NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Knicks are not only unbeaten with OG Anunoby, they are dominant when their new forward is on the floor.
Anunoby scored 23 points, his most since coming to New York, and the Knicks won their fifth in a row since he joined their lineup with a 112-84 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.
Anunoby scored 16 in the first quarter when the Knicks opened a 19-point lead that would grow to 39 in the third quarter. The forward went 6 for 7 in the period, 4 of 5 behind the 3-point arc, and was already just a point shy of the 17 he scored in his Knicks debut against Minnesota on New Year’s Day, his previous best since coming from Toronto in a Dec. 30 trade.
“He’s made a great contribution, not just with defense, but moving without the ball, getting the ball up the floor fast, his shot-making, and it’s only going to get better as we go,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Anunoby might have approached his season high of 29, also at Madison Square Garden while playing for the Raptors last month, but the starters didn’t need to play much in the second half.
Julius Randle added 20 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds for the Knicks, who moved a half-game ahead of Miami, Indiana, and Cleveland for fourth place in the Eastern Conference at 22-15. Quentin Grimes scored 17 points and fellow reserve guard Miles McBride had 16.
Anunoby, last season’s NBA steals leader, probably couldn’t have envisioned things working out this well after the deal that sent RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley to Toronto. The Knicks had outscored their first four opponents by 85 points when Anunoby was in the game, and they were 26 points better than the Blazers in his 29 minutes Tuesday when fans chanted his name during a first-half trip to the free throw line.
“I don’t know what I was thinking, but I just know we have a great team and we’re getting better and better each game,” Anunoby said.
Jerami Grant scored 21 points for the Trail Blazers, who lost for the fourth time in five games. Anfernee Simons was the only player in double figures with 12.
The Knicks outscored the Blazers 25-11 in fast-break points after Chauncey Billups warned his players to expect an opponent that would play with pace.
“I said, the numbers tell you that they’re like 27th in the league in transition and this and that, whatever. But me watching their last four or five games, I’m telling you my eyes, they are playing fast as heck, they really are,” Billups said of his message to his players. “They’re kicking it up, playing fast, so we’re going to go with my eyes.
“So I can’t say that they caught us off guard because we tried to prepare our team for it. But they just a really good job of it, to be honest.
Portland cut it to 13 in the second quarter, but then Grimes and Jalen Brunson hit consecutive 3-pointers, Josh Hart made a layup and Grimes made another 3 to cap an 11-0 burst that extended it to 54-30 midway through the period. New York led 63-41 at the half.
Randle scored 10 points in the third quarter, including a layup that gave the Knicks their biggest lead at 94-55 with 2:24 remaining in the period.