celtics on Sunday afternoon, they showed what they’re capable of doing against quality teams.

They posted 105 points against Boston, who entered the game with eight wins and three losses. New York’s defense was phenomenal, holding their opponents to just 75 points, with the majority coming from starting shooting guard Jaylen Brown. The Knicks, however, saw contributors from the starting roster all the way to their depth from the bench.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau knew that his team was close to finding a victory, as they’ve been practicing extremely well and showing quality.

“I told our players this: The way they’re practicing, the attitude, the approach and how they’re practicing has been a positive,’’ Thibodeau said. “I thought going to Cleveland, I thought we were ready to play. I thought we were terrific in the shootaround and we played well enough to win [Friday] on the road. We didn’t close out the game the way we would’ve liked. Then [Saturday] in practice I thought was terrific. As long as we’re doing the right things. I know we’ll improve and we’ll keep getting better.”

Thanks to a few key performances from players like Julius Randle, Immanuel Quickley, and RJ Barrett, New York is finally in the win column again and looking to pick up another against the Magic on Monday afternoon.

Three keys for the New York Knicks to beat Orlando:

1.) Dominate the boards

One thing the Knicks did extremely well against Boston was control the boards, picking up 43 defensive rebounds and 10 offensive rebounds. Their dominance around their own rim was impressive, as Boston recorded just 29 defensive rebounds. Orlando has a few solid big men who can control the boards, but if the Knicks can win in that category, they will put themselves in a great position to walk away with a second consecutive victory.

2.) Shut down Nikola Vucevic

Orlando’s biggest threat is Nikola Vucevic, who leads the team with 22.8 points per game, 10.8 rebounds, and also manages to spread the ball with 3.8 assists. If the Knicks can take him out of the contest or at least limit him, it will increase their probability of winning tenfold.

Vucevic is dominant on the boards, though, a category that the Knicks need to win if they want to stay competitive. He is a monster rebounder who shoots extremely well from the paint. He should be the focal point defensively for Tom Thibodeau and his squad.

3.) Shoot efficiently from 3

Another great thing New York did against Boston was hit on the three-pointers. They connected on 38.7%, hitting 12. Rookie power forward Obi Toppin hit two timely long balls, contributing 12 points on the day.

Fellow rookie Quickley also contributed two three-pointers, with Reggie Bullock posting three. The Knicks did a great job of getting shooters open with time to spare, and uncontested shots are exactly what they need to get more of if they want to beat quality teams like Boston. They did a good job on Sunday, and hopefully, it boils over into Monday afternoon.

New York Knicks: 3 keys to beating the Boston Celtics

New York Knicks, Julius Randle

The New York Knicks are currently on a five-game losing streak, with their last defeat coming against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks lost by just three points, making it their ninth straight game where they’ve allowed more than 100 points to their opponent. They are currently four games behind in the Atlantic standings, preparing to face off against the Boston Celtics, who are currently in first place and on a five-game winning streak.

This season has been incredibly difficult for the Knicks so far, forcing them to travel routinely. For new teams with new coaching staff’s and faces, the lack of preseason and time to iron out the kinks was unavailable. The NBA jumped right into things, and NY has been trying to play catch-up ever since.

“That’s the challenge of the season,” coach Tom Thibodeau said Saturday after practice in Boston. “Shortened training camp and we started with a schedule that’s a little unusual in terms of the travel part of it. So you have to manage it as best you can. So it’s a lot of film sessions, there’s a lot of individual film sessions, there’s walkthroughs in the ballroom. Then when we have the opportunity to get over to practice, we want to take advantage of that.

Ultimately, becoming a quality team starts in practice. Playing hard against each other and refining their fundamentals is what needs to be done, and Thibodeau understands that playing hard in practice translates to the real thing.

“We said at the beginning, the first step was to become a great practice team. I think we’re making some steps in that direction. I know when we practice well, we usually play well.”

“I think the way we’re practicing right now, when we do get the opportunity to practice, has been very positive,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve fallen short in this streak. But I do want us to focus on that improvement and getting better. As we get guys back, I think we’ll get a rhythm offensively in terms of making shots. And then we gotta get our defense going. When we do that, we’ll win.”

The Knicks are going to need a bit of luck to beat the Celtics, who are currently 8-3 and 4-1 at home. According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Celtics have a 74.4% chance of emerging victorious against the Knicks on Sunday afternoon.

Three keys for the New York Knicks to beat the Boston Celtics:

1.) Limit the turnovers

The Knicks have committed unnecessary turnovers during their losing streak, but have improved in the category gradually. Against the Cavaliers, they turned the ball over just 12 times, far less than the 15 average several games prior.

Against the Brooklyn Nets, they turned it over just nine times, so it is clearly a priority for them during practice. Being disciplined with the ball in your hands is essential, but they still need more work and consistency there.

2.) Start Immanuel Quickley

The New York Knicks need to make the executive decision to rotate Elfrid Payton from the bench and not start him regularly.

Immanuel Quickley is proving to be the better offensive player, and his tenacious defense is exactly what head coach Tom Thibodeau is looking for.

Against Cleveland, Quickley played in 28 minutes compared to Payton’s 20. During that time, he scored 23 points and shot 9-of-17 from the field. He also picked up four assists, indicating better court vision. His development has been one of the single positive things for the Knicks this season, so far, and elevating him to the starting squad should happen sooner rather than later.

3.) Play more aggressive defense and contest 3-pointers

One of Thibodeau’s primary fundamentals is playing aggressive defense. As stated before, the Knicks have allowed 100 points or more in nine straight games, which can’t make the veteran head coach happy.

Thibodeau is undoubtedly utilizing practice time to increase his players’ defensive abilities, as he believes the shots will come. Spreading the floor and opening up high-probability shots is his game, but the Knicks simply haven’t lived up to his expectations on defense. The Celtics have a fantastic offensive team, so slowing them down will be a priority for New York.

New York Knicks could target Isaiah Thomas to fill point guard needs

New York Knicks, Isaiah Thomas

When the New York Knicks settled on a one-year, $5 million deal with Elfrid Payton, everybody in the fan base gave a simultaneous sigh of mediocrity. Payton is a good filler and back up option, but he isn’t a trustworthy starter, clearly.

So far this season, he’s averaging 13.5 points and a .448 percentage from the field. On most days, he’s a body on the court who can convert layups occasionally. He has flashes of quality, but the inconsistencies are glaring.

In fact, most teams don’t even bother to guard him when he standing at the top of the arc, waiting patiently for a pass to come his way so he can airball a three-pointer.

The Knicks knew that point guard would be a position of weakness heading into 2021, and they did virtually nothing to solve it. You could make the argument that Immanuel Quickley is their solution, but he is still young and learning the NBA game. They are being forced to settle with Payton as a primary starter, but over the past few games, head coach Tom Thibodeau has realized that Quickley is their best option.

Against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday evening, the Knicks lost 103-106, with Payton scoring nine points and turning the ball over three times. Quickley, on the other hand, scored 23 points and turned the ball over once. He also recorded four assists, showing off a bit more vision on the court. He connected on 9-of-17 field goals and 3-of-7 deep balls.

Ultimately, it is becoming clear that Quickley should be starting a point guard, playing in 28 minutes this past game. He is agile and has aggressive energy, which is exactly what Thibodeau wants on the floor at any given moment.

Despite his rise, the Knicks could look to free agency help at the position, as former Washington Wizard Isaiah Thomas has made himself available.

Last year, Thomas averaged 12.2 points over 23.1 minutes per contest. He hit on .408% of his shots and attempted 4.73 pointers, coming in at .413 from downtown. He’s a solid three-point shooter, which is exactly what the Knicks desperately need as teams simply don’t respect their ability to connect in that category. He might be a cheaper option the Knicks can take a flyer on, especially with Payton struggling.

New York Knicks: Is it time to rotate Elfrid Payton out of the starting five?

New York Knicks, Elfrid Payton

New York Knicks guard Elfrid Payton struggled against the Cleveland Cavaliers during a painful loss on Friday, January 15th. The Knick point guard finished with 9 points after shooting 4-7 from the field. Payton had 3-rebounds and 3-turnovers. The most glaring and disturbing stat category Elfrid Payton possessed was accumulating 0-assists for the entire game.

Cleveland did what many other teams will continue to do, play zone defense while Payton is trying to run the point- guard position for the New York Knicks. Payton struggled against the length of Cleveland’s team, leading to sloppy turnovers by himself and his teamate RJ Barrett.

Many Knick fans have lost confidence and patience with a few Knick players. However, Payton is leading the race as the most hated Knick by simply frustrated Knick fans. Some fans went as far as mentioning Elfrid’s ability to stay locked-in even when he’s struggling. There are whispers going around stating that Elfrid Payton mentally checks out if things aren’t going right for himself and the squad.

Rumors are circulating about Isaiah Thomas’s availability after a long period of being away from the NBA. Some chatter in Knicks universe states that the Knicks should give Isaiah Thomas a chance due to lack of shooting depth.

Overall, the Knicks are depleted by injuries. The players earning minutes currently are banged up. However, Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks must continue digging deep on defense in order to give themselves a chance for victory. Offensively, the Knicks need a starting point-guard who can shoot the basketball. Many are calling for Quickley to start. There’s definitely a possibility, however time will tell what these Knicks are really made of.

Damyean Dotson haunts Knicks in fifth straight loss

The Cleveland Cavaliers are starting to turn New York Knicks‘ trash into gold.

After getting waived by the Knicks, the Cavaliers saw something in Damyean Dotson that warranted a two-year deal.

On Friday night, Dotson got his opportunity to repay the Cavaliers and get back at the Knicks.

Dotson delivered the big blows as the Cavaliers extended the Knicks’ losing streak to five, 106-103, at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Revenge game

The Cavaliers snapped their three-game losing skid with Dotson stepping up to fill the hole left by the injured Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.

A former Knicks’ second-round pick, Dotson has found his niche with the Cavaliers. As a fill-in starter, he played 40 minutes against his former team, producing 13 points, four boards, and four dimes.

Dotson scored seven clutch points in the final quarter as a closer. He started to take over with a triple inside the final 2:46 that gave the Cavaliers a five-point cushion, 98-93.

Costly errors

RJ Barrett committed two costly errors down the stretch, which Dotson and the Cavaliers pounced to pull off the close win.

The Knicks pulled within one, 98-97, on a Barrett tough jumper to beat the shot clock.

Then the Knicks unraveled.

Barrett quickly turned from hero to zero. He lost the ball to Andre Drummond, which led to a clear-path foul by Julius Randle.

Dotson calmly sank the two free throws, then added another layup in the Cavaliers’ bonus possession. Drummond sealed the win with another steal on Barrett.

Barrett’s erratic play late in the game dampened his second straight efficient shooting. He finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 field goal shooting.

Monster game

Drummond had a monster game — 33 points, 23 rebounds, three assists, two steaks, and two blocks — to lead the Cavaliers.

The big man already had a double-double in the opening half with 20 points and 14 rebounds — a feat never done by a Cavalier in more than 20 years, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Drummond is also the first player in the NBA to log in a double-double in any half since reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo did it last March.

Quickley rising

The Knicks’ eight loss flushed Immanuel Quickley’s career night down the drain. For the second straight game, Quickley was the Knicks’ best point guard. He kept them afloat with a career-high 23 points off the bench.

Quickley spearheaded a late third-quarter run with the help of Nerlens Noel, who had a season-high six blocks. The Knicks wiped out a second-half 12-point deficit.

Game of runs

A 16-0 run bridging the third and final quarter had the Knicks taking a four-point lead, 84-80. But Drummond could not be contained down low. He teamed up with Cedi Osman as the Cavaliers took the lead for good with a 9-0 counter-attack.

Osman fired 25 points, including 10 in the third, and added five assists.

What’s next?

Barrett and the Knicks need to forget quickly as they gear up for a back-to-back game against the Boston Celtics on Sunday and the Orlando Magic on Monday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks: Tom Thibodeau provides solution to latest struggles

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

Just a few days ago, we were talking about how the New York Knicks ahead won five of six games. Now they’re on a four-game winning streak, and there’s no end in sight.

With a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers coming up on Friday evening, this could be their best chance to snap the losing streak. Cleveland is also 5-7 and has lost five of their last six games, indicating a solid chance for the Knicks to rebound and put a win in the right column.

However, the past few games have been tumultuous, as they have allowed more than 100 points in each and scored 89 points or less in three of the four.

Most recently, against the Brooklyn Nets, they lost 116-109 but found themselves in a 19 point hole in the third quarter, which they crawled back from, but it was too little, too late.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau has clearly been frustrated with the way his team has played, lacking aggression and defensive prowess.

“Disappointed that we could have played better, defensively, yes, but more determined to get it right,” Thibodeau said after Wednesday’s 116-109 loss to the Nets at the Garden. “We have to get back to practicing. I like the fight we showed at the end, but it was too late. We got in too big of a hole.

Ultimately, practice is the only thing that can help the team develop chemistry and more continuity with one another. They are still an extremely new combination of players and one that Thibodeau still hasn’t found a correct sequence for.

“We have to get back to work. Sometimes you go through stretches where you don’t have an opportunity to practice too much, so I think practice would be good for us.”

Thibodeau’s scheme heavily relies on defense, but the Knicks haven’t had a successful defensive performance since the fourth game of the season, when they beat the Cavaliers, coincidentally, 95-86.

“We worked on our defense for a while and then covered some offensive things we wanted to work on,” Thibodeau said. “The main thing was trying to get up and down and practice out of the full court. I felt we needed work in that area, as well.

“I think the big challenge is when you have a number of areas that you’d like to shore up you have to prioritize. You can’t work on all of them every day. So you pick three or four things that you’d like to get into and improve upon and that’s what we did.”

Despite the Knicks’ lackluster performances the past few days, young rookie Immanuel Quickley has been a bright spot for the team. In the loss to Brooklyn, he played in 22 minutes, scoring 19 points. He shot 7-of-15 from the field and connected on 3-of-6 from three-point land.

Quickley only turned the ball over one time, which is solid considering the number of possessions he controlled. The Knicks do have some positive signs, but they just need more continuity within the starting five.

New York Knicks lose 4th straight, but one rookie is showing incredible potential

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

The New York Knicks are in the middle of a tough losing streak, giving up their last four games. At one point in the season, they had won five of six games, but their offense has been sputtering and their defense lackluster. During this four-game losing streak, the Knicks have given up at least 101 points and allowed 116 against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday evening.

Despite drawing the game within five in the final moments, the Nets handily won this contest, leading by 19 at one point. They simply couldn’t stop Kevin Durant and his perfect mid-range jumper, also allowing 30 points from the Brooklyn bench.

As for the Knicks, Julius Randle had another fantastic game, posting 30 points on 13-of-25 shots from the field. However, young rookie Immanuel Quickley looked sharp in the loss, playing 22 minutes. He finished with 19 points, connecting on 7-of-15 shots and hitting on 3-of-6 shots from three-point land. He also collected three assists, and while I would like to see him spreading the ball a bit more efficiently, he seems fearless driving the rim and utilizes his high energy to tantalize opposing shooters.

Quickley has something that all great players contain, and it is drive. His desire to become better each and every day will eventually lead to him being a star for the Knicks, and while it will likely take some time as a late first-round pick, he has all of the tools necessary to reach his potential.

Even after the Knicks’ loss to the Nets, Quickley stayed after hours and heaved up shots while nobody else was in the stadium. That shows determination and motivation, something Knicks’ players have lacked in the past, but they are committed to finding athletes who desperately want to be great, and that is what Quickley is.

Luckily for him, it seems that head coach Tom Thibodeau is committed to giving him more minutes, especially with Elfrid Payton under-performing and lacking consistency. Payton is on a one year, $5 million deal, so it is more beneficial to give action to Immanuel, who is obviously the future and could be their solution at point guard long-term.

Once he gets that floating shot down from the paint, he’s going to be a deadly threat who can score from all angles and maximize his high energy style of play.

New York Knicks’ Austin Rivers has answer for slumping team

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

After the New York Knicks started the 2021 season on a high note, winning five of six games during one stretch, they have since lost three in a row. This slump can only be attributed to a lack of chemistry and familiarity with Tom Thibodeau’s scheme. If you want to throw in a lack of talent, that would also work too.

The Knicks are dealing with significant injuries in the frontcourt, being forced to sign Taj Gibson as a supplement. Their defense has been lackluster, and their offense has completely taken a backseat. Over the last three games, they’ve given up more than 101 points in each and haven’t scored more than 89 points.

Most recently, against the Charlotte Hornets, star power forward Julius Randle scored just 11 points over 30 minutes, a disappointing performance. In fact, not a single Knick scored more than 19 points, with Kevin Knox representing their best offensive threat at 19. Knox has actually played quite well the past few games, shooting a career-best 40% from 3-point range and averaging 7.9 points over 21 minutes. Interestingly, the Knicks haven’t had the same starters for the first 10 games in at least 20 years, which is painfully awful.

The injection of new faces and coaches across-the-board was always going to catch up to New York, and they’re fighting through a tough stretch of games. They will face off against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday evening, who feature Kevin Durant. The Knicks are going to need big performances from their more reliable players, and one guy that has struggled the past two games is Austin Rivers.

However, Rivers has only made seven appearances this year and started in one game. He is averaging 28 minutes and 12 points per game, also passing the ball efficiently with 4.5 assists. He can be an influential player for the Knicks, but he simply doesn’t have the chemistry with his team yet. He acknowledges his lack of familiarity, stating:

“Our chemistry is not there yet, we’re still building,’’ said Rivers, who missed all of preseason and the first four games. “That’s why I’m saying be patient because I know it’s only going to get better and better. I haven’t had one practice this entire season. My first time playing with the team was against the Raptors [on Dec. 31]. So I’m still figuring it out.”

I do feel confident that Thibodeau will turn the team around — aggressive defense is his priority. Ultimately, as they continue to grow alongside each other and develop chemistry, we will see more consistent performances, but this is the building of something new and fresh, so there were always going to be speed bumps along the way.