Due to the amazing work of our own Matthew Miranda and a slightly more hectic schedule, I am unable to recap games this season. I haven’t had much luck historically, but I thought getting a layup in a game against the weak Utah Jazz? Certainly the Knicks won’t lay eggs and force me to confront some serious macro issues with this team. , , Correct?

Alas, here we are. The Knicks went to Utah and laid an absolute egg which resulted in their worst loss of the season. Was this game a random anomaly? Or is crisis on the horizon? Let’s dive in

Let’s not bury the lede. Julius Randle was absolutely phenomenal. Entering last night’s game, Randle averaged 25.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists over his previous 16 games, shooting over 50% from the field and 35% from 3. After a slow start to the season, Randle has picked it up offensively, playing at a level that should remind Knicks fans of last season.

But while the statistical dominance does resemble 2022-23, zoom in and the nuance of how Randle is providing his offensive impact is much different. What Randle did last season was a lesson in shot mapping. He wasn’t outrageously efficient from any one spot (34% from 3, 76% from the FT line, 43% from midrange), but where he shot helped boost his efficiency.

Last season Randle fired 8.4 3-pointers per 36 minutes, meaning almost 45% of his field goal attempts came from beyond the arc. This season, with his 3-point percentage barely eclipsing 30%, his 3-point frequency’s dipped to 5.6 per 36 minutes despite taking nearly the same number of shots per 36. Instead of firing from distance, Randle has transformed into an inside-out player, preferring to operate at the elbow.

No game showcased this evolution more than last night. Randle was 12 of 17 inside the arc, getting wherever he wanted within 15 feet of the basket. The Jazz, who entered the game just 7-16, do not have any options who present a challenge for Randle defensively, and he definitely knew it. To go along with the 32 points, Randle added six assists. When Randle is raining threes, it helps the Knicks on the scoreboard. When Randle is dominant inside the arc it helps all of the Knicks on the court. Unsurprisingly, the Knicks were a team-best +13 in the 39 minutes Randle played.

Randle still has a ways to go before returning to his All-NBA impact. He still can fall into spells of lethargy and his defense is as porous as it’s been during his time in New York. But after a horrendous start to the season, he’s righted his ship and is headed in the right direction. No matter how you feel about the volatile 29-year-old, this is good news for Knicks fans.

A Game Was Played

The rest of the game did not go as well for the Knicks. Since the loss of Mitchell Robinson, New York’s domination of the possession battle has dissipated. The Jazz, led by Walker Kessler, actually collected more offensive rebounds than the Knicks, as Toronto did two nights ago. While the Jazz had seven more turnovers, they still ended up with more shot attempts. 

The Knicks led by double digits early and it looked as though it would be smooth sailing. Randle had 14 first-quarter points; Immanuel Quickley, back from a one-game absence with knee soreness, came off the bench and immediately scored 12 on 5 of 6 shooting. But if the Knicks expected Utah to go away, the Jazz weren’t interested in playing along. Led by Collin Sexton and Lauri Markkanen, Utah scraped their way back into the game and by halftime led by two.

While Randle was flashing back to 2023, the Knicks on the whole decided to flashback to 2022 in the third quarter. The starters returned to the court with very little energy. RJ Barrett, a disastrous 1 of 11 in the first half, tried his best to instill some positive momentum with a few early baskets, but very little would stick. The Knicks ended the quarter down five after a brutal foul by Isaiah Hartenstein, but the damage had been done.

In the fourth the Jazz began to pull away, leading by as many as 17. While most Knicks struggled (some more than others), one who did not was Donte DiVincenzo, who came alive after being reinserted midway through the fourth and helped steer a comeback that saw the Knicks pull within three.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Despite Divincenzo’s 13 in the final frame, the Knicks fell just short. On their final meaningful possession, Randle created an open 3-pointer for Josh Hart (0 points in 30 minutes), who wasn’t able to connect. Quickley snatched a contested rebound and kicked it out to Jalen Brunson, who missed an ill-fated attempt at a game-tying three.

The Knicks left the arena after being handed a 117-113 defeat. Losses to inferior opponents happen. But what makes this one sting is that the next 10 games for the Knicks come against opponents with winning records; seven of those come on the road, while the three home games are against Milwaukee and Minnesota. The Knicks could have used an easy win to build some momentum. Instead, they’ll have to regroup quickly as they head into the toughest stretch of their season.

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