January Was Record Setting Month For Knicks

Tom Thibodeau, Knicks, NBA
Dec 27, 2023; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau talks with his team before the start of a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are the hottest team in the NBA. They are riding an eight-game winning streak, the last two victories of which have come without forwards OG Anunoby and Julius Randle in the lineup. Anunoby is dealing with inflammation in his right elbow while Randle recovers from a separated right shoulder.

Both are integral to the Knicks’ success and played a major part in the team’s turnaround in January. New York probably wishes the month would last forever as they went 14-2, surging up the Eastern Conference standings. Currently 31-17 on the season, they are only a half-game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for second place in the conference, six games behind the No. 1 seed Boston Celtics.

The 14 games are the most New York has won in a single month since 1994 when they advanced to the NBA Finals. They weren’t just beating teams this month, either, as the Knicks were routinely blowing out their opponents. 10 victories were by 15+ points, which is the most in franchise history.

There is a level of excitement in the city and within the fan base that hasn’t been there for a long time. After years of ineptitude, are the Knicks actually back? It certainly looks that way as all of the moves Leon Rose has been paying off.

Jalen Brunson is turning into a star before our very eyes and his collegiate teammates from Villanova, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo, are playing great basketball. Precious Achiuwa has answered the call with Anunoby and Randle sidelined and Isaiah Hartenstein recovering from an injury of his own.

To find as much success as the Knicks did in January, it takes a total team effort. Everyone stepped up when their number was called, as New York was without four starters, not including Mitchell Robinson who has been sidelined since early December, for multiple games apiece in January.

It was a next-man-up mentality for Tom Thibodeau’s group, who received contributions from up and down the roster. There couldn’t have been anyone in the NBA or basketball world that could have seen this coming, especially after how poorly the team played in December.

The Knicks gave up 124.8 points per game in December. The loss of Robinson hit them hard as their production on that end of the court fell off a cliff. But, they rebounded hugely in January, giving up only 100.1 points per game. 

To put into context just how impressive that number is, there are 27 teams in the NBA currently averaging 110+ points per game. The Memphis Grizzlies, the lowest-scoring team in the league, averages 107.5.

According to OptaSTATS on X, the Knicks -24.7 drop is the largest month-to-month difference in NBA history with at least 10 games played. It blew away the previous high, held by the San Antonio Spurs in November and December of 1987 when they were -17.7.

Even with some hiccups figuring out the new rotation, as the Knicks could use another shot creator off the bench behind Brunson, teams are going to win a lot of games playing defense at that level. If New York can sustain that throughout the regular season and into the NBA playoffs, they are going to be playing deep into June.

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