The Knicks were back home Monday, the first of four straight home games sandwiching the All-Star break. But with a five-game road trip behind them and a seven-game trip awaiting them after these four home games, the Knicks hardly can take anything for granted.
They opened the homestand against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team with five straight losses and without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, their leading scorer. The Thunder were 17-39 before Monday’s game but did beat the Knicks, 95-80, on Dec. 31.
“I think the way they’re playing, playing fast, particularly in the last five games, [Josh] Giddey is pushing the ball,” coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game. “They have a number of guys who can handle the ball and get out on the break. So defensive transition, the ability to get into the paint, that’s the challenge.”
Noel out again
This may not be a surprise, but Nerlens Noel was sidelined again Monday night.
Noel remains a day-to-day issue, but he was sidelined for the fourth consecutive game and has played only 25 of 58 games this season. The issue remains a sore left knee, a problem that has nagged him since the preseason, when he sat out all four exhibition games.
The Knicks did have Mitchell Robinson and Cam Reddish available after both were unable to finish the final game of the five-game West Coast trip because of injuries. Robinson was in the starting lineup Monday.
Immanuel Quickley suffered through another tough shooting performance Saturday in Portland, finishing 1-for-6 and 0-for-3 from beyond the arc. In the last seven games before Monday, he was shooting 25.0% overall and 16.7% from three-point range (4-for-24).
“There’s going to be ups and downs throughout the course of the season,” said Thibodeau, whose team had lost 11 of 14 entering Monday to fall to 25-32. “If you’re not shooting well, do other things to help the team win. So just take the right shots and the results will take care of themselves. Play defense, share the ball, play hard, play together. Just do those things .”