The New York Knicks have a record above .500 and are in sole possession of the four seed in March.
Oh, to have stuck with this team through all the years.
The Knicks had a bitter-sweet start to the week. On Tuesday, Julius Randle was named to the All-Star game for the first time in his career. He becomes the first Knicks player to be named to the All-Star team since Kristaps Porzingis in 2018.
Later that night, Randle was ejected by the soft officials who are more concerned with handing out technical fouls than enforcing the rulebook, the Knicks fell to the Warriors, 114-106. The combination of some very questionable officiating and a bad third quarter was what hurt the Knicks that night as they let one slip through their hands.
Then came the change in the lineup that needs to become permanent.
Point guard Elfrid Payton appeared on the injury report after the Warriors game with a hamstring ailment. The injury was too much for the former Ragin’ Cajun and could not play in the Knicks’ following game against the lowly Sacramento Kings.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau inserted Derrick Rose into the starting lineup to replace Payton.
The Knicks then went berserk.
2/25 vs Sacramento Kings
They lit up the Kings, who can’t guard a pylon, for 140 points. They scored 77 points in the first half, the most they’ve recorded in one half this season. Six different players scored in double-digits as the Knicks finished with 58.6 percent shooting from the floor, 52.8 percent from behind the arc, and 90.5 percent from the free-throw line.
The loss was so embarrassing for the Kings, De’Aaron Fox, who thought it was a good idea to poke fun at Knicks fans on Twitter for their bad lottery luck, had to backpedal, curl into a fetal position and delete tweets criticizing the Knicks.
The tape shows how the Knicks were spaced out on the floor with fluid ball movement and minimal bad shot selection.
“But the Kings can’t guard a light pole,” said a Twitter hater.
2/27 vs Indiana Pacers
The Knicks then went toe-to-toe against the Indiana Pacers as two All-Stars battled.
It was not as lopsided as it was against Sacramento, but Randle proved to the basketball writers who love to watch basketball on an Excel sheet that he was deserving of his All-Star selection over Domantas Sabonis.
Randle’s 28-point, 10-rebound, six assist performance outshined Sabonis’ 15-point, seven-rebound, nine assist night. Guard RJ Barrett missed two crucial free throws but Frank Ntilikina’s clutch defense picked Barrett up and sealed a 110-107 Knicks victory.
Another big question that was brought to light with the absence of Payton was who was going to be a guard off the bench now that Rose was inserted into the starting five. Given how Austin Rivers was the guard who was getting more minutes than Ntilikina before trading for Rose, seeing Ntilikina was a pleasant surprise for fans. Seeing Ntilikina seal a win for the Knicks was magical.
2/28 @ Detroit Pistons
Finally, the Knicks squared up against the horrible Detroit Pistons. Another five Knicks scored in double digits, including 25 from Randle and 21 from Barrett. The Knicks beat up on the Pistons, 109-90, to improve to 18-17.
So, to recap: The Knicks went 3-0 with Payton in street clothes and won by a combined 41 points. They won by 19, three, and 19. The floor is a lot more spread out and the point guard doesn’t hold onto the ball until there are seven seconds on the shot clock just to take a floater over two defenders and miss.
This change must become permanent.
There is simply no reason as to why Elfrid Payton should step back on the court with a Knicks jersey. The team is clearly better with him off the court than on. That includes keeping Ntilikina in the rotation and having him and Quickley run the second unit.
Again, successful guard play at MSG and it’s without Elfrid Payton.
Run Rose, Bullock (for now), Barrett, Randle, and Robinson when he comes back.
The Knicks will be back in action on March 11 in Milwaukee to take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
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