The Knicks are 2-0 in the OG Anunoby era — the team’s newest acquisition providing the “3 and D” prowess necessary to build a hard-nosed team on both sides of the floor.
An invaluable pickup, assuredly, though he is the No. 3 man on this team behind Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson.
It doesn’t happen often, but Wednesday night’s 116-100 victory over the Chicago Bulls featured big games by New York’s dynamic duo.
Randle dropped 35 points with six rebounds while Brunson added 31 with 13 assists. It’s the first time this season that a pair of Knicks teammates scored 30 or more points in the same game.
They did so while playing under a heavy workload, once again.
Randle played 38:36 with Brunson not far behind at 38:19 — a trend that sees them playing a ton of basketball in the first half of the season.
Only Coby White and DeMar DeRozan, both of the Bulls, have played more total minutes this season than Brunson, who ranks third in the league with 1,223 minutes played, and Randle, coming in at fourth with 1,214 minutes.
In a league where minutes restrictions and proverbial pitch counts are commonplace, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t of that mindset.
“I think [Brunson] prepares himself well for whatever he has to do, as does Julius. Those are great traits, both guys,” Thibodeau said (h/t SNY) following the win over the Bulls. “They take great care of themselves and they work. If they have to play more, they’ll play more.”
Thibodeau doesn’t have much more of a choice right now, or so it seems.
Randle and Brunson are the engine that makes the Knicks go. Through 34 games they are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference at 19-15, though their record is tied with the No. 7 Cleveland Cavaliers and No. 6 Orlando Magic. They’re also just one-half game behind the No. 5 Indiana Pacers and one game back of the No. 4 Miami Heat.
It’s there for the taking, but it is a precarious game to play. After all, both Brunson and Randle dealt with ankle injuries down the stretch last season and into the playoffs while playing under a heavier workload, as well.
Anunoby could take some of that pressure off as a legitimate No. 3 option in New York, but there will be a learning curve to get there.
“I have a lot of confidence in the guys that we have. I think we just need a little bit of time,” Thibodeau said. “Hopefully, we’re better tomorrow and the end of the week we’re better, and the end of the month, we’re better. I just want us to keep improving.”