The Knicks are looking to turn their season around after winning back-to-back games for the first time since late October, beating the Timberwolves in Minnesota, 96-88.
Led by Mitchell Robinson’s 14 points and 18 rebounds (season-high), the Knicks showed some grit in holding off the Timberwolves who were trying to claw back a 17-point deficit.
New York hadn’t won consecutive games since beating the Pacers on October 31, which marked the end of a three-game winning streak at the time.
The Knicks now move to 16-18 on the season, and despite being tenth in the Eastern Conference, lie just one and a half games back of the Wizards in eighth, and two full games back of the 76ers in the sixth seed. This is telling given how many games lost to injury and COVID-19 the Knicks have had to endure this season.
They’ve had seven players in protocols this season, compared to last season when Derrick Rose was the only player who spent extended time out of action due to Health and Safety Protocols.
Now without Derrick Rose (ankle injury) – arguably their most important player this season, it’s going to take a continued team effort, like the one against Minnesota where five players scored in double-digits, to climb back up the standings.
If the Knicks are going to salvage their season, this might be the stretch to start doing so. The schedule is working in their favor.
Nine of their next ten games are against opponents with a record below .500. Last season’s run into the playoffs, where the Knicks entered as a fourth seed, was in part fueled by a late-season stretch in which the Knicks went 16-4 to close out the season.
|Dec. 29||at Detroit|
|Dec. 31||@ Oklahoma City|
|Jan. 2||@ Toronto|
|Jan. 4||vs Indiana|
|Jan. 6||vs Boston|
|Jan. 8||@ Boston|
|Jan. 10||vs San Antonio|
|Jan. 12||vs Dallas|
|Jan. 15||@ Atlanta|
The difference this season is that they’ll have to do it without Derrick Rose who is out until at least mid-February recovering from ankle surgery, but Kemba Walker is back in the lineup and looking like the four-time All-Star player from his past averaging 22.8 points and six assists in the past five games.
“He’s being very aggressive, which is the way we want him to play. He’s not deferring at all,” said Knicks’ coach Tom Thibodeau.
Julius Randle looked like the player that was an All-Star and All-NBA just one season ago during the Christmas Day game against Atlanta, and he will need to continue to be that player and not the one who went 5-of-20 from the field against Minnesota, for the Knicks to have any chance of making a playoff run.
The next ten games will tell us a lot about the 2021-22 New York Knicks.