A New York Knicks Site Guaranteed To Make ‘Em Jump

The Knicks blitzed the Warriors right out of the gate, scoring the first eight points and jumping to an 18-4 lead before the hosts knew what hit them. The Knicks would never trail, displaying their trademark suffocating defense even with a small lineup, allowing little space to the Warriors’ dangerous shooters while getting hot from 3-point range themselves. No player epitomized this more than McBride. 

We’ve known for a long time what Deuce is capable of on the defensive end. In Game 4 of the playoff series against Cleveland last year, he put All-Star Donovan Mitchell through what can only be described as five minutes of hell. Mitchell is one of the most athletic guards in the NBA, with lightning-quick acceleration, an elite vertical jump and the ability to change directions on a dime. But he could not escape the shackles of McBride forcing increasingly uncomfortable and difficult shots. Last night, Curry experienced much of the same. As Thibodeau noted after the game, what makes Curry so dangerous is even if you stop his initial moves with the ball, once he passes he springs into action to find catch-and-shoot opportunities off the initial action. Maintaining focus, energy and constant movement is an immense challenge against him, but McBride was up to the task, as he has been so many times before when his number’s been called. 

And yet perhaps the biggest surprise last night was what he did on the other end. McBride opened scorching hot from 3-point range, hitting four threes in the first quarter. He would finish with 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting, all the while maintaining constant defensive pressure on Curry in an astounding 46:31 of action. Despite playing essentially the entire game, the Marathon Mountaineer showed scarcely any signs of fatigue, hitting a huge 3-pointer late in the fourth right in the face of former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green to give the Knicks some breathing room. 

Oh, that Brunson guy was pretty good too. On the road against a team with championship pedigree, the Knicks needed their leader to have a big game, and boy did he deliver. In a statline that feels almost routine at this point, Brunson dropped a cool 34 and 7 assists on 12-of-25 shooting, torturing the Warriors in the pick-and-roll all night long. On his podcast after the game, Draymond Green was effusive in his praise of Brunson, noting how unlike most players when Brunson gets blitzed off a pick-and-roll. he never gets sped up. Brunson calmly let the defense settle, hitting Hartenstein with pocket passes and 4-on-3 opportunities, finding shooters on the weak side or simply attacking switches and out-of-position defenders himself. As Green noted, Brunson is playing at an All-NBA level on a nightly basis. 

Speaking of Hartenstein, he had one of his best performances as a Knick as well. As great as McBride was, defense is still a team game, especially against an offense as multi-faceted, fast and dynamic as the Warriors’. For all of McBride’s screen navigating prowess, without a great partner in pick-and-roll coverage it might not have been as impactful. 

Enter Hartenstein, who would fill up the stat sheet with 13 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals, a block and a game-high +26 rating. Though clearly still on a minutes restriction, he made the most of his opportunities, stopping penetration while playing aggressively on screens to take away pull-up 3-point opportunities (no easy task for a man of his size). On offense he provided a consistent outlet for Brunson out of traps and dissected the Warriors with pinpoint passing. Through injuries, difficult matchups and at times heavy minutes, Hartenstein has been one of the most indispensable Knicks all season, and as he heads into free agency this summer it appears he’ll be handsomely rewarded. 

Of course, because he’s still Steph Freaking Curry, it was impossible for the Knicks to completely shut down the Warriors. Their streak of holding opponents below 100 points finally snapped, and Curry finished with 27 and five assists on 8-of-20 shooting. As champions do, the Warriors repeatedly got up off the mat, getting as close as four late in the game and never letting the Knicks put more than 12-14 points of breathing room between them. In addition to high-level execution, the Knicks would need the H(e)art of a champion to pull off the victory. 

In what is becoming a regular occurrence, Josh Hart added another triple-double to his recent run of them, compiling 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. In true Hart fashion, he reached the rebound and assist thresholds first, finally getting the last two points he needed on a late, clutch, difficult, physical finish against the much bigger Jonathan Kuminga. Hart struggled to shoot all game, missing all six of his 3-point attempts, and yet in ways that are reminiscent of the man he lined up against he found a way to impact just about every other aspect of the game. 50-50 balls are really 80-20 with Hart in the area; despite being asked to play power forward undersized, his strength, agility and sheer willpower allowed him to defend all kinds of players and actions at a high level despite playing literally 48 minutes. He is the quintessential glue guy, giving the Knicks whatever they need at any time. What a great addition to this team and its identity. 

The Warriors would never go away, but as Curry noted afterward the Knicks had an answer every time the home team made a push, with McBride and Hartenstein delivering emphatic slam dunks to put the exclamation points on a 119-112 win. The Knicks close out their road trip Thursday against Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets after two much-needed days of rest. Before this trip began, many Knicks fans would have been satisfied with a 2-2 finish, even with a healthy Anunoby. Now they’re guaranteed a winning trip and have a chance to close it out undefeated against the defending champs, whom they beat by 38 six weeks ago despite Hartenstein being out. 


  • After struggling a bit with his shot the last few games, DiVincenzo had a very welcome return to form with 18 points (7-of-13 shooting, 4-of-8 from deep) against his former team. With three capable ballhandlers next to him in Brunson, McBride and Hart, DiVincenzo was free to hunt open catch-and-shoot opportunities and attack closeouts in space. DiVincenzo has adapted gamely to increased responsibility in Randle and Anunoby’s absence and, with the Knicks having traded two other reliable scorers in Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett, hitting some truly absurd shots and taking on more creation responsibilities. If and when Randle returns, he should be even more effective; hopefully Thibodeau continues to be opportunistic in his use of the small lineup.

  • After struggling against Domantas Sabonis and the Kings on Saturday, Precious Achiuwa had another rough go of it. He has been largely excellent as a Knick, but struggled in his pick-and-roll coverage and recovery against the well-oiled Warriors’ offense. Achiuwa did have nine rebounds (five offensive) and played hard in his 18 minutes, but the Knicks were clearly much better with Hartenstein on the floor. Jericho Sims played five minutes and faced many of the same issues as Achiuwa. The Warriors, Curry in particular, put a ton of stress on centers, so this is not some red flag for the two Knick bigs, who will learn from the experience. But it does underline just how impressive Hartenstein was. 

  • After providing important second-half offense with Brunson on the bench against Sacramento, Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanović were underwhelming, combining for just 9 points on 3-of-11 shooting. The Knicks will need more from them down the stretch and in the playoffs. 

  • While the Warriors are not quite what they were at the peak of their dynasty, this is still a talented team that will be in the play-in in a very deep Western conference. The mental toughness and execution required for a shorthanded team to close out Curry, Green, Klay Thompson and company on the road cannot be understated, especially on a night where the Warriors still shot 39% from three. This Knicks team embodies the platonic ideals of its head coach, even when missing arguably their best defender (in addition to their All-NBA power forward). There may be bad shooting performances, but you still know what you’re going to get night in and night out: 48 minutes of physical execution with no letting up. I love this damn team.  (Ed. note: The Knicks are now 17-0 when leading entering the fourth quarter on the road, which is also easy to love.)


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