It was the 10th anniversary of Derrick Rose becoming the youngest MVP in league history. And he celebrated Monday by going vintage.
The 32-year-old dropped a season-high 25 points, including three clutch buckets in the final three-plus minutes of a 118-104 victory over the Grizzlies.
The Knicks (37-28), winners of 12 of their last 13, clinched their first winning season since 2013. They led throughout the night but reached a critical moment after the Grizzlies cut the deficit to 5 with about six minutes left. Julius Randle (21 points) responded with a 3-pointer, and Rose took New York home.
He shot 11 of 15 from the field in 26 minutes, while counterpart Grizzlies star Ja Morant produced a dud (8 points, 2-for-13 shooting). Morant was frustrated to the point of being ejected for arguing calls with one minute remaining, joining his coach Taylor Jenkins.
The Knicks were shorthanded at center with starter Nerlens Noel sitting because of a sprained ankle. He joined the preceding starting center Mitchell Robinson (broken foot) on the inactive list, and the squeeze was exacerbated by foul trouble to Monday’s starter, Taj Gibson. It prompted Norvel Pelle into action as Thibodeau again resisted going small.
But like most potential concerns during this Knicks hot stretch, it didn’t become a problem. Gibson filled in well and grabbed 12 boards in 33 minutes. Pelle rejected three shots in 15 minutes. The Knicks pummeled Memphis and swept the season series.
The Grizzlies (32-32) are decent but New York’s opposition level turns up a notch with the Nuggets, Suns, Clippers, Lakers and Spurs all next on the schedule, in that order. But they’re playing as well as anybody in the NBA.
Alec Burks returned Monday a two-week, eight-game absence because of COVID protocols. He didn’t skip a beat with nine points in 16 minutes, but his night was cut short by a leg injury.
His presence cut into the time of starter Elfrid Payton, who had 10 points in 18 minutes. Rose certainly wasn’t affected, however. He continued to flourish and turn back the clock.©2021 New York Daily News. Visit at nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.