The great Marv Albert would label this one, “extended garbage time.”
The Knicks haven’t had many “laughers” this season but they literally coasted to their fifth win in a row at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, a 112-84 victory over the Portland Trailblazers. The game was tied once as the Knicks never got behind.
O.G. Anunoby, who has yet to lose in a Knicks’ uniform, led all scorers with 23 points. Anunoby came here with a rep of being consistent with the corner three and that’s what transpired in this one as he shot 4 of 6 from beyond the arc, 9 of 12 overall. Chants of “O-G, O-G” rang out as the newest Knick stepped to the free throw line in the second quarter.
Julius Randle added 20 points while Jalen Brunson did not shoot well (3 for 11, 12 points) but he had seven assists. Isaiah Hartenstein continued his strong play with 14 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists as he continues to fill in very nicely for the injured Mitchell Robinson.
The 25-year old center is taking advantage of his opportunity but he credits the recent trade as being the catalyst for his play of late. “Getting OG on both sides has been great for us, the ball has been moving a lot better,” Hartenstein said. “He [Anunoby] makes my life a lot easier, just having him has been great.”
Jerami Grant led Portland (10-26) with 21 points while Anfernee Simons scored 12.
The Knicks improved to 15-1 against teams with losing records (only Denver is better in that category) and the easy victory enabled Coach Tom Thibodeau to rest almost of his starters for the entire fourth quarter. Anunoby was the only starter on the floor to begin the fourth quarter but was taken out with 7:24 left. “Over the course of a season, the goal is to be playing our best at the end, so there’s still a lot of things that we have to correct and do better,” Thibodeau said.
The Knicks never let up and to be frank, there were times when Portland looked like there was absolutely no effort to defend. The Knicks dominated the boards with a 55-43 advantage and had 26 assists on 37 field goals as they continue to play their best team basketball in a very long time.
“Just having that chemistry going on right now I think has been great for us and we just want to keep building on it and keep taking steps forward,” Hartenstein said.
It was 38-22 after one and 63-41 at halftime as the Trailblazers had no answers for the Knicks who were doing whatever they wanted on the court.
The second half was more of the same as the Knicks upped the lead to 97-61 after three. The Knicks are now 18-0 when they have a lead after three as the reserves took their turn in the fourth quarter.
Deuce McBride (16 pts in 21 minutes) and Quentin Grimes combined for 33 points off the bench. Thibodeau used 12 players but Evan Fournier was nowhere to be found.
Donte DiVicenzo got the party started with a steal and a dunk after Portland won the opening tip. It was a portent of things to come as the Knicks posted their best defensive effort of the season. 84 points was a season low for the Knicks defense.
It was a 25-17 lead in the first quarter when the Knicks blew the game open with an 11-0 run to go up by 19. Portland would never get closer than 13. “Good rhythm, very aggressive early. I thought the defensive activity to start the game was really good. We got some turnovers, got into the open floor. I thought our guys did a really good job of attacking the zone, getting into the gaps and making plays for each other,” said Thibodeau.
Less than four minutes into the second quarter, Brunson’s three gave the Knicks a 49-30 lead. They closed out the quarter strong and led by 22 at the half.
Anunoby’s running lay up with a little over seven minutes left in the third quarter gave the Knicks a 76-46 lead. Grimes’ three with less than a minute left made it 97-59.
Anunoby’s final points of the game in the opening minute of the fourth quarter gave the Knicks a 36 points lead (99-63) as they imposed their will on the game from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
Knicks are a season best seven over .500 (22-15) and are 11-4 at home. On Thursday night, they’ll head to Dallas. The last time that the Knicks played in Dallas was December 27, 2022 when Luka Doncic scored 60 in a 126-121 overtime loss.