From Peter Botte:
Tom Thibodeau often lauds his Knicks’ roster for its versatility, with the ability to run their offense through All-Star power forward Julius Randle and veteran guard Alec Burks, if needed.
Such a necessity never felt more immediate for the Knicks this season than it did Thursday night, when those two players fronted them to a nail-biting, 94-93 victory over Orlando with their top three point guards — Elfrid Payton, Derrick Rose and rookie Immanuel Quickley — all unavailable.
After suffering crushing road losses earlier this week against the Nets and the 76ers in their final possession, Reggie Bullock sealed the win for the undermanned Knicks with a strip of Evan Fournier in the closing seconds.
“Really important, we needed a win in a bad way and we knew we couldn’t leave without a win today, especially on our home court,” said Randle, whose second triple-double in six days and third of the season featured a career-high 17 assists. “So I’m proud of us, how we got it done. We won the game on the defensive end, like we have all year.
After two “good losses,” the Knicks then pulled off a “bad win,” but I think it was a better win than it looked, as the Magic are starting to get a bit more healthy, as both Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier played tonight and they both played well, so the Magic that the Knicks saw probably aren’t quite as pathetic as the recent Magic have appeared (although, don’t get me wrong, even with Gordon and Fournier, the Magic are not a good team).
But really, to pull off the win via a Reggie Bullock steal at the end of the game (after Bullock had a costly turnover leading to the Magic getting the ball back down one with a chance to win) was just beautiful to see. A big defensive play to seal a win? That’s just awesome.
The Magic not fouling once the ball was stolen, when there was very much still time let to tie the game? That was just pathetic, but that shouldn’t distract from how great Bullock’s play was.
While Randle’s now usual strong production (another triple double!) was great, the Knicks were really boosted by Frank Ntilikina showing some offensive life and Alec Burks just having a great offensive game.
The Knicks now have a lot of time off before they host the Sixers on Sunday night. They played them so close last time that it’d be amazing to see them pull an upset over the Embiid-less Sixers.