Following this team this season is a very peculiar experience. You find yourself thrilled when the team is winning thanks to the young guys, and you find similarly thrilled when you realized that, despite their best effort, you’re gonna bag another loss that brings you closer to a top-5 2019 pick. This game was exactly like that. An intensely fought back and forth that ended up in a couple fortitous offensive possessions by Indiana.
2-6 is what I would have predicted at this point, which is ok. What makes it more than ok is the fact that we’re actually developing our rookie scale contract players, and giving them some burn in the closing minutes of tight games. Nice job by Fiz so far.
To the recap!
– Tim Hardaway Jr (37 pts, 1 ast, 1 reb, -14 +/-) is still putting out puzzling all around performances, as this was definitely not a team friendly one, and for the umpteenth time this season he posted the worst plus/minus of the game – actually, it was the third time, but you get my point. That said, 37 points on 19 shots is nothing to scoff at, and we needed every last drop of Timmy’s offensive juice tonight to stay in the game. If not for three turnovers in the last three minutes, THJ would have had a real chance at being the game MVP. He was great at getting to the line, even if some of those attempts from the charity stripe came from away from the ball fouls; you still have to be in the thick of the action, though, to have someone foul you. I wish he would do a better job of moving the ball around, especially after driving to the rack, but I guess it’s time we understand that his drives are awesome in transition and mediocre at best in the half-court offense. At this point of the season he’s 64th in the league in drives per game, and ahead of him there are some luminaries like DeAndre Bembry, Michael Carter Williams, Shelvin Mack. If you’re the clear cut no. 1 option on the perimeter and have a usage of 31% you should do more. Anyway, he gave us almost exactly what we needed to beat a good Indiana team, so this one goes in the good Timmy games list. He also drew another charge and half-busted another lip. He’s out there with his maximum effort. He’s just not that good, but we’ll make do.
– Noah Vonleh (14 pts, 10 rebs, 4 ast, -4 +/-) put up a strong, all-around game. At this point, I’m not sure what happened to him, but this is nothing like the Vonleh we used to (barely) see on the court in the last three seasons. He’s an above average ball-handler for his position, has good court vision, rebounds well and when he goes up to put the ball into the basket he does it with the requisite drive to slam the air out of the ball, if it’s there. Think of him as of our off-brand Draymond Green: his work in bringing up the ball in semi-transition after a gobbled defensive board or a steal is very good, as evidenced by a very nice sequence with 5:27 remaining in the game, where he found THJ in perfect stride for a three from the extended elbow. He makes some dumb decisions now and then, but you live with them as long as he provides for a lot of other good stuff. Tonight he also delivered on the defensive end, where he was the only one who tried to put a stop on the Domantas Sabonis rampage (more on that later) and racked 2 steals and 3 blocks. His 4 turnovers were a bit too much, but it’s a byproduct of being more involved in a sometimes stagnant offense.
– Allonzo Trier (14 pts, 3 rebs. 1 ast, -2 +/-) provides more than a decent scoring punch from the bench. Even as an older rookie, it’s puzzling that no other team snatched him up in the late second round. He’s playing like your prototypical combo guard off the bench, and he’s doing fine. If Noah is our off-brand Draymond, Iso Zo is our Lou Williams-lite. It was refreshing to see him out there in the final minutes with license to operate, even hitting the lay-up that gave a little hope to the Knicks, putting them at 101-103 with 44 seconds to go. I loved the fact that Fiz didn’t opt to put Lance back in his place for defensive purposes after that bucket, even if we allowed an uncontested three to Oladipo on a botched defensive second effort right after that. Allonzo is not a stout defender, but he’s not a sieve either, and his offensive prowess is more than enough to make him a better contributor than Lance for this team. Very efficient night, 6 for 7 from the field, 2 for 2 from three. There are times when he is so good at keeping his body under control at the rim that he doesn’t draw fouls because of that. He’ll learn to.
– Enes Kanter (7 pts, 6 rebs, 2 ast, -4 +/-) played a totally uninspired game and botched a lot of defensive rotations, even by his standards. Domantas Sabonis ate him alive, and foul trouble was much more effective in shutting Arvydas’ son down than whatever pathetic thing Enes was doing tonight. To put things in perspective, Sabonis is the first player ever to score 30 pts in less than 22 minutes and less than 13 shots. And all of that came in the paint, with Enes as his primary defender. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a bad interior defensive performance. When I was playing basketball (before I stopped growing in height at the ripe age of 15, ouch) I was a hard-nosed, no talent, no-nonsense 4-5 whose calling cards were rebounds and interior defense. If a teammate of mine put on display a game like the Enes one tonight, my 15 year old past me would have gnawed at him until he gave a f*ck again. I’m ashamed at Enes. And this guy told ESPN before the game he wants to make the All-Star team? Get a grip, Enes. And learn to defend for once! On a sidenote, he robbed Frank of a clean assist when he missed a super easy bunny in the third. Terrible outing for Enes. I hope he recovers, but he’s spiraling down and I don’t see that happening anytime soon unless he’s inserted back into the starting lineup (which in itself it good enough reason never to put him back there).
– Trey Burke (6 pts, 2 ast, 40% FG) is becoming more and more hollow as the games go by. It’s astounding what a good rebuilding vision can to do a team. Last year, Burke was one of the few bright spot among a chaotic rotation that saw players go in and out on a moment’s notice and saw too much playing time given to useless or past their prime veterans. This year, he’s the useless veteran. I think Trey’s problems arise particularly from the presence on the team of Trier, who does a lot of what he can do (save for the floor general stuff, but it’s not like Trey’s been that good in directing the team) but is 4 inches taller and much more capable at the rim. I hope we can package him to a team where playmakers are scarce. His bad body language since his benching is rivaled only by Kanter’s, and that’s twice in a row. Sorry Trey, you seem a good guy, but this team has no place for entitled middle of the pack players.
– Frank Ntilikina (4 pts, 1 reb, 7 ast, -8 +/-) had a mediocre outing. This time the bounces on his shot weren’t lucky, as he put a little too much mustard on a pair of jumpers in the third that deserved a better fate and he didn’t connect on a single three pointer. His defense was good and his two-man game was more that decent. I was expecting him to do more of that gyrating routine he started to show this season when into or near the paint, but his moves were at most basic. His starting PG splits aren’t that good either: in the last three games he’s putting up 12.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 4.3 APG on 54% TS and a snail-like pace of 98.3. Out of curiosity, though, I ran a few comparisons with some of his fellow 2017 draftees: I’ll let you guess who’s Frank and who are the others.
Player A: -11.6 Net Rating, 18.8 Ast Ratio, 4 REB%, 47.5% EFG%, 6.8 PIE
Player B: -9.8 Net Rating, 25.9 Ast Ratio, 3.8 REB%, 47.1% EFG%, 5.5 PIE
Player C: -1.7 Net Rating, 13.8 Ast Ratio, 4.1 REB%, 49.4 EFG%, 7.1 PIE
Player D: 1.8 Net Rating, 15.3 Ast Ratio, 3.5 REB%, 51.1 EFG%, 10.0 PIE
One is easy to guess, but the other three aren’t that much different, ain’t them? Too bad defense isn’t measured that much in those statistics.
– Damyean Dotson (13 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, -8 +/-) is really solid, even if this time wasn’t that active on the boards. He completes the trifecta of discount NBA Players clones by being our poor man’s Danny Green. He even had a trademark Pablo Prigioni steal under the opposing team’s rim and got an and-one from that! Loving Dotson’s game.
– Mitchell Robinson got the start but against a tough-as-nails Indiana team was able to do very little. We could make a t-shirt for Fizdale that says “I started Mitchell Robinson on Halloween night and all I got was 4 boards and 2 blocks”. The blocks were gorgeous, but his 19 minutes of play were very empty otherwise. Oh well, growing pains.
– I won’t bother describing you Lance Thomas game. Let’s say a ghost with a Knicks jersey would have played pretty much the same game. His fumbling drive in the fourth quarter against Domantas Sabonis was very comical. though. It was of the drunke YMCA 50 year old player variety.
– Is Mario Hezonja still a basketball player? Is he still on the roster? His 7 boards say so, but I’m not sure I’ve really seen him play. Maybe is was an ectoplasmic residue of an NBA player. Mario has been less than disappointing for now. He’s been totally see-through, thin as a perfectly cut slice of Parma ham.
– Man, Domantas Sabonis. 30 pts on 12/12 shooting, 9 boards, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 21 minutes. And he’s not even that good! Enes, dammit.
– I’m not complaining about the loss, but the defensive sequence with Indiana up 103-101 and the Knicks within reach to win the game was baffling. The Pacers ran a simple PnR with Oladipo and Bogdanovic to free Bojan from three. Bojan was incredibly open since Dotson, who was the man tasked with guarding Oladipo, didn’t switch while Trier did. Bogdanovic shot an airball, and both Dotson and Trier left Oladipo, Dot to chase to board and Trier to stay on Bogdanovic. Thad Young got the board and passed the ball to a wide open Oladipo, who calmly sank the three with Frank trying to get to him in time. Young players make mistakes, and this was fully on display here.
That’s all, folks! See you on Friday against Dallas, in a tanktastic square off. Just don’t cry too much watching Luka and thinking what could have been if we really tanked last year.