It is understandable that Alec Burks' opportunities would come in the fourth quarter. As a part of the Knicks' bench unit, his minutes come mainly in the second and fourth quarters when the starters are resting.
But there is still the unique part of his game that he just seems to save his best for last, helping provide the Knicks with a much-needed offensive contribution as they attempt to pull out games down the stretch.
"Seems" because the numbers don’t exactly back up the notion. While Burks ranks among the NBA leaders in percentage of points scored in the fourth quarter at 34%, teammate Immanuel Quickley is first at 39%.
Still, it feels like more. Wednesday was the latest example, when Burks helped the Knicks (29-27) survive for a 116-106 win in New Orleans by scoring 14 of his 21 points in the final quarter.
"Well, he's always been a big shotmaker, and he's got great poise," coach Tom Thibodeau said of Burks. "The poise under pressure is huge. The game's not too big. He doesn't get rattled."
Julius Randle, who had carried the Knicks for much of the night against the Pelicans (just as he has through most of the season), added of Burks, "Not scared of the moment. Not scared to take shots, and that’s huge."
Burks has taken more shots in the fourth quarter than any other period this season — 154 of his 445 attempts. In overtime, he has converted six of his eight shots. He has taken 71 of those fourth-quarter shots from three-point range and converted 42.3%. Burks has little explanation, for this or much of anything.
"I just think it’s the approach coach takes," Burks said. "He talked about it earlier in the season. The fourth quarter is different than the other three quarters, you just got to bring your A-game because you know it’s a physical quarter because everybody is trying to come out with the win. I just try to help my team any way I can, you know?
"I think he just puts everybody in position [that fits] their strong point. And everybody plays off of each other. That’s what we have an even playing field with. He knows my strong suits, what I do well, and he just puts me in position, as he does everybody else on the team. That’s why it’s been working."
In a season in which Randle has emerged as an All-Star and RJ Barrett has surfaced as a steady sidekick, Burks has often been the third scoring option for the Knicks despite starting only five games. He ranks third on the team in scoring at 12.6 points per game.
But he has received little attention for it, which is just fine with him.
"Nah, nah, I don’t care," he said. "I’m not in this to be popular or nothing. I love the game, l love helping my teammates, I just want to do whatever I can to help my teammates and win out there and make it to the playoffs. I could care less about getting notoriety for it.