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Knicks’ Cinderella Story Threatened by Familiar Foe

New York Knicks ahead of 2024 NBA Playoffs

The New York Knicks are this season’s Cinderella team.

Although the New York glamour market and the Knicks’ rich history have led to the franchise garnering plenty of attention, much of the prestige that organization enjoys is based on events that transpired over 50 years ago. The Knicks, who have two NBA titles to their name, last won a championship in 1973. Since then, stars like Carmelo Anthony, Stephon Marbury, and Patrick Ewing have definitely added to their mythical status. Indeed, it’s stars like them that keep New York’s NBA Finals dreams alive. However, while these storied players have wrote new chapters in Knicks’ history, they’ve all fallen short of the ultimate goal.

Now, that task has been taken up by Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and their supporting cast. Unfortunately for these two All-Stars, their efforts have been thwarted by poorly timed injuries.

Knicks’ Cinderella Story Threatened by Familiar Foe

Brunson and Randle have been a tag team since last season, with New York signing Brunson to a four-year, $104 million contract in 2022. Two years later and the Knicks have won 97 regular season games. Their 2023-24 campaign was their first 50-win season since 2012-13 and just their second of the millennium.

Yet, in the 2023 NBA Playoffs, New York only made it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Julius Randle

Randle was ailing from an ankle injury that he sustained shortly before the regular season finale, re-aggravating it in the First Round. Consequently, they were unable to defeat the Miami Heat, who beat them 4-2. Randle averaged 18.8 points, 10.2 points, and 4.2 assists per game against the Heat, giving it all. However, he shot just 41.1 percent from the floor and 28.1 percent from 3.

In the 2024 NBA Playoffs, the Knicks are trying to avoid déjà vu. Randle is injured again but was ruled out for the remainder of the 2023-24 season in early April. Though he hadn’t played since late January, Randle was holding out hope that he could recover from his dislocated shoulder without requiring surgery. As it turns out, he did.

Now, Brunson has put his cape on, trying to save the Knicks from postseason elimination. Averaging 34.6 points and 7.9 assists per game (both career-highs) while shooting 44.9 percent from the field, he’s done a spectacular job. His scoring average is the highest in the playoffs. He’s nailing a lot of highly difficult shots as New York’s most reliable shot-creator. He’s even become more intent on facilitating, which has frankly been one of his weaknesses considering his position.

(This is one reason why Donte DiVincenzo replaced Quentin Grimes in the starting lineup. DiVincenzo averaged 3.2 assists per game over the last four months of the regular season, supplementing the ball-movement.)

Three games into the 2024 Eastern Conference Semifinals, there’s another problem though. Randle isn’t the only one hurt. Two of their best defenders —Mitchell Robinson and OG Anunoby —are too.

Mitchell Robinson

Robinson has been ruled out for the remainder of the postseason after re-aggravating an ankle injury against the Philadelphia 76ers in the previous round. The 7-footer is an elite shot-blocker whose interior defense can be an x-factor in any given game. In fact, he has the second-most blocks in Knicks history despite being just 26 years old.

OG Anunoby

Anunoby was in and out of the lineup during the 2023-24 regular season due to an elbow injury. He’s now dealing with a left hamstring strain that he suffered against the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Having already missed Game 3, which wound up being a loss for New York, he’s also been ruled out for Game 4.

Due to the nature of hamstring injuries, his status for Game 5 is even in doubt, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that “there has not been enough progress yet to think he will make his return…”

This is a major blow to the Knicks. An upper echelon 3-and-D wing, Anunoby makes life incredibly difficult for his defensive matchups. As New York only has one volume scorer available, having a player that can put the clamps on a high-scoring opponent is essential. Yet, Anunoby is all but irreplaceable. DiVincenzo and Josh Hart are above-average perimeter defenders who play bigger than their size, but they’re unable to truly mimic Anunoby’s length and strength. The team’s struggles when he went out of the lineup lend credence to that.

The Knicks are 26-5 with Anunoby in the lineup, playoffs included. However, they’re 13-15 without him.

Jalen Brunson

With Brunson himself on the Game 2 injury report because of a sore right foot, all the Knicks’ other injuries are magnified tenfold. Even with Brunson being taken off the injury report for Game 3, his injury is in the back of fans’ minds. Considering his high usage rate, it only heightens the potential he sustains a stress injury.

The Knicks already are leaping over hurdles in their race to the NBA Finals. An injury to Brunson would put their dreams of winning a ring this year to bed.


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