The New York Knicks are playing as well as any team in the NBA.
The New Orleans Pelicans are struggling to stay in contention for a play-in berth.
The Knicks will seek their sixth consecutive victory when they host the Pelicans on Sunday afternoon. New York beat the Pelicans 116-106 on Wednesday in New Orleans.
“I really like the depth of our club,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after a 117-109 victory at Dallas on Friday. “We’ve had a number of guys step up in the fourth quarter and play well. You need everyone and the willingness to sacrifice, put the team first, recognize when someone’s going well.”
No one is going better right now than forward Julius Randle, who scored 44 points against the Mavericks after scoring 32 against New Orleans.
“I was locked in and focused,” Randle said after Friday’s win in his hometown.
New York’s winning streak is its longest in seven years and has the Knicks, who will start a season-high six-game homestand Sunday, sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The top six teams in each conference will qualify for the playoffs while teams seven through 10 face a play-in to join them.
“We try not to get wrapped up in any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said. “If we take care of all the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. We have a belief that we can win. That’s probably the most important thing.”
Alec Burks, who came off the bench to score 21 points and lead a fourth-quarter surge against the Pelicans, is sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Knicks made 17-of-33 3-pointers, and the Pelicans made 6-of-28 on Wednesday.
Two nights later, New Orleans held host Washington to 4-of-27 on 3-pointers but couldn’t take full advantage because it made just 7-of-28 and lost 117-115 in overtime.
Russell Westbrook made two of the Wizards’ 3-pointers in the extra period and made two free throws after drawing Zion Williamson’s sixth foul with one second left to provide the winning margin.
“It came down to we turned the ball over and we fouled at the end,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “That ended up being the difference — tie game, we throw it away and we foul. And I use our last timeout on a stupid challenge.”
Van Gundy’s failed challenge on Williamson’s sixth foul cost New Orleans its final timeout.
“Last thing I want to do is fail my teammates,” said Williamson, who played through foul trouble to score 21 points in 31 minutes. “In the moment, that’s what it felt like. … It felt like failure. You learn from games like this so you can be more prepared the next time.”
The Pelicans had a nine-point lead with 5:57 remaining in the fourth quarter but got outscored 13-2 down the stretch.
Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball returned from a four-game absence due to a hip injury but scored just four points and missed all seven of his 3-pointers.
New Orleans had won three straight before the loss to New York on Wednesday, but the back-to-back losses have the Pelicans facing a climb to reach the play-in with 16 games remaining.
“We can’t dwell on this loss,” said Williamson, whose Pelicans are in 11th place in the West.
–Field Level Media