Julius Randle and the red-hot Knicks are a legitimate playoff team

The New York Knicks proved they are a legitimate playoff contender with their win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

If we had told you a year ago that the New York Knicks would be in a playoff position in the final month of the 2020-21 season, you probably would’ve called us crazy. But this is not the same team fans have seen in recent years. These Knicks are simply fun to watch.

On Sunday, New York defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 122-112 in overtime, thanks to a 33-point, 10-assist, 5-rebound, 5-steal effort from forward Julius Randle. With this victory, the Knicks are now on a six-game winning streak and currently hold the 6-seed in the Eastern Conference.

Knicks: New York is a fun basketball team again

Randle notched his 33 points by shooting 11-for-28 from the field, 9-for-10 from the free throw line and 2-for-8 from 3-point range. This is now Randle’s fourth consecutive game where he’s scored over 30 points, making him the first Knick to do so since Carmelo Anthony. The transformation from Randle after one season has been tremendous, as he went from team goat to New York’s MVP.

Another player who has been playing strong for the Knicks is guard Derrick Rose. The veteran point man tallied 23 points (on 9-for-17 shooting from the field), 5 assists and 3 rebounds off the bench for the Knicks. Rose has thrived in his role as backup point guard, as he is averaging 12.4 points, 3.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game through 21 games (three starts).

As impressive as the likes of RJ Barrett, Nerlens Noel, Randle and Rose have played this year, you have to give credit to head coach Tom Thibodeau, who turned the team around from NBA laughingstock to a tough young team. Under Thibodeau, the Knicks have solidified themselves as one of the best defensive teams in the league.

Entering Sunday’s matchup against the Pelicans, the Knicks have allowed just 104.3 points per game in 57 contests, the lowest average point total among all NBA teams. Yes, that also includes the Utah Jazz. Besides the point total, the Knicks have limited opposing teams to a league-low 44.2 field-goal percentage, and they’re ranked third in defensive rating. For this epic turnaround, Thibs should be right there with Jazz coach Quin Snyder and Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams for the NBA’s Coach of the Year award.

The Knicks are not an NBA title contender just yet, considering they play in the same conference as the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. But once the playoffs begin, they are going to be a tough team to eliminate. They will put up a fight to the very end.

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