Random dribbles following the Knicks’ 111-96 home win over the shorthanded Lakers on Monday.
1. It’s taken a little more than half a season for Tom Thibodeau to make the Knicks gritty and relevant again. So make it three straight wins and a belief that something cool is finally happening in New York.
2. The Knicks didn’t seem to care that the Lakers were undermanned — and still playing without injured stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis . After all, the Lakers were coming off an impressive win over the Brooklyn Nets.
3. So after a close first half, the Knicks (28-27) upped the defensive intensity and allowed Julius Randle to carry them home.
4. Randle was again brilliant, erupting for 34 points and 10 rebounds, admitting that playing against his former team always provides a little extra motivation.
5. He added that some serious love from Knicks fans didn’t hurt.
6. Randle to reporters: “It’s cool man the love you get in the Garden, the love they’re showing me is amazing. It feels really good. I’m not going to lie, it’s motivating me to keep working harder and bringing it every night.”
7. While Randle was again the star, the Knicks received a fairly balanced effort. Elfrid Payton (20 points, 9-of-12 shooting) and Derrick Rose (14 points) also gave strong showings, and Nerlens Noel pulled down an underrated nine boards. “I think Elfrid and Nerlens are sort of the unsung heroes,” Thibodeau said.
8. Then there was the defense, which squeezed the passing lanes, challenged shots and forced the Lakers into 24 turnovers. The Knicks are already playing playoff-style basketball.
9. More Thibodeau: “In general, it’s an important step for our team to take, to start with our defense. And we wanted that to be a big part of our foundation. And hopefully that’s something that you can count on each and every night is your defense.”
10. Interestingly, all this took place during a very off night from RJ Barrett — who finished with a measly seven points on 2-of-11 shooting. But it just goes to show that the Knicks aren’t as reliant on big nights from their regular scorers under Thibodeau.
11. Then again, 111 points is far from awful.
12. Dennis Schroder led the Lakers with 21 points, despite being hobbled with a pelvic injury. Meanwhile, the Knicks held Lakers center Andre Drummond to just three points. As you know, the Knicks had an interest in Drummond following his contract buyout with the Cleveland Cavaliers (and likely still do).