The New York Knicks started the 2023-24 season with a preseason victory against a Celtics team without their starters. A win’s still a win, right?
In a game where Tom Thibodeau played Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle for a combined 19 minutes, New York won by seven, 114-107. The score was closer than it should’ve been against a team where Payton Pritchard was the leading scorer, but the Knicks’ offense getting off to a shaky start wasn’t exactly unexpected.
Still, there was a lot to like. Immanuel Quickley, who is on extension watch, led New York with 21 points (8-of-14). Brunson looked like his usual self and shot 4-of-5 for 10 points in six minutes. Randle was more patient on offense and was engaged on the defensive end. RJ Barrett was aggressive and shot 9-of-9 from the charity stripe.
Evan Fournier came alive and had 11 points (3-of-7 from three) in 21 minutes, and Jacob Toppin gave fans Obi Toppin flashbacks when he threw down an alley-oop. The night ended on a high note, but one player stood out from the rest.
Mitchell Robinson was dominant on the glass for the Knicks
Mitchell Robinson didn’t have any rust to shake off. His energy was high, and he made an immediate impact down low.
During training camp, Quentin Grimes said Robinson is “probably the most important person on the team,” and the center showcased that. He finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks in 23 minutes.
Robinson is in great shape, and no play proved that more than his two-way highlight in the third quarter.
Robinson’s lone weakness was his free throw shooting, as he shot 0-of-3 from the charity stripe. He’s a career 52.9% free throw shooter and is coming off a career-worst 48.4% in 2022-23. The Knicks would benefit if he could get that number up to even 60%.
Jericho Sims as backup power forward didn’t go well for the Knicks
With Josh Hart out, Jericho Sims entered the game in the first quarter for Julius Randle and played minutes alongside Robinson at the five. With a hole at the backup four, fans knew Sims could see some run, but after Monday night, it isn’t an experiment they’re eager to see Thibodeau try again.
Thibodeau said that Sims was the one player who stood out at training camp, and he did pull down seven rebounds in 26 minutes. Sims resided in the corner (like one former Knick) and threw a wrench in New York’s spacing. Now’s the time for Thibs to switch things up, but in the next preseason game on Saturday, it’d be better if Barrett got some time at the four, even if Hart plays.
Sims was out of Thibs’ rotation last season, and unless there’s an injury, that’ll likely continue to be the case to at least start 2023-24. Playing behind Robinson and Hartenstein means minutes won’t come easy, so it was unfortunate to watch the idea of Sims getting minutes at the backup four go down the drain so fast.
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