If Tom Thibodeau’s recent changes to the Knicks’ rotation have been aimed at prioritizing the stingy defense of his long coaching career, the results have been consistent.
The Knicks held their opponent under 90 points for the second straight game for the first time this season and got another win against a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference with a 113-89 shutout on Wednesday night. Tre Young and the Hawks in the Garden.
Julius Randle led the Knicks with 34 points and 17 rebounds while enjoying what Thibodeau called a “monster game,” making six 3-pointers. Quentin Grimes, who made 5 3s on 8-for-11 shooting in 31 minutes and scored a season-high 23 points after playing 40 minutes in Sunday’s 92-81 win continued his strong double game. Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers.
“I think you’ll see him start to pick up his game defensively and offensively,” Thibodeau said of Grimes. injured his leg in the training camp. “He shoots the 3, he reads the ball well. And I thought Deuce [McBride] also gave us very good moments in defense.
“I think it’s important for us. There are going to be guys on the perimeter every night that are tough to guard. So the better we protect the ball, the better it makes us.”
RJ Barrett added 15 points on a 6-for-36 shooting night (16.7 percent) from 3-point range to improve to 12-13 before visiting Charlotte on Friday for the Knicks, who held off Young and the Hawks.
Young missed all four of his 3-point attempts with Grimes often used as the starting point guard, but scored 19 points to lead the Hawks (13-12).
“He’s one of the best guards every night. It’s a tough game,” Grimes said. “I like to make it tough for somebody to score on me, look at it as a personal challenge, more of a pride thing. So no matter who it is, I , I feel like I’m really up to the challenge.
Hawks guard Dejounte Murray left the game in the first quarter with a sprained left ankle and did not return. He finished with two points in four minutes after lighting up the Knicks in his first Garden appearance earlier this season.
In Thibodeau’s revised nine-man rotation, McBride had three points and six assists in 27 minutes, 19 minutes off the bench. Derrick Rose and Cam Reddish missed their second straight game, while Evan Fournier missed his 12th straight game since his last appearance on Nov. 13.
Young, who took to the floor in blue and orange sneakers emblazoned with “King of Broadway” on the heel, was usually introduced first, though it was his new backcourt mate, Murray, who led the Knicks to 36 points, scored nine goals and an assist. Five steals in the Hawks’ previous visit to MSG on Nov. 2.
After Barrett fouled Murray three minutes into the game and made the technical free throws, the 2022 All-Star Night was over.
“We knew we were going to do a lot with Trae and Dejounte, even though he was injured, but we were able to help them and then go to their shootouts,” Randle said.
Grimes and McBride have certainly had an impact on the team’s improved perimeter defense over the past two games. The Knicks held Cleveland to 34.9 percent shooting overall and 22.9 percent (8-for-35) from 3-point range on Sunday.
Grimes also made a dozen 3-pointers in the first half and added a couple of great layups to help the Knicks build a 53-41 halftime lead.
The crowd cheered when Young was called for a third-quarter technical foul for complaining to the officials, and Randle missed two 3-pointers as the Knicks led 89-67 entering the final period.
“I think we had 48 minutes together,” Grimes said. “The last two games, we put together a full 48 minutes of good basketball.”