Knicks’ Defensive Ace Returns Against 76ers: Report

Knicks forwards Julius Randle and OG Anunoby

Getty OG Anunoby #8 talks with Julius Randle #30 of the New York Knicks during the second half against the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden.

The New York Knicks are welcoming back their defensive ace, OG Anunoby, to their lineup in a crucial Tuesday rematch against the Philadelphia 76ers, according to SNY’s Ian Begley.

“SNY sources: OG Anunoby will return for the Knicks tonight against the Sixers. He has been out since Jan. 27 with [an] elbow injury and subsequent surgery. Knicks’ winning percentage has dipped in Anunoby’s absence; club went 14-2 with him in [the] lineup in January,” Begley reported on X, formerly Twitter, on March 12, a few hours before the game.

Anunoby has missed 18 straight games since January 29 when his elbow flared up at Charlotte. The Knicks went 8-10 without him.

Anunoby’s return will provide the Knicks with the perimeter and point-of-attack defender they sorely missed in his absence.

But it remains to be seen whether Anunoby will be on a minute restriction in his return and whether his impact will remain the same.

Anunoby instantly became the anchor of the Knicks’ defense when he joined them in January via a midseason trade from Toronto. His arrival turned the Knicks’ deadlast defense in December (123.1 defensive rating) to the league’s best in January (104.4 defensive rating).

During their 14-2 run in January, Anunoby’s plus-minus (plus-252) was the most for any NBA player in his first 14 games with a new team since play-by-play was first tracked in 1996-1997, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Anunoby averaged 15.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks while shooting 51.6% from the field. His seamless fit has been buoyed by his 40.4% shooting on catch-and-shoot 3s. He’s particularly adept from the right corner, shooting a staggering 48%, nearly 9% above the league average (39.2%), per Statmuse.

Kelly Oubre Sent Warning to Knicks

After holding the Knicks to a season-low 73 points, 76ers’ wingman Kelly Oubre Jr. sent a warning.

“[Tuesday night will] be more physical,” Oubre warned, per New York Daily News. “Faster pace, obviously higher scoring. We’ve just got to do what we did [Sunday night], but better.”

The 76ers will also have their All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey back after missing the last four games. Maxey has already cleared concussion protocols, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Maxey is averaging 26.0 points, 6.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds, giving Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau another headache. But Anunoby’s return can soften Maxey’s impact.

Anunoby will have that top defensive assignment.

Jalen Brunson Drawing All-NBA Endorsement

After Bleacher Reports’ Dan Favale, 76ers’ Kyle Lowry was the next to endorse Knicks Star Jalen Brunson to one of the three All-NBA Teams for the end-of-season awards.

Philadelphia’s defense gave credence to Lowry’s endorsement.

“Send bodies to him. Make him see bodies. He still got some and-ones. He still got some shots made, and he’s an All-NBA guy, an All-Star, a guy who’s gonna be a dominating presence in this league for a long time,” Lowry told reporters.

“That’s a tough team over there,” Lowry said. “They’ve got an All-NBA superstar who pretty much is gonna try to win the game and can win any game for them. And we just tried to limit him as much as possible, which is tough to do. We stuck to the game plan and stayed in our zone, and had big shots down the stretch. And Kelly Oubre Jr. has been playing his butt off.”

Their constant double teams held Brunson to 19 point on 6 of 22 shooting.

Anunoby’s catch-and-shoot threat will make the 76ers second-guessing in their rematch.

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