New York Knicks 87 – Miami Heat 110 – Game Recap

Last Tuesday, I wrote I sensed a win in Miami. Boy, was I wrong! Tonight’s game delivered us our first stinkfest ot the season (and it certainly will not be the last), and there were stretches when it was really hard to keep watching. At least we can take solace in the fourth loss (and get annoyed at the thought that it’s so Knicksy to nail a rebulding/tanking plan in the first season of flattened lottery odds). And finally, some playing time for Mitch!

The adequate (nobody was good tonight):

– Damyean Dotson (20 pts, 10 rebs, 2 ast, -5 +/-) was the lone bright spot tonight. Efficient shooting, even when the game was still on the line, good rebounding effort, average defense. I liked the fact that he was the first one from the bench to enter the game and I especially liked the fact that he got in for Trey Burke, therefore handing over the keys to Frank. The only real basketball issue I have with Dot is that he’s kind of a black hole. If you hand him the rock, chances are he’s gonna shoot. Still, over three games he’s posting a very healthy .185 WS/48.

The meh

– Frank Ntilikina (9 pts, 3 rebs, 5 ast, -9 +/-) had a quiet, but not discouraging game, with a few comforting moments. For one, the offense ran better through him, as he’s clearly our best initiator/passing guard. He drilled a couple threes, and for once had a clear path to the rim and slammed the ball down (even if that was on Miami’s lack of defensive communication and not on his offensive prowess). His defense was quite good, but he has to stop fouling guys who are either not doing anything or have already scored – his foul on Whiteside in the third was egregious, as Frank was not able to keep his momentum in check and fell on the Heat big man after he already scored, handing him a free trip to the line. The problem with Frank is always the same: he’s not hungry for his points. I found myself asking “How many times do we have to listen to Clyde saying Frank should look at the hoop from inside the paint before we give up hope?”; my answer is “a bazillion times”, but really, if he’s not able to fix that his value will keep on being marginal at best. If I had to peg him in a role now, it would be a 15 mpg guy off the bench who handles the best perimeter scorer in the other team. We need him to be much more than that, and he’s so young I feel morally obliged to believe in him.

– Noah Vonleh (6 pts, 9 rebs, 1 stl, -3 +/-) is being consistent in his back up. energizing big man role. He wasn’t good tonight, but his effort alone grants him a mention here. It’s not much, but it’s the best I can do for this game. Actually, he could have ended up in the adequate section, if not for a couple ill-advised shots. For a partially guaranteed contract, he’s really giving a cool return value to the team. He’s earning his minutes out there, and I feel like Fiz is handling him well.

The bad:

– Trey Burke (3 pts, 4 ast, 10% FG, -12 +/-) played one of the worst games I have ever seen a guy play without any explicable reason (like, say, being guarded by prime Scottie Pippen). I’m starting to convince myself that he might be the second main culprit in our starting lineup futility, the first being of course Lance Thomas. He’s not making the offense click, and as soon as his shot is not falling he becomes a clear minus for the team. The first quarter ended with the Knicks grabbing an 11 points lead, but when he exited the game and Frank took on the PG mantle the Knicks were losing 5-7 with 6:16 to go. So the first quarter partial without Trey was 22-9. He was again on the floor for the first minutes of the third quarter, when the Knicks got crushed by Miami offering up zero resistance to the Heat dominance. A bad performance for Trey, and maybe a wake up call for Fiz to try different things with the starting lineup.

– Enes Kanter (8 pts, 5 rebs, 3 ast, -24 +/-) was uncharacteristically rudderless. He looked tired, deflated, defeated throughout the game. He made Whiteside look like the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain, and while nobody was expecting for Enes to match Hassan’s athleticism, at least we hoped that he would outhustle the notoriously inconsistent Heat center. Tonight, that was not the case. I don’t remember the last time Kanter provided so little in terms of everything. Let’s just hope it’s not a trend, since the early symptoms were already showing in Milwaukee.

– Mario Hezonja (13 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, -3 +/-) went back to bad Mario in this game. He started pretty fine, hitting a couple threes in the first stanza. Apart from that, I’m not sure I saw him bend his legs even once. He looked like those passive-aggressive partners that takes out for dinner after you scold them for not caring about you enough to wine and dine, and then proceed to order half the menu just to throw in your face that they can do those things, it’s you that don’t care about their potential. Just as they will end up throwing away a lot of uneaten food, Mario threw away many shots so carelessly that it seemed he didn’t even want them to tickle the twine. His shooting line for the night: 4/15 from the field, 2/8 from three in 22 minutes. I hoped Milwaukee could be a turning point in his season; I can tell you it won’t be. I fear Mario will be back playing in Europe before 2021 rolls around.

Fun-sized bits (not so fun tonight):

– Tim Hardaway Jr played his usual mediocre game, tallying 14 points on 40% shooting and posting a -21 plus/minus. It’s the second time in a row that he post a -20 or worst plus/minus. I don’t care very much about plus/minus in itself, as it’s incredibly noisy, but I think we’re onto something here. Here’s his NetRtg trend: 22.9, 1.1, -3.8, -32.3, -42.0. If accountability is what Fiz’s aiming for, Tim should be in for some adjustments.

– Lance pulled down 6 rebounds and scored 6 points, and did absolutely nothing else. I feel this has to be the moment when I recall the “He’s gonna be our Draymond Green” Fizdale quote and I urge you to question the sanity of coach Fiz. Also, given the commendable rebounding prowess of Dotson, why are not giving Dot the chance to start at PF?

– Then again, I remember Fiz also said “Emmanuel, we gonna fix you!” to Mudiay, and fix him they did: if he’s not playing he’s a better basketball player than he could be if he stepped on the court.

– Ron Baker is borderline unplayable in nights like these. 19 minutes of play, 1 steal, 1 missed field goal attempt, -13 +/-. Another reason to move Trey to the bench and try Frank as our starting PG. Ron’s PIE for the season is -2.8, good for seventh worst in the whole league (more than 10 mpg). I love his effort and that’s documented, but I can’t wrap my head around his contract.

– Third quarter: Knicks 20, Heat 45. Yikes.

– In the second quarter it was already evident that this game was going to end up in an ass-beating. We were tied while shooting the lights out from three points and getting to line just twice in 24 minutes. It wasn’t sustainable at all.

– Mitch was a welcome sight. 4 points, 3 boards (all on the offensive glass), 1 block. His athleticism is off the charts and he is clearly going to distil every minute he’s given. I hope Fiz finds a way to make him play 8-10 mpg on a regular basis. We need to develop him, as he might be our best young player in a couple years.

– The high note of the evening must have been a back and forth conversation between Mike Breen and Clyde where they tried to remember correctly the names and composition of the Flintstones families, right after Bam Adebayo entered the game (apparently he got his nickname after the super strong son of Barney and Betty). Hearing those two talk about a cartoon melt my heart a little. God bless them for making every potentially unbearable Knick night a little gem, everytime.

Well, I guess our dog days aren’t over, as we’re set to face the Warriors on Friday night. I don’t care for wins, but I fully expect a much better effort than tonight (and some minor tweaks in the rotation, especially in the starting five).

See you soon!

New York Knicks 113 – Milwaukee Bucks 124 – Game Recap

Another feel-good loss for our Knicks! We are 1-3 and I didn’t feel this good about the direction of the team since… maybe the pre-Melo half of 2010-11? We keep piling close losses – this one was waaaaay closer than it looks – while playing young guys and having a solid rotation in place. Our coach might not be an offensive genius, but looks like he has what it takes to mold this team. I’m having a lot of fun in watching games this year, and it feels strangely intoxicating rooting for losses. There’s nowhere to go but upwards!

The good:

– Trey Burke (19 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast, +5 +/-) was instrumental in getting back into the game in the third quarter, hitting some tough layups and being a pest off the dribble. He was badly exposed in the first quarter, as was the entire Knicks defense. The main problem with Burke is his size and build, which coupled with his defective natural defensive instincts make him a liability everytime we go up against a tall and strong team. Bledsoe is definitely not the tallest PG out there, but he’s built like a truck and that’s a problem for Trey. I guess Fiz got the memo about it, because he didn’t play a single minute in the final quarter. Still, a very effective game for Trey.

– Noah Vonleh (11 pts, 5 rebs, 1 ast, -8 +/-) is quickly becoming a fan favorite. His energy is contagious, and he’s playing consistently within his limitations. That allows him to play a paltry amount of minutes, injecting the team with much needed vigor at times. His defense is quite shaky, but it never hurts to have a big body banging down low. The only issue I had with him (and every other Knicks out there not named Dotson, to be fair) is that he was a little soft on the defensive glass, allowing Giannis and co. to feast on the offensive boards all night long, which is definitely no bueno and, in the end, what kept the Knicks from winning this game. Only Knick to shoot better than 50% from the field. Only Knick to shoot more than 2 FTs.

– Mario Hezonja (18 pts, 4 rebs, 3 ast, -14 +/-) played an interesting game, hitting shots from all over the court and looking uncharacteristically spirited throughout the game. He made the most of the opportunity bestowed on him after Knox ankle got twisted, and will probably be a major part of the rotation in the next few games. If what he needs to breed confidence is the trust of the coaching staff, this might be a turning point in his season.

– Damyean Dotson (14 pts, 8 rebs, 2 stl, -8 +/-) was the only Knicks who really cared for the defensive caroms, notching a second-best 8 for the team. Watching the game it looked like he couldn’t miss a shot, while looking at the box score it shows that he shot 13 times and missed 8. I must have a very selective memory that makes me remember only THJ missed shots and Damyean made ones. Anyway, he’s the other Knick who benefited from the open window in playing time caused by Knox absence, getting on the court for 33 minutes and looking the part. I sincerely hope he keeps at least a spot on the rotation even after Knox returns. We need to know how much he can be useful to the team going forward.

The meh:

– Frank Ntilikina (5 pts, 1 reb, 5 ast, -6 +/-) is starting to worry me a little bit. Now, he didn’t really have a bad game, hence the “meh” section, and his defensive stance, positioning and effort were always nice, but I don’t know how much his playing time can be in the high 30s if he keeps being this tentative on offense. I still believe part of the problem is the composition of the starting lineup – we’ll get to that later – but there are times when Frank is visibly shying away from the ball, and that’s quite inexcusable for a seemingly very smart 20 year old lottery pick. Ron Baker’s head getting hit by an errant Vonleh’s elbow opened some playing time for Frank at the PG in the second half, and while he notched 5 assists, proving that his passing game is good if basic, he never attacked the rim from the dribble, and in the fourth quarter it really looked like he was actively running away from the guys in blue and orange who had the ball in their hands. Not a “bad” game, but we need to see more from him if he wants to be a cardinal part of the rotation.

– Lance Thomas (4 pts, 4 rebs. a whole lot of nothing else, +6 +/-) had his usual transparent game, but luckily saw only 18 minutes of playing time, which in the long run are still 18 minutes too much. I think he is the main culprit (or better yet, the combo Lance + THJ) for our usual slow starts in the first quarter, since he’s such an offensive liability that his man is always sagging off, clogging the lane. This, coupled with the tentativeness of Frank and the boneheadedness of Timmy, make our starting lineup a very predictable unit. I suggest again that Fiz changes something, even if I know that won’t happen soon, especially with Knox out.

Fun-sized bits:

– Enes Kanter had his fourth straight double double (14 pts, 13 rebs) to open the season, but this one came with no substance at all. He got crushed on the boards when it mattered most and wasn’t able to push around anyone. His energy level looked a lot lower than in previous games.

– Ron Baker has a penchant to hurt his face. At least this time was much less violent that last year’s impact with AD. Anyway, he was able to post a plus minus of -5 in just one minute of play. By the way, he’s the third Knick in four games to go down with an injury with just a little more than one minute of playing time (Mitch in the first, Knox in the third). Freaky.

– Allonzo Trier was quiet tonight but is always a competent cog in the rotation. For an undrafted guy, he certainly deserves a spot on an NBA roster.

– Ah, Timmy. Another 20+ pts game, another mediocre overall performance (24 pts on 23 shots, -25 +/-, 140 Drtg). We can appreciate the fact that he can score, and we certainly need someone who can put up points in a hurry, but his season for now has the distinguished smell of “usage soaking placeholder with middling efficiency” (54% TS, 31% USG). His shot distribution can be improved (28% of his shots come from 10ft to 3pt range territory), and while his WS is better than the eye-test might suggest at .113 the sample size is still too small to rely on numbers to evaluate his game. I wish Fiz would do something to make the ball move a little more on offense, even just implementing more PnR actions on a daily basis.

– Speaking of PnR, shout out to Mario for trying to initiate the high PnR very often.

– The Knicks got outrebounded 55 to 43, with 19 of those 55 coming on the offensive end. This will be a glaring issue against a lot of teams in the NBA, and that’s good, we need losses. But that’s also bad, we need to develop guys who can hold their own on the boards.

Well, we couldn’t expect to win this game, especially with Middleton going nova from 3 and Giannis doing his usual Godzilla impression, so I think we managed pretty well.

See you on Wednesday against the Heat! Don’t know why but I sense a win is coming. Great fun recapping this team this year!

 

Boston Celtics 103 – New York Knicks 101 – Game Recap

Losing to the Celtics is always hard and stings always deep, that’s for sure. Anyway, to put it into bizarro Dark Knight terms, this wasn’t the loss we deserved but it was the loss we needed. I’ll gladly take another competitive loss, propelled by a lot of young players, even if it means dropping one to those untrustworthy leprechauns. A fun game all in all, with some unlikely heroes, a scary but ultimately mild injury to Knox and a Ron Baker layup!

The good:

– Enes Kanter (17 pts, 15 rebs, 2 ast, -6 +/-) had a very quiet first half, leaving the most of rebounding duties to fellow big Noah Vonleh. In the second half he came to play, moving around with the same energy we know so well and being a beast on the glass and down low, adding a couple steals as an extra. He also hit a clean three in the fourth! I wonder if, hadn’t Enes fouled out (and on a bogus call at that), we could have won. The loss ultimately came down to a few 50-50 balls and Kanter gives always his all, maybe he would have dived on the floor to prevent the ball from getting back into Boston hands. While on the court he was the beneficiary of a lot more PnR action tonight. It shouldn’t be a surprise that running more pick and rolls yields better results on the offensive end, but we needed to know we have the personnel to run them correctly. While tonight was a little hit-and-miss, the action was much more fluid and it showed.

– Noah Vonleh (7 pts, 13 rebs, 3 ast, +7 +/-) was amazingly effective on the boards in the first half, pulling down 9 boards in his first five minutes of play. He was also effective in putting the ball into the basket from close range and was average on defense. What I liked the most, though, was seeing him play the Draymond Green role in a pinch, finding guys on the perimeter or near the rim with a pass after the short roll. It was most evident in a wonderful sequence with 7:51 to go in the second quarter, where Hezonja found him at the stripe on a pick and roll and Vonleh made a splendid pass to Trier in the corner, who went on to drill a nice three.

– Allonzo Trier (15 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, +4 +/+) and Damyean Dotson (10 pts, 2 rebs, 2 ast, +7 +/-) were crucial to the second quarter comeback, hitting timely shots and playing controlled but efficient basketball. Dotson got the nod to play after Knox injured himself, and play he did. He tallied 22 minutes of play, was not afraid of shooting and even had a nice drive to the rim that got me wondering why in the hell Frank is unwilling or unable to do something similar. Allonzo has already established himself as a capable scorer one on one, and his defense is fine. Sometimes he develops tunnel vision, but it usually happens only when a play is utterly broken. He’s been by far our best rookie for now, and there’s a chance he’s been our best guard overall – and that is more an indictment of the others that a compliment for Zo.

The bad:

– Frank Ntilikina (5 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, -22 (!) +/-) was out of sorts all night long. His first minutes of defense on Jayson Tatum were a clinic, and he hit a three pointer with 5:47 remaining in the first quarter, but was invisibile for most of the 20 minutes he played. I guess he wasn’t feeling very well, given that Fiz didn’t elect to put him in for defensive purposes at the end of the game, choosing instead Ron Baker for that role. Anyway, Frank’s futility in this game got me thinking that the starting lineup has some tinkering to be done with. Having on the floor an offensive zero (Lance) and a timid offensive player (Frank) at the same time is not a good recipe, especially when you also have Timmy on the floor, who’s able to get off 20+ shots per game but is unable to involve his teammates. Anyway, bad game for Frank (and hideous plus-minus), let’s move on.

– Mitchell Robinson (1 pts, 2 rebs, 50% at the line, +4 +/-) displayed the full catalogue of “bad defense positioning”. He entered the game right after Knox sprained his ankle to shoot the free throws, and Boston feasted on his bumbling defensive rotations. He jumped at guys he had no business at blocking, fell for the simplest head fakes, failed to position himself between the man and the rim inside the arc. I’m not disappointed one bit in him, but he’s miles away from being a contributor at high levels. I still think he’s been a huge steal, but against a well coached team like Boston his glaring flaws and his rawness will be exposed every time.

Fun-sized bits:

– Timmy misses the cut for the second straight game, while still scoring 20+ pts. I’m sorry but I can’t bring myself to put him in the good column with that shot selection (even if tonight it got a little better). I just hate the fact that in the half-court, Timmy’s presence is a surefire recipe for watching at least two guys pulling a Westbrook on the perimeter, standing around in their certainty that nobody’s gonna pass the rock once it falls into THJ’s hands.

– Ron hit a layup on a cut! And the pass came from the aforementioned Timmy, proving that when he wants he can find open guys. He just chooses the well traveled road of wanton chuckery.

– Jayson Tatum is a total stud. I wish Knox was even half as good as he is. Second year player, 24/14 on 15 shots. He also committed a boneheaded foul on Trey Burke shooting from 35 feel with 1.9 seconds remaining in the game, giving the Knicks a chance to tie the game. A J.R. Smith like foul, to be honest.

– Fizdale is a joy to watch on the sideline, always jolting with energy and connecting with his players. Also, his rotations are pretty good, a real breath of fresh air after two years of Horny.

– Trey Burke played a solid game, even while missing the first of the three free throws that could have tied the game in the last seconds (I really don’t know why he misses so many freebies). His defense on Kyrie was good throughout the whole game, and was very careful not to pick up his dribble when venturing down the lane. Keeping the dribble alive allowed him to dish a few dimes tonight, falling just short of a double double (11 pts, 9 ast).

– The Garden has something called “Millennial Cam”. It looks like someone overimposed Snapchat captions on unsuspecting guys. It’s as fun as you can think it is just by reading that sentence.

– Lance Thomas scored 1 points in the first 46:44 minutes of the game and 5 points to close the game. He also blocked Horford in the first quarter! That said, his game is still awful and I hope Fiz will try another starting PF very soon. What about trying Dotson there? Can it really be that much worse?

– Through three games, Ntilikina has a 108 DRtg and a -12 Net Rating. Through the same span, Ron Baker has a 93 DRtg and a -1 Net Rating. I love Frank and the sample size is incredibly small, but things have to change (looking at him AND at Fiz).

It’s ok guys! We fought hard and we lost. We really couldn’t ask for more. See you on Monday, when we’ll face the Bucks and Lance Thomas will play 30 minutes because of his unfathomable defensive reputation.

 

New York Knicks 105 – Brooklyn Nets 107 – Game Recap

Mick Jagger used to sing “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you will find, you get what you need!”, and that’s exactly what we got tonight, and maybe more. A highly competitive loss where our youngsters play a lot of minutes, learn their trade and generally play well? Count me in for a season of this! Maybe, just maybe, sprinkle a win here and there as not to make my dopamine level drop too low.

By now you should be acquainted with my writing gimmicks, so let’s not waste any more time and let’s get into the meaty part of the recap.

The good:

– Enes Kanter (29 pts, 10 rebs, 2 ast, +2 +/-) utterly mauled every Nets opponent into the paint. He’s so dependable on the low block, pulling all sorts of tricks (up and under moves, reverse layups under the rim, rhino-like pushing moves towards the basket, and a lot more) to score down low. It speaks volumes about the evolution of the game that a guy like him appears to be mostly dead weight on the cap and not a supremely desirable asset for any contending team; on the ’90s, a guy like Enes would be heavily courted by a lot of front offices. Right now, at the ripe age of 26, he acts as a steady release valve for our offense and as a sort of emotional mentor for the rookies. Yes, he’s still getting beaten on a lot of PnR actions by the other team, but he’s usually getting better positioning this year, and I swear I saw him force a guy to travel for the second game in a row. Also, didn’t look fatigued at the end of the game, although he played a shade over 35 minutes, so he has to be in peak physical condition. If I have to find a flaw in tonight’s game, it’s the ill-timed flagrant foul he committed with 5:44 remaining in the final quarter with the score tied. It’s okay to foul hard a guy who’s open under the rim, it’s not okay to do that in a manner that pretty much auto-indicts itself. All in all, an exhilarating game for Enes (but what happened to his promise to shoot threes if open? Ok, he shot one tonight on a gorgeous no look pass from Frank and he bricked it, but I still think he should shot more if he’s open on the perimeter and nothing else is happening).

– Kevin Knox (17 pts, 6 rebs, 75% 3pts, -4 +/-) had a refreshingly good game, and a fat share of playing time, being on the court for 28 minutes. The key to his scoring, as of now, are three pointers and free throws. Tonight, the threes were there, and so was the effort on the glass and on defensive rotations. The rim attacking part, well, that’s still awful. Someone mentioned a couple days ago in the comments section that Knox problem at the rim is that his first step comes too far from the hoop. While that is certainly true and could use some fine-tuning, I think it’s much more about his upper body strength and general lack of confidence and coordination. In the second quarter he had a positively Antetokounmpo-like layup attempt, where his first step came just inside the arc, the second on the midpoint and he was alone at the rim with all the time in world… and then missed badly. He can get to the basket, but when there he’s playing hot potato. Wretched layup attempts aside, not much to complain about tonight. It was nice to see him calmly drilling a corner three to tie the game at 93 apiece, just to come down to the bench for the ensuing timeout, get scolded by coach Fizdale for something (apparently defensive positioning) and not bat an eye. I hope the layup problem can be solved by coaching, ’cause the guy looks like he has what he needs between his ears.

– Frank Ntilikina (9 pts, 1 reb, 4 ast, +6 +/-) was the key to the third quarter break that pulled our Knicks back into the game. In the middle of the third stanza he erupted for 7 consecutive points – one trifecta, a midrange pullup, a whatchamacallit high-arc shot from the charily stripe – and was hounding opponent everywhere on defense. Second night in a row where he racks up 3 steals. Caris LeVert gave him fits in the first quarter, so much that I thought he was ill, seeing that Fiz was benching him just after 6 minutes of play. It surely wasn’t the case (and LeVert kept giving fits to everyone, hitting shots all night long, even some of the no no no yes kind), as he came back into the game in the second quarter and finished the night playing 30 minutes. On a sidetone, I think Fiz is doing a great job with the minutes distribution.

The bad:

– Trey Burke (8 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast, +4 +/-) finally had his highly anticipated regression to the mean game. He shot 1 for 6 from two, and all of his attempts were of the midrange variety, and they were pretty much always open. He looked very tentative in running the offense, and aside from a single defensive possession in the third where he went Gary Payton on D’Angelo Russell was a liability on D, especially in pick and roll sets. Amusingly, he got substituted just after the aforementioned possession. I guess this was due, a reminder of the fact that we still have one of the worst PG rotation in the league. Also, against a tall, strong team like the Nets, he’s physically outmatched and that depresses his game.

– Mario Hezonja (2 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, -11 +/-) played his usual game. Detached, uninterested, unimpressive. 13 minutes of almost nothing, just standing around on defense and on offense, offering little resistance to the Nets offense and showing revolting body language. He looks like the student that enrolled in college because his parents were pressing him to do so and then mailed in every single midterm test, getting by on Cs to collect his bachelor on air-guitar playing or something. It’s game two and I’m already losing hope on Mario.

– Ron Baker’s offense also makes the cut. While watching Ron play defense falls just a hair short of arousing (seriously, his effort is top notch and he’s very strong; in the third there was a defensive possession where he just pushed away Rodions Kurucs with an arm swipe and the 6′ 9″ string bean Latvian almost fell on the floor), his offense is so bad it’s indescribable. You have to watch it to really understand. For one thing, no Ron Baker shot looks the same, even at the stripe, and he was supposed to be a knockdown shooter when making the team in 2016-17. He also probably has some psychological issue attacking the rim; in the third quarter, the most eventful one of the night for the Bockers, he had a clear lane to a layup from the left side and opted to pass the ball to Vonleh, who was doubled. You couldn’t see his facial expression driving to the cup, just his floppy mop top breezing by like an offensively-challenged golden helmet, but here’s my 20 bucks saying he had the deer in the headlights one.

Fun-sized bits

– Where’s Timmy, you might ask. Isn’t 29 points enough to make the cut into “The good section”? Not tonight. Not on 25 shots. He shot 40% from the field, contributed pretty much on nothing else (yeah, he had three steals, but they were of the Timmy kind, the ones where he is out of position on defense and the ball caroms to him, a gentle gift offered by a jocular basketball god), and was supremely atrocious in the last minute and a half. At first, he turned the ball over while defended by T-Rex armed Jared Dudley; then, he presented the world one of the worst one on one defense I have ever seen. He went on a defensive stance intended to funnel Caris LeVert to the left, but as soon LeVert dribbled to the right he almost went out of his way, leaving the Nets guard free to cash in his game winning layup. But since all we want for Christmas is a top 4 pick next year, Timmy, you the real MVP.

– Allonzo was a bit discombobulated on offense, but he’s one of the most NBA ready undrafted rookies I have ever seen on a Knicks jersey. He looks to have gained Fiz’s trust, since he was the first Knick out of the bench.

– Here’s a detailed recap of Lance Thomas’ game: *snorts*

– Vonleh was next to useless this time, aside from his much needed 6 boards. His defense his strangely ethereal, especially for a super athletic, muscular guy like he is.

– In the first half, the Knicks totaled 5 assists. This offense is at times unbearable, even if I get what Fiz intends to do. I just can’t help loathing the iso-Timmy game (totally favorable to the iso-ones, though. That’s efficient enough).

– Remember how I singled out the fact that against a good rebounding team we would have payed dearly our mistakes? Well, the Nets outrebounded us 55 to 36.

– Also remember how I said our opponents wouldn’t turn the ball as much as the Hawks? Heh… The Nets turned it over 22 times. We turned it over 3 times (and one of those three was the egregious Timmy blunder with less than 90 seconds on the clock).

– Timmy is now 9th on the 3pts made Knicks leaderboard, surpassing Latrell Sprewell (thanks, NBA League Pass!).

I guess we’re done for tonight. Tomorrow we’ll face the Celtics, and I think we’re gonna get pretty much steamrolled. I suggest you all adopt the Alonzo Mourning Acceptance Gif as your lifestyle for the next few days.

See you tomorrow!

Atlanta Hawks 107 – New York Knicks 126 – Game Recap

To paraphrase Dwyane Wade circa 2010, “Sorry if everyone thought we were going to go 0-82”. I guess this Hawks team was tailor made to get a thorough beating under the MSG lights on opening night!

So, with our first win under our belt, let’s take a look at what happened tonight!

The good:

– Tim Hardaway Jr. (31 pts. 6 rebs, 5 ast, +14 +/-) had a heck of an second quarter on offense. He just couldn’t miss (which was not true for the rest of the game, since he ended up shooting 10/22 from the field and 3 for 9 from three) in the historic second stanza, and that propelled the Knicks to a wide margin – and effectively to the victory, since they would never relinquish that lead for the night. Last time I wrote that his game screamed “empty calories”, this time he served us a healthy lasagna. That said, this was the same old Timmy: streaky as hell. prone to mediocre shot selection, not doing very much in the half-court offense. He also was extremely volatile in his defensive effort: this was very evident in the second quarter, when right in the middle of our scoring break Atlanta Hawks coach called a timeout with 7:59 remaining, after a fastbreak THJ dunk. Right after the timeout, Timmy completely forgot his defensive assignment and Kent Bazemore wound up drilling a totally uncontested corner three. Now, against the Hawks this might not be a problem, but during the course of the season, maybe down the wire in an exciting game? It could be a momentum stopper of huge proportions. Then again, aren’t we rooting for losses this year? So, yay Timmy!

– Noah Vonleh (12 pts, 10 rebs, 3 ast, +22 +/-) did a lot of damage in his 16 minutes. He kept the Knicks boat afloat in the first quarter, when our Bockers couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn, by ferociously attacking the offensive glass, getting fouled and throwing down a nice putback dunk. He was projected to be our third-string center, but got more minutes because Mitchell Robinson got semi-injured tweaking his ankle after a minute of play. Against a rebounding-challenged Atlanta team, Vonleh was deadly. It’s going to be hard for Mitch to keep his back up center slot in the rotation, but in the long run it could make him stronger, which is definitely not a bad thing. I’m doubling down on my bet that Vonleh will be this year’s KOQ in terms of endearment from the Garden crowd.

– Enes Kanter (16 pts, 11 rebs, 3 ast, +7 +/-) was the Enes that we learned to know, and that means the same crossbred result of making an Energizer bunny mate with a very wide and very ground bound oak and giving him a feathery touch around the rim. Strangely quiet in the first quarter, was held scoreless until 4:23 remaining in the second quarter. He finished the half with 10 points. Again, I know we’re not supposed to win a lot of games this season for our good, but I like to watch competitive losses, and Enes is probably our best bet to keep us in a lot of games. He’s just too good on the things that he does well (rebounding, inside scoring) and looks to be marginally improved on defense, especially on lateral movement.

– Allonzo Trier (15 pts, 4 rebs, 2 blk, +9 +/-) had definitely the best debut of all the rookies playing tonight. On a good night, like tonight, he is instant offense and looks the veteran part. Granted, we were playing against a glorified G-League team, but his poise in his first NBA game was a sight to behold. Coach David Fizdale probably was right in saying he has a real knack for chasedown blocks, as he stuffed people at the rim twice, and generally didn’t look too much out of place in the half-court defense. He also had a monster jam to end the second quarter, when he drove down the lane and challenged three Hawks to stop him from scoring; they failed, he slammed the ball with utter force and the Garden erupted. The moment was a little bit reminiscent of the early-KP putback dunks.

– Trey Burke (15 pts, 3 rebs, 4 ast, +14 +/-) ditched the preseason jitters and came back to last season form. He scored efficiently and smartly, even posting up Trae Young a couple times with good results. It’s a shame that he isn’t a good shot creator for others, otherwise he would be a sure bet to enjoy a long, starting point guard career. As it is, he’s probably best suited to bench energizer-stabilizer. Anyway, he’s by far our most polished point guard as of now and I feel Hawkeye-fine with him at the helm. Hawkeye as in “the plainest of plain Janes in the MCU”. Well, being average is better than being terrible, right?

The bad:

– Nobody really sh*t the bed tonight, but a special mention goes to the first quarter offense. The Knicks started 0 for 8 from the field and didn’t score until Frank Ntilikina connected on a long-range shot with 7:52 to go in the first quarter (shout out to my man Frank for netting the first field goal of the Knicks season!). To put that into perspective, a fan scored before any Knicks could, hitting the half court shot during a timeout with 8:03 remaining and cashing for his effort a hefty 10.000 dollars, or 1/650 of Joakim Noah cap hit for the next three years.

Truth be told, our offense keeps on being underwhelming. Yeah, we scored 126 tonight but it didn’t feel like a single bucket came from organized half-court play. I’m not sure what’s the problem here, but Fiz needs to be more imaginative with stuff, otherwise in nights when our opponents don’t turn the rock over 24 times and don’t get crashed on the boards we’re in for horrendous spurts of rim-clunking.

Fun-sized bits:

– The 49 points scored in the second quarter are the most ever scored by a Knicks team in that period. That’s no small feat, especially when we don’t run many successful plays.

– The Knicks apparently chose coach Fiz to be the cheerleading spokesperson on the Jumbotron. That’s a really smart choice, seeing as Fizdale oozes charisma from every pore. He’s a really great communicator, and people genuinely seems to be stoked when around him. There was a nice exchange between Fiz and Kanter in the second quarter after a broken play that got salvaged by an errant Hawks foul where you could really see the chemistry broiling.

– The Knicks also chose Lance Thomas to address the crowd before the game. Let’s just say I’m way more passionate when ordering a Big Mac speaking gibberish after a night of partying.

– Vince Carter was starting tonight. The dude is 41 and was the only Hawks starter posting a positive plus/minus. Did I mentions that the Hawks are hot garbage? Trae Young, though, was better than I expected (not that I expected much).

– Frank had a good game, with an excellent first quarter, especially on defense. He played a lot of minutes (34, more than anyone else in the game) and was his usual defensive self. He also was his usual offensive self, clearly overthinking in a couple occasions and rushing his shot in another couple. His crossover in the third was sick, as was his finish at the rim, but his handle is still loose and high. He was the only Knicks playing more than one minute who posted a negative plus minus for the night. Hoping this doesn’t become a trend. Overall, though, he was decorous at the very least.

– Knox was a mixed bag. He shoots from the right areas, as DRed noted in the comments a few days ago, but shoots very badly. His forays at the rim are terrible, as he contorts his body in strange ways, probably to avoid contact, and his go-to move right now seems to be an awkward floater from anywhere inside the paint (nothing that his scouting report didn’t mention). I mean, the kid shot 4 for 16 and notched 10 points. Anyway his motor looks better than advertised and there’s no sense of entitlement in him. I doubt he’ll ever be a star, but a decent contributor at 9 is not that bad.

– Baker was cool as the back up point guard. A zero on offense (save for his 4 assists) but a total pest on defense and pretty much never in over his head. He’s so, so much better than Mudiay at this basketball thing.

– Hezonja’s game is all over the place, but tonight his effort level was much better, deflecting balls here and there in the second quarter and going for nice drives. His body language is still horrible, but this kind of good J.R. Smith-lite games are a welcome sight.

– NBA League Pass has introduced a new feature this year that allows you to keep track in real time of stats and stuff. Sometimes it throws at you the most random stuff, like “Taurean Prince just tied Craig Ehlo for 16th in the all-time Hawks 3pts made leaderboard with 210”. NBA League Pass: making life easier for recappers around the globe.

– Mike Breen and Clyde are such a class act. I missed them so much along the summer.

And that’s it! 1-0, undefeated, baby! Let’s see what our guys will do against the Nets on Friday. Until then, let’s debate about whether or not Courtney Lee deserves to be traded for half a sack of potatoes.

 

Brooklyn Nets 113 – New York Knicks 107 – Game Recap

Sooo… Preseason is over, and it went a little better than we could have expected, I guess. And the last game of preseason brought us a new gift: a game recap!

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

The good:

– Frank Ntilikina (9 pts, 4 rebs. 5 ast, -17 +/-) played a really good game, despite the awful plus/minus. The kid was pretty much always in control of his actions, and his defense is still remarkable. On a night where a lot of Knicks fumbled defensive rotations, Frank was always on his toes, ready to step in front of the guy with the ball. In the beginning of the second quarter there was an excellent defensive possession where he defended Jared Dudley on a drive, then rotated seamlessly onto Treveon Graham (who by that point got the ball and was ready to shoot) and forced him to travel. That stuff is ingrained in his DNA, and should make him a solid contributor.

As for his offense: he certainly is not the most athletic guy in terms of speed and quickness, but tonight he got to his spots with a lot of old man craft. His scoring game is starting to get a little resemblance to Andre Miller’s: slow but calculated movements that allow him to make the best out of his height and wingspan. I really like the move where he starts to spin just inside the paint, pinning his defender on his pivot foot, and gets to the rim with the left hand. The kid has worked out in the summer and it shows. Is he a point guard? Jury’s still out. Is he an NBA player? Hell yes.

– Mitchell Robinson (7 pts, 4 rebs, 3 ast, -17 +/-) is incredibly raw, but incredibly springy. I liked the fact that he got the start, and I liked the fact that he was extra hungry for the moment. He even had a patented block on a three point shot, and in the third quarter reverse-dunked the ball while standing still under the basket – showing that the knew where he was and was able to choose the most efficient way to put the ball in, even if it was a little goofy. He moved well, didn’t get into foul trouble and, while his defensive rotations weren’t always crispy, he surely doesn’t look like a guy who hasn’t played organized basketball in 2017-18. Massive steal on our hands (but please, Mitch, never shoot again outside of the paint. He missed a 20 footer by a couple miles, making Fiz cringe visibly). Also those 3 assists? Not bad for a guy who should be pretty useless when he’s not jumping here and there.

– Noah Vonleh (13 pts, 5 rebs, 3 ast, +4 +/-) is a nice third/fourth big to have on the team. He’s tremendously strong, and goes after boards with abandon. He can shoot a bit the three pointer, even with a super flat arc, and generally stays out of the way of driving guys. Doesn’t always seem to be in the game mentally, but when he is people tend to notice. I miss Kyle O’Quinn, but here I am betting that on some nights the MSG crowd will just love the sheer force of Vonleh. He should just try to foul a little less, especially on the offensive end (it should be said, though, that tonight the refs were very eager to blow the whistle for offensive fouls. It looked like someone tinkered with the NBA 2K19 sliders too much).

The bad:

– Kevin Knox (3 pts, 2 rebs, 1/6 fgs, -6 +/-) is in for some veeeery rough nights during his rookie season. Tonight we caught a glimpse of what is his worst case scenario. He’s pegged to be a scorer but really lacks the instincts that make you an efficient scorer. He just shoots the ball when he’s half-open or nobody around him is moving, and throws the ball awkwardly towards the rim when driving against half-court defenses. What do you say? I just described Emmanuel Mudiay? Heh, pretty much. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Knox will be at the very least a rotation player in the NBA and a better player than Mudiay, but the Knox rookie experience is going to be really ugly here and there. He also fouled too much, being aggressive but in the worst way. Let’s just be patient with the kid, though, ok?

On a side note: I can’t say I like the offense we saw in these 5 preseason games. It was made by a lot of ISOs, very few guys getting open on movement, not a lot of effective PnR action. I know we have just 3, at best 4 shot creators from the dribble, and most of them are just adequate, but I came away totally unimpressed by the offensive part of Fizdale’s work. We have a few guys who are good at attacking close-outs, but those opportunities usually manifest themselves when the defense is scrambled. I really hope things will get better during the season, I don’t think anyone should be submitted to 82 games of THJ chucking contested jumpers all night long. Oh wait, we are the Knicks. We are destined for this (at least we got spared the multiple jab-step part that came with Melo in town)

– Mario Hezonja (14 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, +3 +/-) is the proof that you shouldn’t check box score numbers to get a feel of who was contributing to the team. Mario has all the talent in the world and sometimes that becomes very apparent, as in the fourth quarter when he effortlessly went into a layup motion a split-second after catching an outlet pass from Mudiay. His body language, though, is Mickey-Mouse-gouging-his-eyes-off-meme atrocious. The Knicks defense tonight got in shambles right after he entered the game in the first quarter. His defensive stance is so inadequate that even Ron Baker could blow by him easily, and he’s pretty much always checking off the game with his mind. I’m lucky to be bald already, otherwise Mario’s game would make me pull my hair off with my own hands, night in and night out. He’s a sure bet to have a patented Doug McDermott 20 pts outing from the bench on some nights, but numbers shouldn’t fool anyone. This kid doesn’t look like an average NBA player, and at times it looks like he doesn’t even want to be playing basketball. Such a shame.

– The Knicks defense. Now, the final score was close, but it wasn’t really the story of the game. A late game push, our trademark fake Knicks comeback, came into fruition thanks to some hot shooting from our own tall Sharlto Copley, Luke Kornet. Tonight the main problem was that our defensive rotations were ugly, with a lot of guys wandering aimlessly on the perimeter and some others repeatedly dying on screens (looking at you, Ron). As a result, we got a collective case of Hornacek-Rambis-Fisher PTSD, since those Nets shooters got open on the perimeter all night long. As I said, I think the spark for the awful defense we saw tonight was Hezonja entering the game, but the effort was all-around disappointing. Let’s hope it was just a one-night thing (and now this sentence triggered some PTSD in me, since it was something that I heard from the vast majority of ladies who I got to know… better).

Fun-size bits:

– Ron Baker got the start! He’s quite useless as the primary ball handler and never looks to shoot, but his effort is always welcome. I don’t know why tonight he got crushed screen after screen, but his on man defense is always on point. Hoping he sticks around as a 12th man in the league after this atrocious Mills’ contract expires.

– Mudiay is still a bad NBA player, but his Wes Unseld impression is spot on. His outlet passes are gorgeous.

– The refs robbed Kornet of a good block that would have contributed to give him something to show in the boxscore, beside his 9 points. If the inflatable Steve Novak doesn’t hit his threes, he’s really doing nothing out there.

– I still don’t rationally understand how Lance Thomas can be our starting power forward, but I feel it’s the right choice for now. He’s always checked in, and that’s a good example for young guys, even if he’s still doing very few things out there. At least he looks better in his new haircut.

– THJ scored 18 points on 50% shooting, but as always his game screams “empty calories”. Trier is pretty much the same, but doesn’t impact our payroll like THJ and is a lot more fun to watch in his perky-jerky dribbling. It’s like THJ is regular Coke and Trier is Coke Zero, as the second one at least doesn’t weigh on you or your waistline (or, in this case, our cap).

– Apropos of Trier, good news guys! The league sent a memo that traveling days won’t count against the 45 days limit, effectively extending the window to make a decision on Iso Zo. I like him as a scorer out of the bench. He looks the shortest 6′ 5″ guy ever, but knows his way around the game.

And that’s a wrap! I hope I haven’t bored all that much, and I really, really, really want to say thank you to Mike K, Brian and all the KB staff for giving me the opportunity to write for this blog. Let’s hope it’s not a one-night thing (PTSD setting in 3… 2… 1…).