It’s weird. I’m at a loss for words. I’ve become so used to recapping losing efforts (or hard fought wins) that such a lopsided win looks dull and unworthy.
The win was never in doubt. Like, never ever. The Knicks took control of the game in the first quarter behind the heroics of a seemingly reborn Julius Randle (fifteen points in the period) and a pretty cohesive defensive effort by the whole team, keeping the Cavs at 20 points scored.
The second quarter was more of the same, only with a little scare everytime the Cavs started hitting two or three triples in row, hitting the MSG crowd with a Charlotte PTSD jab in the jaw. Luckily, these Cavs were way more outmatched than the Hornets (the Cavs are a bad team, and they also were without Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. They also gave to the almost lifeless husk of Brandon Knight a full 12 minutes of play) and never got to get dangerously close to our guys. Second quarter ended with the Knicks up 64-51 and with Randle having scored 23 points.
Third and fourth quarter just came and went like the third act of the movie Hancock. You know, that weird superhero movie where Will Smith plays the alcoholic superpowered antihero being and for around an hour of playing time you stay focused on the action, and then suddenly nothing makes sense anymore but whatever, what came before was fun so you just trudge through the last 30 minutes while your mind wanders around and you play a little Jeopardy with yourself trying to remember the name of the actor who played principal Belding in Saved from the bell? Yeah, just like that.
Told ya, it’s hard to write anything about such an easy, unchallenging win. I’m almost more sympathetic to the Cavs than overjoyed for moving up the ladder (two games from the 8th seed! No really).
Let’s get to a few details, then:
– You know those times when it feels like it’s your day? Those times when you do the same things you always do, but it feels like you’re gliding effortlessly through a huge amount of work without breaking a sweat and maybe looking good enough that Cindy at the reception smiles veery warmly in your general direction? And maybe you also find a spare 20$ in your pockets just as you walk inside the bar to throw down a few beers? This was essentially what happened to Julius Randle (30 pts, 7 rebs, 4 ast, +24 +/-), who netted the first Knicks 30+ points game of the season while changing pretty much nothing in his shot selection. It was just a matter of shots falling. In more than one occasion he looked like a sad, huge bulldog was doing its best James Harden impression, left handed stepback jumper after jumper. Mind you, I’m glad that Julius had the chance to submit such a good scoring night; I just hope this doesn’t devolve into a reassurance that this is the right way to deploy him. At the very least we can rejoice at the thought he looks to have dropped that stupid dribbling spin move that was pretty much akin to the hammer throw olimpic discipline; it’s not a coincidence that he turned the ball over just once last night after the single turnover happened during the Charlotte game. If he cuts back on them and has the chance to pass the ball from the high post more than twice per game, things will be better.
– Shooting 5 for 13 isn’t gonna cut it by itself, but Marcus Morris (23 pts, 6 rebs, 1 ast, +27 +/-) sustained himself on a steady free throws diet, hitting 12 of 13. I don’t particularly like his offensive game for the Knicks, but there’s no denying he’s a heady veteran – at least until it’s time to blow off some steam and get a T for his troubles. I don’t care much for his role in this Knicks’ iteration, but as long as he looks good and his numbers aren’t bad I think we all can be happy, he might really be a trade market delicacy for starved playoff-bound teams, and maybe a low first rounder can be had for him. Diss him all you want, but 19/6 tweeners that shoot 40+% from three don’t really grow on t(h)rees, so yeah, Portland, you’re more than welcome to hand us your 2021 top-18 protected first rounder.
– Ah, come on, it was long due. Kevin Knox (6 pts, 3 rebs, 2 ast, -13 +/-) chose the best time to post such a weak performance, and that’s good anyway. He shot an abysmal 2-for-10, including a 0-for-4 from three that (surprise!) brought his 3p% for the season to 38.9 and his FG% to 39.0. This, coupled with his strange dip in free throw shooting (63.2% for the season), looks like regression to a mean is rearing its ugly head pretty much as we expected. Anyway, we couldn’t have expected Kevin to have come such a long way from his absurdly awful rookie campaign, so I’m still happy to see his improvements. In a particular occasion (and Mike Breen noted that too) he hit Portis with a pocket bounce pass on a sort of short roll that last year didn’t even have a chance to exist in his own basketball Hyperuranium.
– Strangely empty night from RJ. He still scored 15 points and shot again 4 for 5 from the line (finally over 50% for the season on free throws, yay!), but 2 rebounds and 1 assists are not enough. He’s also missing a bit too much around the rim, such as on an absolute bunny in the third just after an easy dunk. His defense isn’t lacking though, as he came away with 2 steals and 2 blocks. His averages till now are very sound: 16/5.5/3.5 and 1.3 steals. I’m so excited for his third year season, he looks like one of those players who keep on adding things well into their late 20s. He’s gonna be an amazing second violin if we ever land a bonafide superstar.
– Mitch was uncharacteristically imprecise, “shooting” 3-for-7, but was still able to gobble 8 boards and 4 blocks in 17 minutes. Even accounting for his weak “shooting” night, he’s going with 71% from the field and 73% from the line for the season. His B-R page has me needing to change my underwear everytime I open it. 10 games in he’s good for .297 WS/48, 7 BPM and 30 PER, and he isn’t playing that well either. I wonder what would happen if a smart coach were to feature him heavily on PnR based sets instead of letting slow footed PFs initiate the offense over and over.
– Frank was quite good in playing PnR in snail mode. He might not be a PG, but he can play as the PnR ball handler in a pinch. 6 assists tonight (and a couple ones straight up wasted by – guess who – Gibson) and spurts of very good defense. I’m getting used to this homeless man Shane Battier at the point.
– I like the fact that Dotson is now the nominal 2-guard backup. He knows his role and can play a decent brand of modern basketball. God knows how I wish I could forget his former allegations. I feel physically unable to fully root for him.
– Rotations were good again, but why in the hell Portis played center a few minutes tonight with Morris and Randle on the court? It will never make sense. Fizdale has somehow stumbled into kind of an ideal rotation plan, still he wants to muck it up with unnecessary mish-mash big lineups? I really don’t get it.
– Don’t get fooled by last night DSJ’s numbers (not that good to begin with), he padded his stats in garbage time. Hoping for a recovery, but his advanced stats look like a vomited upon Chinese Pollock ripoff.
– Nothing new on the Portis/Gibson front. First one isn’t a good player and shouldn’t see more than 10 minutes per game, second one is a much needed lynchpin for an otherwise aimless collection of misguided players.
And so we won again and we’re 4-10. Will it be enough to buy a few more breaths for Fiz? Stay tuned for the Philly slaughter and you’ll find out. See ya!