Kyrie, Kyrie Irving, Irving, Spalding basketball in court, Nets, Knicks

Knicks Take Sole Possession of Third Place Amidst Randle Injury

After winning their league leading eighth straight game, the Knicks have taken sole possession of third place in the Eastern Conference as they continue to have the best record in the league since the OG Anunoby trade. In their game Saturday against the Heat however, Julius Randle went down late in the fourth quarter with an injury. Reports would later come out that Randle dislocated his shoulder, and fortunately for the Knicks and Randle, it appears that his timeline for a return will be measured in weeks, not months. So far, New York has held steady without Randle as they picked up a 21-point win against the Hornets and a 15-point win against the Jazz.

Knicks Get Two Statement Wins

Before New York got on this hot stretch, the team had struggled against some of the top teams in the league. Last Thursday, the Knicks got a shot at the defending champs in the Nuggets and they not only won, but absolutely dominated. New York won by a whopping 38 points in a 122-84 victory. Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic put up an impressive individual stat line with 31 points and 11 rebounds, but outside of Jokic, the Knicks completely shut down the high powered Nugget offense. Outside of Jokic, only one Nugget scored double digit points. As a team, Denver shot only 40.5 percent from the field and 19.2 percent from three.

For the Knicks, it was once again the new addition of Anunoby who put on another phenomenal performance. Anunoby led the team in scoring with 26 points on an efficient 10-18 shooting from the field. He also had a whopping six steals, and once again led the team in plus/minus with a +38 which was the same total score difference in the game. Contrary to the Nuggets, the Knicks had six players in double figures, including 21 from Brunson, 17 from Randle, 16 from DiVincenzo, 19 from Grimes and 13 from McBride.

A few days after blowing out the Nuggets, New York matched up against the team that eliminated them in the postseason last year in the Heat. The Heat kept this game closer than the Nuggets did, but the Knicks pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 125-109 victory. Brunson put together a 32 point, eight assists performance on 12-22 from the field and 4-8 from three.

Anunoby and Randle each chipped in 19 points, and Josh Hart had an all around performance off the bench with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists, with a team high +30 plus/minus. This two game stretch was easily the most impressive part of the Knick winning streak to this point, but even with the injury to Randle, the team kept rolling after these games.

Role Players Step Up In Randle's Absence

Not only did Randle miss the next two games for the Knicks, but so did Anunoby. The question of where would the offensive production come from though was quickly answered by Donte DiVincenzo. So far in the season, DiVincenzo has mainly operated on offense as a catch and shoot threat, but with the injuries to Randle and Anunoby, DiVincenzo got an opportunity offensively and he made the absolute most out of it.

In the first game against the Hornets, DiVincenzo scored 28 points on 10-22 from the field, along with six rebounds and five assists. He was also a team high +24 plus/minus. Somehow, DiVincenzo topped his performance against the Hornets with his game against the Jazz. DiVincenzo scored 33 points on 11-22 from the field and 9-15 from three. He also had five rebounds, four assists, and four steals while once again leading the team in plus/minus with a +23.

It has not just been DiVincenzo though stepping up his game with the absences of Randle and Anunoby. Josh Hart moved to the starting lineup and had eight points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists against the Hornets. Against the Jazz, Hart put up a triple double with 10 of each of points, rebounds, and assists, along with two steals and two blocks. New addition Precious Achiuwa also moved to the starting lineup, and against the Jazz 18 points on an efficient 8-13 from the floor.

It has been a complete team effort in these two games without Anunoby and Randle, and with these wins combined with a few 76ers losses, the Knicks have now taken sole possession of third place in the east with a 31-17 record. With this record, they are also only 1.5 games out of second place behind the Bucks.

There is still a long way to go this season, and it will not be an easy task to keep this pace up without Randle, but the Knicks have set themselves up to potentially play multiple playoff rounds with homecourt advantage by the time the playoffs come.

New York will look to continue their winning streak Thursday against the Pacers.