The New York Knicks are making some resounding noise around the league, and although their nine-game winning streak came to end on Tuesday with a loss to the lowly Charlotte Hornets, they still look different than in past years. Led by head coach Tom Thibodeau, Madison Square Garden has been abuzz nightly.
While Thibs will get much of the X’s and O’s credit, the addition of combo guard Jalen Brunson has done wonders for a Knicks team that was searching for an identity coming into this season. Brunson’s cerebral and savvy play has given the Knicks that identity that they sorely missed.
Brunson’s play has also brought out the best in star forward Julius Randle, who’s coming off his second All-Star appearance. Together this duo is giving the franchise hope not seen since the days of Basketball Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing and guard John Starks.
Brunson’s ability to run the offense and still get his has made the Knicks attack, which ranked 23rd in offensive rating last season, climb to fifth this season. He’s also gotten Randle the ball in the spots he likes, instead of having him over-dribble and take a tough, contested shot. For that Randle is elated, and he expressed his feelings about Brunson after last week’s 142-118 dismantling of the Brooklyn Nets.
“It’s just great,” Randle said of playing with Brunson after the victory over Brooklyn. “It makes the game easier for all of us. He makes plays and being efficient, and we’re winning.”
Randle is right, the Knicks have gone from 30-27 to 39–28 and just two games behind the fourth-place Cleveland Cavaliers. If the season ended today that would be a great first-round playoff matchup.
Brunson And Randle Are A Top Five Duo
When you think of top duos, the Boston Celtics have arguably the best in the league with All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Then there’s the likes of reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray of the Nuggets. The Philadelphia Sixers have Joel Embiid and former MVP James Harden. And who can forget the duos of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the defending champion Golden State Warriors, and LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Los Angeles Lakers.
But no one has talked much about Brunson and Randle, arguably the best and most durable duo this season. Together they average 49 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists per game, with both shooting right around 47-48 percent from the field. Brunson, who’s known for his efficiency, has made Randle a much more efficient player this season.
Brunson’s Play Has Unlocked Others On Roster
Not only has Brunson’s play been beneficial for Randle, it’s also unlocked the play of backup guards Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes. In Brunson’s absence, Quickley went for a career-high 39 points in a big double-overtime comeback win at the Boston Celtics on Sunday. Grimes has become a valuable two-way weapon who’s shooting 37 percent from three. The addition of do-it-all wing Josh Hart brings added toughness, grit and savvy.
The play of Brunson and Randle has also made the already confident R.J. Barrett even more comfortable. Brunson’s arrival slid Barrett into more of a No. 3 role, which he seems more suited for.
This Knicks team behind the play of its dynamic duo has what it takes to win a playoff series and give whomever the No. 1 seed is all they can handle in the conference semifinals.
The Knicks are DANGEROUSLY GOOD.