Knicks' OG Anunoby pleased to have elbow surgery behind him as team prepares for postseason

When the Knicks traded for OG Anunoby before the turn of the new year, it was hard to imagine he’d have such an impact on the team.

New York went 13-2 with him in the lineup en route to a 14-2 record in January -- their most wins in a month since 1994. But when the 26-year-old went down with an elbow injury, which required surgery, the team lost a bit of the spacing and defense that Anunoby provided.

And those aspects of his game were on full display Tuesday when the Knicks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 106-79, at Madison Square Garden.

"OG gave us a great lift for the first time back from a layoff," head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The energy and the effort plays, the movement, the shooting added a lot to the team."

Anunoby scored 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting (2-for-5 from three) while grabbing four rebounds, dishing two assists and adding a steal to his stat line. He was also a plus-28 in his nearly 29 minutes on the floor.

The Madison Square Garden crowd gave Anunoby a great ovation when he was announced and throughout the game. They knew the Knicks struggled with their forward on the shelf -- playing to a sub-.500 record since Jan. 27 -- and the former Toronto Raptors star felt the love.

"Felt great. It's been a while,” Anunoby said of the crowd's reaction to his return. “Missed playing here, missed the fans, missed my teammates. It was a great feeling for sure."

When Anunoby was sidelined, surgery was not necessarily the first choice. Both he and the Knicks staff conferred over their options, and all sides thought it would be best he have the surgery and then return for the postseason run.

Anunoby is pleased with the decision.

"[The elbow’s] a lot better than it was the month of January," Anunoby said. "I’m happy. Should get better and better."

The soft spoken forward said that he’s still trying to shake off some rust, both physically and in the ability to read the game, but he’s confident that will return in the next game.

He's also confident that the chemistry of the team, despite being out for six weeks, will not change with him in it. Anunoby was asked if he felt he wouldn’t be able to "fit" back in with the Knicks, and the forward was direct and nonchalant with his answer.

"I thought I was going to come in and make an impact," he said. "Didn’t really think about it."

The Knicks (38-27) are now one game ahead of the Orlando Magic for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. With a four-game West Coast road trip starting Thursday, Anunoby’s return comes at the perfect time.