For the first time since the 2012-2013 season, the New York Knicks have a winning record in the month of January.
Of course, it’s during a season that started toward the end of December, and the team is just seven games into its 72-game slate, but a comeback 113-108 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night has the Knicks at 4-3. That’s their best start through seven games in eight seasons.
New York trailed by as many as 15 with four-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third quarter down in Atlanta before going on a 17-6 run in the final minutes of the frame to pull within four. They proceeded to outscore the Hawks 29-20 in the fourth to secure their fourth win in five games while finishing off a difficult early road trip at an astonishing 3-1. That featured a pair of wins against two of the stronger sides in the Eastern Conference in the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers, which proceeded that major upset home blowout of the Milwaukee Bucks just days after Christmas.
The backcourt of Immanuel Quickley and Austin Rivers — nicknamed “Quivers” — were the latest heroes of the Knicks’ strong stretch with the two sparking their late comeback over the Hawks. Both players went 2-of-3 from three-point range and shot over 50% from the floor on the night — Rivers contributing eight points while the rookie Quickley posted 16 in just 18 minutes.
The young point guard continues to prove that the Knicks might have come away with one of the steals of the draft after being taken at No. 25 out of Kentucky.
A mature sense of facilitation-first basketball by the 21-year-old has been paired by a shot selection process that has kept the offense working at optimal levels in his limited stretches on the floor. This is only his third game as a pro because of injuries but is a plus-18 (the Knicks have scored 18 more points than allowed) over his average of 15.3 minutes per night.
“I thought he played really well,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Quickley. “He still doesn’t have his timing… but he’s fighting through things… That group [featuring Quickley]… got us going. We started making plays for each other and then the defense took off after that.”
The good times — by Knicks standards — continue to roll for Thibodeau in his first season at the helm as his message continues to hit home for a team that entered the 2020-21 season with such understandably low expectations.
“Togetherness got us through this,” he said. “Just the overall way they’re playing for each other, that’s a big part of winning.”
His mantra is no more evident than with the evolution of forward Julius Randle, who continues to perform at an All-Star clip. The 26-year-old went 11-of-19 from the floor for 28 points, 17 rebounds, and nine assists, just one helper shy of his second triple-double of the season.
While he’s paced the Knicks’ offense this year, averaging 22.1 points per game, he got some major support from the 26 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists from RJ Barrett, who continues to show flashes of slowly developing into that top-tier scorer he was perceived to be when taken out of Duke No. 3 overall last year.
Randle and Barrett became the first pair of Knicks teammates to record at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in the same game since Lonnie Shelton and Bob McAdoo did so in 1977.
Don’t adjust your computers and televisions too much. There really is an abundance of positives coming from the Knicks in 2021. They return home on Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz.