The Knicks are… average?
It doesn’t seem like an overly-complimentary label, but for a franchise entering the first week of December that had won just 21 games since the start of the 2018-19 season, it’s a monumental jump in perception.
New York spoiled the homecoming of Carmelo Anthony by beating down the Portland Trail Blazers 117-93 on Wednesday night.
It was the Knicks’ third victory in succession, improving their record under the tenure of interim head coach Mike Miller to an even 6-6. They hadn’t won three-straight games since Dec. 10-16 of 2017 when they reeled off four-in-a-row.
Thursday night at Madison Square Garden featured the debut of veteran shooting guard Reggie Bullock, who overcame spinal fusion surgery and the murder of his sister in recent months to get back on the court.
He didn’t miss a beat, dropping 11 points in 15 minutes that included a 3-of-5 showing from three-point range.
Knicks fans also got the opportunity to take in the continued development of Mitchell Robinson. The young center tied a career-best with 22 points while remaining a menace near the basket.
MITCHELL ROBINSON FROM THE RAFTERS pic.twitter.com/3LQNSbLIwc
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) January 2, 2020
He’s showing an affinity to link up with fellow youngster, guard Frank Ntillikina, as the two wreaked havoc on the pick-and-roll all night. The Frenchman picked up nine points and 10 assists in the win.
His offensive production has been a hot topic of conversation since his arrival to the NBA, but Ntilikina’s defense has often been an overarching positive. He was a team-leading +23 in the New Year’s Day triumph.
Now, under Miller, the Knicks are following suit.
Their defense has been immovable during their three-game win streak, averaging 91.7 points allowed per outing.
That’s quite an improvement from the 112.7 they were averaging over their first 31 games of the season.
New York has shown an ability to stifle opponents over extended runs, most notably holding the Brooklyn Nets to just eight two-point field goals on Dec. 26.
It’s the kind of philosophy that the Knicks have needed for some time. This isn’t the type of roster that will shoot you out of the gym. A staunch defense is needed to give them a chance.
With Miller at the helm, the early returns are more than promising. They provide a sliver of competence for a franchise that has severely lacked that in recent years.