Donte DiVincenzo #0 of the Knicks reacts after a three...

Donte DiVincenzo #0 of the Knicks reacts after a three point basket in the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Even as he prepares for Thursday’s reunion against his former teammate Steph Curry and Golden State, Donte DiVincenzo insists that he has no desire to match Curry shot for shot, three-pointer for three-pointer.

But what DiVincenzo plans and what the Knicks need may be two different things. As is often the case for Curry in Golden State, what the Knicks needs is scoring.  And, if they are without Jalen Brunson once again — he is listed as questionable for Thursday's game — the Knicks will need DiVincenzo to carry the offensive load.

Brunson missed Tuesday’s loss to New Orleans with cervical spasms in his neck, the fourth game he's missed this season. The Knicks are 1-3 in those games — outscored by an average of 13.7 points in the losses. With Julius Randle already sidelined for 13 straight games, the Knicks need someone to pick up the slack and that is likely DiVincenzo.

While the sixth-year guard has had a breakout season in his first year in New York, in the four games without Brunson he's had to do even more. Averaging 7.6 three-point field goal attempts this season, that number jumps to 12.3 (19-of-49 overall) in the four games Brunson has missed. Tuesday, DiVincenzo attempted 18 threes and made seven.  Those 18 tries were the second-most in a game in franchise history.

“I wasn’t going into the game like, ‘Oh, Jalen’s not playing. Just get them up,’” DiVincenzo said. “I’m, within our offense, trying to be aggressive, trying to just get to spots where I felt comfortable and just ended up with that number. I wasn’t going into [the New Orleans game] like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna try to get 20 up.’ That’s never my mindset. But when it’s open, I’m gonna let it fly.”

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has found another hard-nosed, two-way player who fits his style, providing shooting along with just about everything else the team can ask for.

“Overall, everything,” Thibodeau said. “The hustle. The shooting. He came into the season shooting really well. He got off to a great start. And I thought that was a byproduct of the work he put in during the summer. He hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped....He’s really grown during this stretch, this is probably his best stretch of basketball and he’s doing it on both sides of the ball.”

Still, the Knicks have benefited from DiVincenzo's increased output this season. In the first season of his four-year deal, he displaced Quentin Grimes as the starter — two months before Grimes was traded away to Detroit — and has averaged 16.5 points since that lineup change. Beginning on the day that the Knicks traded away RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley to bring in OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa DiVincenzo has averaged 18.9 points and 10.5 three-point attempts.

Also, beginning that day DiVincenzo ranks second in the NBA to Curry in three-pointers made (130-111) and attempted (317-224).  DiVincenzo, who spent last season with Golden State, has talked about the influence Curry's had on his career and his shooting. He remains close to Curry and his former teammates.

“Yeah. Not even basketball, just life,” DiVincenzo said when asked if he was still in contact with his former Golden State teammates. “All those guys — I only spent a year out there, but it was a really, really good year for me on and off the court. Those guys embraced me. The staff embraced me, [head coach] Steve [Kerr], everybody over there. So I still hear from them. I still check in with them. I’m looking forward to competing against them, but also I’m just looking forward to them getting into town and seeing them and everything.”

NOTES & QUOTES:  The Knicks' protest of the Feb. 12 loss was denied by the NBA. In a statement the league ruled, ”The Knicks protested the result of the game on the ground that a shooting foul was called incorrectly on the Knicks’ Jalen Brunson for making contact with the Rockets’ Aaron Holiday during a last-second shot attempt. Under the standard for NBA game protests, New York was required to demonstrate that there was a misapplication of the official playing rules, as opposed to an error in judgment by game officials. Because the foul call at issue reflected an error in judgment, New York did not demonstrate a misapplication of the playing rules, and the extraordinary remedy of upholding a game protest was not warranted.”

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