Ah, that was so fun.
After key victories over the Hornets, Hawks and Raptors, the sun has set on the Knicks’ nine-game winning streak at the hands of Devin Booker, Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns.
The same agenda continues: the Knicks are a top four team in the East, Julius Randle is a top-15 player, RJ Barrett continues to evolve beautifully before us like a Pokemon and Elfrid Payton continues to hold this team back.
The win over the Hawks was huge as it resulted in New York leapfrogging Atlanta for fourth in the standings and finished off a season sweep of the injury-plagued Hawks. Objectively, I believe this is where the Knicks will finish the season, maybe fifth. I do not see them slipping down to sixth unless something catastrophic happens.
Over the week, Randle finished with 16-10, 40-11, 31-10, and 18-6. The lone off-game was the heartbreaking loss to Phoenix. Randle continues to put up double-doubles nearly every time he touches the floor and is getting the roses he deserves for the INCREDIBLE 2020-21 season he has put on. Anyone who tries to play down the season he has had is, nicely put, an unemployed troll with nothing to do with his/her life. This man is hands down the Most Improved Player and absolutely deserves to be among the top 15 players in the league by the time the season concludes.
ROWAN ALEXANDER BARRETT, JR. Thus far in April, Barrett is averaging 18 points, four rebounds and two assists. I was told that a 19-year-old would never be able to become a good shooter. Now, at 20 years old, Barrett is shooting 45% from the field, 39% from behind the arc and 74% from the free throw line. Thus far in April alone, he is shooting 46-47-81. At the beginning of the season, when Barrett started the season 0-for-20-something, fans would turn away when he started to line himself up for a jump shot. Five months later, when Barrett lines himself up for a jump shot, fans turn away and say “cash.”
I don’t want to spend too much time on Elfrid Payton. I don’t understand why he is starting. He starts games but only plays 15 minutes. He continues to cut into the paint and then forces a layup over two defenders. His shot IQ is laughable, his inability to do anything well offensively is frustrating, he is average when it comes to on-ball defense and below average off-ball. But ask yourself “where is Elfrid Payton when it matters during the fourth quarter?” The answer: the bench. That’s the positive about Payton’s play.
Now let me add something.
Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson deserve more love than they are getting. When Mitchell Robinson went down with a fractured foot, fans asked themselves “who will fill that void?” Noel and Gibson, with a “next man up” mentality have played phenomenally since the injury to Robinson. Noel has stepped into the open starting spot and has played like Robinson in anchoring the defense. I wouldn’t be mad at all if Knicks president Leon Rose offers Noel a contract to be the defensive anchor for the second unit next season and maybe even the year after that.
Lastly, I want to mention something about the Coach of the Year award. Tom Thibodeau will surely get a lot of looks for that award. Objectively, it’s hard to look past what Monty Williams has done in Phoenix and what Quin Snyder is doing in Salt Lake City. I hope Thibodeau wins the award, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he doesn’t.
Again, you don’t want to face the Knicks in the playoffs. If you are the Nets, Bucks or Sixers, who have seen their stars sit out and have championship aspirations, you do not want to see the Knicks. Again, New York may not win a series against any of the top three teams in the East, but they’ll grind out and take those teams to seven games. The Knicks can hang with the best of them. Their game against the Suns, a contender in the West, proved that again.
More takes: Obi Toppin might be trying to break out of his shell, he has shown spurts recently. I truly believe that a competent point guard has been the difference. Toppin’s play when he’s on the court with Rose is night and day compared to when Payton and Toppin share the floor. Rose understands the type of player Toppin is and he isn’t afraid to make the outlet pass or alley oop to a cutting Toppin, mostly because he has the ability to do so successfully.
Also, my friend, a Hawks fan, told me to humble myself after the Knicks finished the aforementioned sweep of the Hawks. My team hasn’t been good since I was a high school sophomore, I am a little over a year removed from completing undergrad. I’ve suffered for too damn long. Screw being humble.
LET’S GO KNICKS!