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Sports Knicks clinch fourth seed in East, completing surprising turnaround

07:30  17 may  2021
07:30  17 may  2021 Source:   sportingnews.com

Randle, Rose lead Knicks to win over Grizzlies

  Randle, Rose lead Knicks to win over Grizzlies MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Julius Randle scored 28 points, Derrick Rose added 25, converting 11 of 15 shots and the New York Knicks held off the Memphis Grizzlies 118-104 on Monday night for their 12th win in 13 games. “I like the toughness of the team,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They persevered and just found away.” With the win, the Knicks are assured of their first winning record in a season since going 54-28 in 2012-13. “It’s really good,” Randle said of the team’s recent play, adding that the Knicks “need to keep doing it to get better.

The Knicks were not expected to be competitive during the 2020-21 NBA season.

The team was mired in a rebuild and had hired Tom Thibodeau in the offseason to be its new coach. This was the veteran's third stop on the head coaching circuit, and it was expected that he would need time to turn things around. After all, the Knicks posted a 21-45 record during the COVID-19-shortened 2019-20 season, the seventh-worst mark in the NBA.

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They were expected to be one of the East's worst teams again. The the Westgate Superbook listed their over/under season win total at 22.5, tied for lowest in the NBA with the likes of the Cavaliers and Thunder.

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Instead, they became one of the league's biggest overachievers. They finished the season 41-31 and clinched the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference by virtue of their 96-92 win over the Celtics on Sunday.

The main reason for this massive year-to-year turnaround was the team's defense. The Knicks finished No. 1 in scoring defense at 104.7 points per game, and their 108.5 defensive rating ranked fourth-best entering Sunday's games. This came a year after New York ranked from below-average to bottom-five in most major defensive categories.

Thibodeau has long emphasized defense, so it's no surprise that the Knicks made massive strides in that area. Still, their improvement was especially impressive considering the team hadn't made major changes to the roster. They added a handful of players — Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley — who served as key role players but weren't superstars.

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  NBA playoff scenarios 2021: Updated playoff picture, seeds ahead of play-in tournament, first round Here is a breakdown of the clinching scenarios for Saturday's games along with the possible seedings in each conference. NBA playoff scenarios 2021 Eastern Conference 1. 76ers 2. Nets or Bucks 3. Nets or Bucks 4. Hawks or Knicks 5. Hawks, Heat or Knicks 6. Heat or Knicks ——————————— 7. Celtics 8. Hornets or Wizards 9. Hornets, Pacers or Wizards 10. Hornets, Pacers or Wizards Western Conference 1. Jazz or Suns 2. Jazz or Suns 3. Nuggets or Clippers 4. Nuggets or Clippers 5. Mavericks or Trail Blazers 6. Mavericks, Trail Blazers or Lakers ————————— 7. Trail Blazers or Lakers 8. Warriors or Grizzlies 9.

Indeed, the transformation came mostly from within, and that included the ascension of All-Star Julius Randle. The big man carried the Knicks by averaging a career-high 24.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists while playing 37.6 minutes per game.

Now, Randle and the Knicks will look to keep their unexpected run going in a first-round matchup with the fifth-seeded Hawks beginning next weekend.

"It'll be fun," Randle said Sunday in a postgame interview. "They're a really good team so we're going to have to lock in, and it's going to take all of us to beat them.

"We're looking forward to it. We're excited we get to start off on our home court. We'll be ready for the challenge."

Hawks' Trae Young embracing chance to silence Knicks fans at Madison Square Garden .
Trae Young hasn't been intimidated by the boos and jeers from Knicks fans at Madison Square Garden: "I’m obviously doing something right."NEW YORK — It started early in the 2017-18 season at Oklahoma, when freshman guard Trae Young, college basketball’s newest sensation, started to irritate fan bases with a spectacularly smooth game and confident style befitting a future first-round draft pick.

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