The New York Knicks celebrated the 50-year anniversary of their last NBA title by putting together a championship-caliber performance, beating the New Orleans Pelicans 128-106.
The Knicks came out firing on Saturday night, scoring 42 points in the first quarter on 8-15 from beyond the arc, which was good for 53.3%. Julius Randle continued his torrid pace by dropping 16 points in the opening frame on 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-6 from three.
But New York didn’t stop there.
They put up 73 points in the first half, a fitting total on a night they honored the 1973 team, and made 13 threes on 50% shooting from deep in a scintillating first half that Walt “Clyde” Frazier would be proud of.
At halftime, Frazier and the rest of his teammates from the 1973 NBA Championship team were adorned in golden jackets and celebrated in a halftime celebration honoring their title year. Former Knicks legends Bernard King, John Starks, Amare’ Stoudamire, Allen Houston, and more came to show their support, while Patrick Ewing, who is currently coaching the Georgetown Hoyas, sent in a message thanking the 1973 team and the NY fans for their inspiration in his own career.
“They’re legends,” said RJ Barrett after the game. “It’s very inspirational the way they were able to bring a championship back to New York. That’s something that we’re trying to do, so it was great to have that in the building tonight.”
When the celebration was over, the current iteration of the Knicks got back to their winning ways, capping off their fifth straight victory.
The play wasn’t as crisp in the second half, with the Knicks turning the ball over 12 times and hitting just six of 22 from beyond the arc, but it didn’t matter. They dominated the boards, outrebounding the Pelicans 54-39, including a team-high 13 rebounds from Mitchell Robinson in his second game back from injury.
New York also had eight blocks, including two from each of Obi Toppin, Josh Hart, and Immanuel Quickley. The blocks were a consequence of the Knicks being physical on the ball, not afraid of a Pelicans team that was without Zion Williamson. While New York didn’t get many steals, they held New Orleans to 39.2% from the field and 21.1% from three.
It was a relatively passive effort from the visiting Pelicans who didn’t put up much of a fight defensively and allowed the Knicks to coast for much of the second half. Randle, who still led the team with 28 points, was far less assertive in the second half, dishing out five assists while also adding seven rebounds.
RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson also contributed solid all-around games with Brunson adding 20 points, five assists, and two rebounds while Barrett had 25 points, four rebounds, and seven assists.
It was one of the better shooting nights for Barrett, who hit 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and 8-of-13 from the field. He forced a few poor shots in the paints despite being guarded closely, but he passed the ball tremendously throughout the game, which led to more than a few easy looks from deep for his teammates.
“We just clicked as a team tonight,” said Barrett after the game.
New fan favorite Josh Hart had yet another solid showing with 15 points, five rebounds, and two assists while leading a bench unit that remained relatively tight with only nine players getting on the court in meaningful minutes.
However, the night of celebration continued up until the final whistle with the fans at Madison Square Garden chanting in unison for Derrick Rose deep into the fourth quarter. With 2:21 left to play, Tom Thibodeaux relented, putting the veteran point guard in the game as the Garden crowd responded with a thunderous standing ovation for the former MVP.
“For a guy who’s accomplished what he has, he’s the most selfless person,” said Randle on the Knicks teammates getting behind the fans’ chants for Rose. “I would argue he’s having just as much, if not more of an impact [than when he plays]. He’s a leader for us. His impact is huge, and I love to see him out on the floor,”
“He deserves it,” added Barrett. “That’s D-Rose, man. To be around a guy like that every day is special.”
While Rose was unable to score on his four shot attempts, his presence on the court, and the fans’ collective appreciation for all he’s given the Knicks, was a fitting way to close out a festive night of gratitude for the past greatness of this franchise.
Perhaps the convincing victory was a signal that there might be greatness on the horizon as well.
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