But at night, nothing is hotter than the Knicks.
The Knicks did not have their starting center at Nerlens Noel, and Alec Burks was returning from a long absence from COVID-19, but the Knicks freight train rolled a 44-point second quarter en route to a 118-104 Grizzlies blowout Monday at FedExForum.
The hero was backup point guard Derrick Rose, who not only displayed his MVP form of 10 years ago, but looked to be back at the University of Memphis leading the Tigers to the national championship match.
With some fans wearing his old blue ’23’ college jersey, Rose’s jump shot never felt truer and he hit three driving baskets on the stretch to finish with a season-high 25 points. He’s shot 19 of 26 in his last two games.
Julius Randle added 28 points (5 of 8 of 3) and Burks hit his first four shots before twisting his ankle late.
The game got salty late with Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins and neutralized playmaker Ja Morant getting kicked out for arguing and throwing the audience into a booing frenzy.
Clever, intelligent and tough, the Knicks notched a winning record (37-28) with seven games to go by signing their 12th victory in 13 games.
That madness started with a fourth quarter comeback against the Grizzlies on April 9 and no one knows when that will end. The Knicks’ six-game trip down the West started 2-0 with Denver, Phoenix, Clippers and Lakers waiting.
The Knicks’ first winning season since 2012-13 was never considered in December – not even by Knicks general manager Scott Perry and senior vice president William Wesley, who sat next to the team bench for soak up everything. After the buzzer, Perry and Wesley each congratulated coach Tom Thibodeau.
After missing their first six shots and falling behind 6-0, the Knicks were a joy to watch the rest of the first half. Sharing the ball, shooting and a bit of a quick break put them above the Grizzlies Rapids, 69-58, at halftime.
Morant, the young playmaker from Memphis, was completely shut down (eight points, 2 in 12). Morant’s low moment came at the end of the third quarter when he tried to throw the ball off the back panel. Randle grabbed him instead and shot an area towards Barrett for a left boost and an 87-75 lead.
The Knicks were boosted by the return of Burks. After missing eight straight games, Burks didn’t miss a beat. Burks hit his first attempt at a shot after starting the second quarter – a 3-point pointer who went in, out and in.
Burks hit all three shots for seven points in the half and fed Obi Toppin for a go-oop, racking up two assists.
The Searing Rose was a monster of the depths, adding 15 points in 13:42 on the bench. Rose’s jumper continued to sizzle as he punched in 6 of 7 shots during intermission.
Randle hit a 3-point first-half buzzer to propel the Knicks to a 69-58 halftime lead. That took them to a second quarter of 44 points – a season high.
They finished the half at 11 of 18 from a 3 point distance – shocking the preseason experts who were throwing a 3 point shot would be their downfall.
The Grizzlies got off to a good start with beefy center Jonan Valanciunas quickly taking the lead as the Knicks temporarily missed their starting cross Nerlens Noel. But Taj Gibson ultimately imposed his will and ended up with three blocks. Third string center Norvel Pelle scored two blocks.