Recap: Knicks 95, Pelicans 87

Brian Cronin wrote Saturday in the recap for the Cavs game that he didn’t get the Kevin Seraphin signing. Neither did I. Seraphin was part of a mess of bigs Phil Jackson added this summer: Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams, Kyle O’Quinn and Kristaps Porzingis were the others. It was hard to see how Seraphin could fit in, especially after suffering through an injury to start the season.

Well, Seraphin had himself a game Sunday against the Pelicans. Before the game, he shaved “Paris” into the back of head. It’s a small gesture; everything about a basketball game is going to seem small in the wake of such an awful and absurd spasm of violence. But they keep playing the game and we keep watching and we don’t worry about the alternative and that’s a good thing.

Seraphin was +9 in 14 minutes, scoring 12 points on 8 shots, with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. He was key in the decisive fourth quarter. He came in midway through the third for Robin Lopez, who has been up and down this year. Seraphin looked energetic right away, logging a dunk and a board within a minute. He closed the quarter on a 20-footer on a broken play that had Alvin Gentry throwing up his hands.

He got downright feisty in the fourth. For about six minutes in the heart of the period, he did everything for the Knicks. He forced Ryan Anderson into a turnover on a drive, leading to a nifty fast Grant-Galloway fast break. On the next trip down, he played the two-man game to perfection with Lance Thomas, screening for him, posting up, then dishing to a cutting Thomas for a dunk. Phil Jackson is going to put it in his Triangle instruction video.

After hitting a hook shot, he gave another lesson, this time hitting a cutting Galloway, set free by a meaty Melo backscreen. On the next trip, Seraphin missed a hook shot, but elbowed Anthony Davis in the face in the process (Vive la France!) leaving him free to put back the rebound. Seraphin put the Knicks up 10 with another hook shot, and that pretty much sealed the game.

I should mention Melo here. He had another solid game. That makes five in a row by my reckoning. He scored 29 points on this one, and I hardly noticed, aside from a blow-by dunk on Anthony Davis, one of the few human moments Brow had in this game. (The other was Seraphin clocking him in the face. Vive la France!) He mostly scored in the system. I did notice Melo’s mighty and prolific board work, helping the Knicks secure a 41-36 rebound advantage, crucial in a game in which they were outshot.

The Knicks host Charlotte Tuesday. Maybe they’ll be a .500 team by the end of the week?

Random notes:

Davis has a physical advantage over Porzingis and he used it. Our guy competed, though.

I don’t get why Amundson gets minutes, especially with Seraphin rolling. He came in for Lopez in the first, immediately fouled, then screwed up a pick and roll coverage to give Ryan Anderson an open jumper, then let Davis cut behind him for an alley oop. Derek Fisher subbed Anderson in again during crunch time, and he AGAIN gave up an alley oop to Davis, allowing the Pelicans to cut it to four with less than 30 seconds to go.

Jerian Grant continues to look so poised. One play I loved in the fourth. He was setting up a screen and roll with Porzingis. He saw Eric Gordon lean way left toward the screen, and immediately drove right, earning free throws. Good players make quick decisions, and Grant’s a quick decider.

Not-So-Quick Recap: Knicks 84, Cavaliers 90

Sorry for the lack of a game thread tonight, folks. I had left my apartment around 5:00 PM, and I thought that was too early to presume no one else was handling the game thread. In the future, I’ll just schedule a game thread before I go to go up about a half hour before the game and if someone else wants to do a more in-depth one, they can just replace mine before it posts (and as I said in the comments, I checked on my phone during intermission at a musical and I saw the Knicks were up so I didn’t want to jinx them by starting a game thread then. I see that that did not matter in the end).

Now that I’ve watched the replay of the game, it was an interesting game. Probably the biggest thing I will take from the game is the same thing that I was going to say before the game, which is that the Knicks are now at a point where they can hang with pretty much any team. They’re not really good enough to win a lot, but they’re hanging in there and hanging in there is a sign of a team who is good enough to be around the fringes of the playoffs (the 2013-14 team that won 37 games was a perfect example of that sort of fringe team who could hang with good teams – just not typically win the games in the end) and that is A. a lot more fun to watch than a team that has no chance against any half-decent team but more importantly, B. it is great experience for Zinger, who is really the main reason to watch this team this year, to see how far he can go and to continue to be impressed by how far he has already come in his short NBA career (think about it, the dude is specifically reversing what he did in Europe! Who does that? Who takes his weaknesses as a pre-NBA player and makes them his strengths as an NBA player in year one?! That’s ludicrous! That’s outstanding!).

I’ve said before that Lance Thomas is sort of oddly the bellwether of this team, in that if he has a good game, the Knicks can beat good teams. When he doesn’t, like tonight, well, the Knicks just don’t have enough guys. You can credit the Cavaliers defense in the fourth quarter, and there is something to be said for that, but the fourth quarter offensive collapse seemed to be more about poor execution by the Knicks than great defense by the Cavaliers. Lebron James scored 12 points in the fourth. That’s impressive. But it’s more impressive when you know that the entire Knicks team scored…12 points in the fourth. Dang.

Carmelo Anthony was electric through three quarters, probably playing his best game of the season, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t working in the fourth (again, Lebron’s strong defense was a help). Zinger had a decent game, as did Arron Afflalo.

Langston Galloway sadly had perhaps his worst game of the season. 3-9 from the field and some weak defense.

I never quite got the Kevin Seraphim signing and now it looks like the Knicks are even shrugging their shoulders with him. “Eh, we gave him a shot and now he’s done.”

The Knicks get the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday and Anthony Davis continues to be day-to-day with a sore hip. The Pelicans are playing so poorly that the game should be a winnable one whether he plays or not. They host Charlotte on Tuesday in the hopes of getting revenge on them before embarking on a really tough stretch of games for the rest of November (two games against Houston, two against Miami and one against OKC, sandwiched around one against the surprisingly not that bad Orlando Magic – heck, right now, Orlando is outperforming Houston). So it’d be nice to get to .500 before that stretch of games to close out the month.

Knicks vs. Lakers Game Recap

It’s hard to avoid the story that Kobe Bryant has likely played his last game at Madison Square Garden, and by “likely,” I mean “definitely.” The way he was making the hugging rounds yesterday, looking deeply into Sasha Vujacic’s eyes, murmuring softly in Italian, it seems certain. It reminded me a lot of the Derek Jeter goodbye tour, as a champion and an icon of a generation limped sadly into the night. Kobe played within himself for stretches of the game, rolling on a handful of signature jumpers, but there’s really nothing left. He looked foolish trying to defend Melo on nearly every possession they were matched up, which is saying something given Melo’s present condition. Carmelo Anthony isn’t all the way back yet and you can see him labor to move on occasion. That didn’t stop him from cooking soup at Bryant’s expense throughout the game, and he played ball denial on Mamba in crunch time as if he were 1990s Dennis Rodman.

The crowd was decidedly pro-Lakers at several points, or at least pro-Kobe Bryant. In a way, I felt bad for those fans who trotted out their preposterous looking yellow and purple clown suits to salute a player who’s given them so much, only to watch him participate in fumbling away a game they led in the 4th quarter. It’s no fun watching a player who has been invincible in your uniform look so mortal. Kobe wasn’t really the chief problem for the Lakers yesterday. He chucked a few crazy looking shots in a “mega heat check” kind of way. It’s as if he thought he’d better try to shoot some fadeaway 40-footers just in case he had that 101-point Garden finale in him, and when it was apparent he did not, he sat in stretches as part of a normal rotation. This is a Knicks blog, so I won’t belabor the point about the LA stuff more than I have to, but their roster is a mix of placeholders and youngsters and it hardly makes a lick of sense from the outside. They have a coach who doesn’t seem to understand the way the league is headed, an ancient star who still plays as if he’s due 20 shots, a mix of instant offense shooters with no other discernible skills, and some good young guys waiting in the wings to take over. The future may be fine in LA, but the present is a hot mess.

Our Knicks showed some of the same sloppy, disjointed play that had them coming in as losers of their last three games. In the quick recap I noted that the game may have been over at the half if they’d been playing an elite team, but you always knew that the Lakers were just too bad to hold on if someone on the Knicks could string together a few nice possessions. In the end, the starters provided a lot of the winning push, with a huge contribution from Langston Galloway, who seems to be in the middle of every successful run. The Knicks figured out how to get Calderon some open shots off Jerian Grant penetration, Melo did Melo things, Robin Lopez played with some fire and intensity, and Kristaps Porzingis continued to build on his all around play.

The numbers for both teams were eerily similar. The Knicks shot 33-84, while the Lakers hit 33-94. Both teams were 9-27 from three. The Knicks were 24-29 from the free throw line, and the Lakers wake up this morning bemoaning the fact that they only mustered 14-23 from the stripe. That seems pretty significant given the final margin. Both teams turned the ball over at a low rate…9 apiece. The Knicks were actually outrebounded on the offensive end, which is mildly surprising. Part of that situation may be related to Kyle O’Quinn’s 11 minute invisibility act. He came into the game in the Top-10 in the NBA in offensive rebounding rate and you can’t grab boards on the bench. I mean, you can but that would be weird.

The other big story from the game was the ejection of Derek Fisher. Fish is too cool for my liking sometimes. I think it’s an admirable trait to maintain poise in the face of pressure, and it rubs off on the players a lot, but there are times when it pays to get fired up. The Knicks complain a lot about the whistle, game to game, and I think some of it has come to a head. The reality is, every NBA team complains a lot about the whistle. It’s almost an epidemic. Porzingis never complains, though, and he rarely crinkles up his nose at some of the ticky-tack calls he’s been getting. He commits stupid rookie fouls, there’s absolutely no question, but a handful of the calls that have gone against him so far have been plain terrible. The phantom foul on the Kobe three attempt was just awful and deserved the sort of reaction it got from our coach. It was worth being tossed, given Porzingis’ cool and the recurrence of his fouling woes. He must be on the floor for the Knicks to compete, and it seems like Fisher will have to be more vocal about the whistle he’s been getting.

After he left for the locker room, Kurt Rambis took over the team and immediately sat Vujacic in cement. He also left O’Quinn on the bench and tightened the rotation a bit. I don’t know if he has a different take on who should be playing, but his second half choices reflected a bit of a departure from the head coach. People might make a bigger deal out of that than it deserves, but Rambis seemed to push a few of the right buttons. One of the rotation situations to keep an eye on is the slimmer role Derrick Williams is playing in the nightly mix. Even when the Knicks are struggling to find offense, he sits firmly on the bench and when he enters the game, he only plays in relatively short spurts. He’s obviously never in the game at the end. Clyde and Breen brought up the point that he’s second on the team in free throw attempts despite his low minutes, and he managed six attempts from the line on a night when he only played 15 minutes. When Afflalo returns, it will be interesting to see how he’s used. Something worth monitoring.

The last note is something of a bridge to our next contest with Toronto. It appears as though there’s a chance that Arron Afflalo will be back in time for that game, and he’s sorely needed. Cutting either Calderon or Vujacic out of the rotation can only improve things that seem to be broken at the moment, and it seems pretty clear that Vujacic is the odd man out. I imagine he might still get some spot minutes on the opposing team’s star, just to frustrate and bother them, but Afflalo was signed to play big minutes for the team and take some of the pressure off Melo. The Knicks desperately need that now, despite getting a lot of production out of Porzingis right out of the gate. If you can triangulate Melo, Afflalo, and Porzingis things will open up a lot and we might see less struggle to score the ball. The Grant kick outs that Calderon splashed will benefit Afflalo as well, and the spacing may even benefit Derrick Williams in whatever minutes he gets.

Toronto is going to be a very tough test, but then again every game this season is going to be a test until the club proves it’s ready to sustain energy and efficient play, and especially that it can close out winnable games.

2016 Quick Recap: Knicks 99 Lakers 95

Well, that was a game. It was a game played between two teams on a basketball court. You could call it sloppy. You could call it scrappy. You could call it ugly. All of those things would be correct. It was sort of the event equivalent of Sasha Vujacic.

* The Knicks are establishing themselves as a club without jump shooting of any kind, and that’s really making life difficult in a lot of ways. Part of the problem is that the starting backcourt doesn’t hit shots, but that would be piling on. Jerian Grant is better than both those guys, by a mile, but he can’t shoot either. It’s telling that we saw Lance Thomas thinking seriously about being that guy during the second half. He gets that itchy, desperate look when he has the ball behind the arc sometimes. Calderon fed off Grant’s penetration briefly and got his shot going, but his awful defense made things way too easy for the Lakers on the other end of the floor on most possessions. (Afflalo will relieve some of that pressure soon, which is welcome news.)

* With Melo hot and cold, somehow Langston Galloway is the most reliable shooter on the floor. Oddly, both coaches yanked him just as he was starting to impact the game. In the end, he hit the huge shot that gave the Knicks the lead for good. You have to love his cool and his hustle. He’s special.

* Kobe is really a shell of himself on both ends of the floor, which helped Melo a lot. Most of the cooking Carmelo did today was when Kobe was “defending” him and Byron Scott wisely removed Kobe each time to stop the bleeding. Kobe wanted the ball late in the game, as the Knicks were turning the tides and moving closer to the win and Melo played extraordinary ball denial on him, keeping him out of the picture. Credit where credit is due, Melo really played him well, but real Kobe would have found a way to get open.

* The education of Porzingis continued as he showed flashes, clanked shots, got his hands dirty, fouled some, and generally impacted the game positively while he was on the floor. He tipped a few balls in that late comeback and closeout and grabbed some typically aggressive boards. The Knicks are really much better with him on the floor and he’s going to be a beast when he starts hitting some of those shots he’s floating on.

* If the Knicks had been playing a good team, it may have been over at the half, but they were always the better team and had the better star player. The full recap will be up tomorrow, but let’s put aside the frustration for the night and just feel good about our first home win.

Quick Recap: Hawks 112, Knicks 101

Well, there goes the ‘Bockers chance to start out 2-0 for the first time in 16 seasons. A tragedy of epic proportions, n’est pas? Just thumbing through the box score, but a couple of things stand out.

* The Knicks finished the game with 21 turnovers. This is not good.

* The Calderon/Vujacic backcourt pales in comparison to the young turks, namely Messrs. Grant and Galloway, idling on the pine. The starters finished a combined 2-13 with only 3 assists. Those frisky kids put up a nifty 4-8 from the field with 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

* Carmelo Anthony’s preseason net splashing was so much iron pyrite. He scored 25 points on 27 heaves, with 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

* Overall, the Knicks simply didn’t have it tonight. They spent the bulk of the game shooting 40.9% from the field (including 6-29 from downtown), even though they got a ton of open looks.

* You know how everyone and their brother thinks they can cobble together a better starting lineup than the coach? Well, they might be right. Calderon looked like the Walking Dead for the 2nd night in a row and couldn’t begin to guard Jeff Teague.

* KP had an up and down game. Lots of effort-type plays and bricked threes, though he did manage to snaggle 8 rebounds.

* If we’re handing out hardware–and hey, it’s one game, but everyone participated, so we’re turning this in to an awards ceremony–the Knickscar goes too… Kyle O’Quinn. Once again, he finished with a double-double, threw a bazillion mean mugs at refs and snot-green clad Hawks alike. He’s our very own, better-passing Kurt Thomas. Do you think he can dunk? Or at least jump over the Manhattan phone book?

Hard to say. Recap in the mornin’, Knicker-backers!

Game 1 Quick Recap: Knicks 122 Bucks 97

Just a quick look at the box score and some quick thoughts. Tomorrow morning I’ll share my game notes.

* Derrick Williams was on fire: 24 points on 17 shots.

* Co-MVP was Langston Galloway. 16 points on 10 shots, including 4-5 from downtown. He looked like he couldn’t miss. At the end of the game he had an easy layup and gave it up to Early for a bucket. Very unselfish!

* The offense looked good on designed plays. There were a number of scores after breaks, and as a Knick fan, I welcome this change. Credit: Derek Fisher.

* Melo had a quiet night in his return from injury. Thank goodness the Knicks didn’t need him. But Fisher still stuck him out there for 29 minutes, when he clearly wasn’t needed in the fourth quarter. Blame: Derek Fisher.

* Calderon looked awful. If him and Galloway play the same way for the next month, they’ll be switching spots.

* Zinger showed some flashes of what it is to come, but he’ll bring the growing pains with him. He looked best on defense (when his feet stayed on the floor).

* I’m moving to Milwaukee.