Tuesday night, the Knicks advanced to the quarterfinals as a wild card in the In-Season Tournament after dominating the Hornets, and through the Bucks beating the Heat. New York will face Milwaukee next Tuesday in the first knockout round of the tournament.
Knicks Stun Heat To Keep Tournament Hopes Alive
To even have the opportunity to clinch a berth in the tournament, the Knicks had to beat the Heat last Friday. With 3:40 left in the third quarter, Jimmy Butler hit a free throw to put the Heat up by 21 points. New York could have packed it in at this point, however the Knicks turned the table on the Heat to steal the game and stay alive in the tournament.
After the 3:40 mark in the third quarter, Immanuel Quickley scored 14 points, while RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson each scored eight of their own in the fourth quarter. The trio scored the final 13 points for the Knicks, as New York held on at the end to secure the 100-98 comeback victory.
In the short season so far, this was easily the best win of the season for the Knicks. Not only did they maintain their composure while down 21 nearing the start of the fourth quarter, New York was able to get some revenge in a high stakes game against the team that eliminated them in the playoffs last year. Although it is the regular season, these tournament games have undeniably added a different level of intensity compared to a regular season game, and to see the Knicks make this sort of comeback is a great sign early in the season.
Knicks Take Care Of Business To Clinch
The final game of the Knicks tournament group stage came against the 5-10 Hornets, and New York took care of business early. The Knicks jumped out to an early 13-point lead and never had to look back from there as they won 115-91.
Julius Randle led the way as he stuffed the stat sheet with 25 points, an astounding 20 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Quickley picked up where he left off with his tournament play against the Heat as he scored 23 points on 9-20 from the field and 4-10 from three. Josh Hart had one of his best games of the young season as well with 17 points and six rebounds on 7-10 shooting from the field.
Later that night, the Bucks would beat the Heat to move themselves to 4-0 in the group stage and take first place in Group B. This meant that the Knicks finished second place in Group B as they went 3-1 with a loss to the Bucks, but because they had the highest score differential of the non-group winners, New York clinched the one wild card berth.
For the East side of the bracket, the Bucks finished as the one seed, the Pacers finished two, the Celtics finished three, and the Knicks finished four. New York is now set to face Milwaukee next Tuesday in the first round of the quarterfinals.
Can New York Avenge Their Group Play Loss Against Milwaukee?
Because New York and Milwaukee were in the same group for the tournament, the two faced off already in the group stage. Milwaukee took the victory by a score of 110-105 behind 30 points from their new addition of Damian Lillard. Jalen Brunson did about as much as he could to will the Knicks to a win as he scored 45 points, but it ended up not being enough.
In this game, New York was missing Barrett which meant Josh Hart was inserted in the starting lineup. The extra defensive pressure on Julius Randle played a big role as he shot a mere 5-20 in this game. Barrett being back will take some defensive pressure off Randle, and also make it so that Brunson does not need to score 45 for the Knicks to even keep the game close.
From the Bucks perspective, this first meeting was only the fifth game of the season for them, and they now look much more comfortable with the addition of Lillard than they did earlier on in the season. Obviously defending Antetokounmpo and Lillard will be the top priority for New York, but they will have to watch out for Brook Lopez as he has been on a recent tear offensively. The defensive attention needed on Antetokounmpo and Lillard has opened up more opportunities for Lopez as he has a 39 and 28-point game in his past four games.
This tournament also provides an opportunity for New York to test themselves against the top contenders in the East. The Knicks have yet to beat the Bucks or the Celtics in their three attempts this season, so getting wins against these opponents in higher stakes games could provide some confidence early on in the season for the rest of the way.
The Knicks will face the Pistons on Thursday and the Raptors Friday before the Tuesday quarterfinals matchup against the Bucks.
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