Knicks Complete January For The Ages

Josh Hart, Knicks, NBA
Jan 30, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) is introduced before a game against the Utah Jazz at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

January 2024 could be remembered as the turning point that catapulted the New York Knicks into the realm of contenders in the NBA. They made a blockbuster trade with the Toronto Raptors right before the New Year that has turned their sputtering season into a smashing success.

The additions of OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa have had an incredible impact on the team. Anunboy has had a positive plus/minus ratio in every game he has played with the Knicks to this point. 

Despite some rough patches early on, Achiuwa has excelled in the scheme head coach Tom Thibodeau has installed. He was called upon to step into the starting lineup with Anunboy and Julius Randle sidelined and excelled.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, Donte DiVincenzo, Precious Achiuwa, Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks Updates

How impressive of a stretch was this for the Knicks? They took full advantage of some soft spots in their schedule, as they started the month on a five-game winning streak and are currently riding an eight-game streak. 

They went 14-2 in January, and the 14 victories are tied for the second-most wins in franchise history in a single month. The only time they had more was December of 1968 when they went 15-3. The last time the Knicks won 14 games in a month was the 1993-94 season, in which they advanced to the NBA Finals in.

A big reason for the Knicks’ success in January was their performance on the defensive end of the court. They struggle mightily in December following the injury to starting center Mitchell Robinson. He was the anchor to their unit and his loss was certainly felt.

But, they turned things around in a major way in January. Isaiah Hartenstein, who stepped into the lineup in his place, has been magnificent. The team has received excellent minutes from Achiuwa and Jericho Sims in the middle as well.

The biggest difference has been swapping RJ Barrett out for OG Anunoby. Anunoby is one of the best defenders in the NBA, possessing a rare blend of size, length and athleticism that allows him to defend all five positions on the court.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, Donte DiVincenzo, Precious Achiuwa, Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks Updates

Just how impressive was New York’s defense? They rank first in five different categories in 2024. The Knicks are atop the NBA in defensive rating, points allowed per game, point differential, opponent’s field goal percentage and rebounds per game. They are second in opponent’s 3-point field goal percentage and fifth in offensive rating.

The Knicks allowed only one opponent to score 110 or more points thus far in 2024; the Dallas Mavericks scored 128 points on January 11th, buoyed by a 44-point first quarter. They surrendered 100.1 points per game in those 16 games, a truly unbelievable number. The lowest-scoring team in the NBA currently averages 107.5 points per game and 27 teams are averaging 110+ points.

The Mavericks were the only team to score more than their average points per game heading into their matchup against the Knicks. Every other team was held under their average, with 12 teams being held double-digit points under their average. 

Six of those teams were north of 15 points below their scoring average. The defending champion Denver Nuggets were 31.1 points under their season average, which was the highest differential in January.

What the Knicks were doing to teams defensively in January is something we just don’t see in the current climate of the NBA. Teams are playing at faster paces than we have ever seen with offense at an all-time high. Despite that, New York has found a way to succeed defensively and stifle their opponents.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, Donte DiVincenzo, Precious Achiuwa, Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks Updates

While defense has been their calling card and stood out, a lot more has gone into the Knicks’ success. Players are stepping up when their numbers are called, as Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, Hartenstein and Anunoby all missed at least two games in January.

Donte DiVincenzo has stepped up to carry the load offensively with Anunoby and Randle sidelined. He matched some NBA history against the Utah Jazz, turning into a lethal shooter and creating a new Splash Brothers backcourt along with Brunson.

Brunson deserves a ton of credit for turning himself into an All-Star and contender for an All-NBA spot at the end of the season. He is the engine that makes the Knicks go and was a driving force behind the team’s success in January.

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