Not every 45th game in a 12-32 season is the same. Most of them are useless affairs that deserve to be watched in bits between Jeopardy! reruns and local TV news reportages, win or lose. And then there are the games that bring with them some added gravitas, sometimes because of the opposing team, sometimes because of an opposing player, sometimes both.
Last night game was a clear example of this: the Lakers are to be inherently disliked, and as much as you might acknowledge the self-apparent grandiosity of LeBron it’s hard not to feel contempt for the way he carries himself on the court when he steps onto the MSG hardwood. This time there were also bonus hate points added thanks to that Kuzma punk that made a habit of standing up from the bench in the first quarter to swag-walk along the baseline every time the Lakers looked like they were on the verge of doing something on offense. I, personally, found it very hard not to actively root for the Knicks to win the game, mercs shaming and youth development be damned for once.
In this sense, the game was kinda fun. The Knicks fought quite valiantly, especially in the first half, which ended on a perfect tie at 48 apiece after the teams traded a few blows (for the Lakers most of the production unsurprisingly came from LeBron and Davis; for the Knicks there was a bit more of a team effort plus the commendable long range efforts of Damyean Dotson and the continuation of the recent hot streak from Taj. The fact that Mook was able to dress for the game bolstered in a good way the rotation). We still got a few minutes of the insane Portis-Randle combo at 4-5, but it looked like we were fine. The Lakers gave the impression to have taken the foot of the pedal a bit after a super pumped up first five minutes, and it was common expectation that once they would have gone for the kill we would have fallen behind by 20 very easily.
The third quarter looked like that at a certain point (it certainly didn’t help that the Knicks were turning the ball like crazy in the period), with the Lakers going to take a double digit lead at 75-65 with 1:09 to play, but the Knicks were able to hang tight and close the quarter with a mini 5-1 run to keep the game at hand. In the fourth, maybe not so coincidentally in simultaneity with Dennis Smith getting back to play after who knows how many games, the Lakers went up by 13 after a mini 6-0 run of their own. From there the Knicks tried to get back into the game but it was too little too late; the last minute was an encore of the recent Fizdalian streak that’s possessing Mike Miller. Let me take you through what happened there: With 1:34 remanining, a Mook three cut the lead to seven at 94-87. James went for the Doncic stepback three from 32 feet, missed badly and Morris got the board. On the other side, with just 59 seconds to play, Dotson got to shoot a semi-contested three that clanked off the rim; the ball was still in our Bockers’ hand because the Lakers couldn’t keep the rebound in play. Alex Caruso foolishly commited a foul before the ball was inbounded, so the Knicks had one shot and the ball. Mook hit the freebie. So far, so good.
Then: the ball got inbounded to the left corner where Julius Randle (rolling eyes emoji galore) proceeded to shot a turnaround three that he had no business making – and true to form he put up an ugly airball. Seriously? Randle shooting a turnaround three on a night when he was struggling badly with his shot (6-16 for the game, 0-4 for three)? Anyway, the ball was still in Knicks’ hand because the Lakers couldn’t cleanly corral the board. The ball got again in Randle’s hands, who went on to turn it over again with his patented “spin into two defenders like an inebriated tango dancer who mistook the queue to go up the Statue of Liberty for an open dancefloor”. The Lakers stormed towards an easy transition basket with 42 seconds to go (not really so easy; Kuzma missed the layup, even though maybe he was fouled, but AD was there for the tip in). The game was over thanks to a double Randle blunder, but at least pride was safe thanks to the all around effort for the night.
A few thoughts:
– We lost by 8. Dennis Smith Jr got back to where he was posting a -9 plus/minus in 4:36. Hmmm. The kid is done in NY. Trade him away for his (and ours) own sake.
– Mitch played pretty well last night (12 boards, 1 block, some spurts of legitimately good defense, not in foul trouble) and still notched just 25 minutes against arguably the second biggest team in the League. I just can’t. Also: last night the “opposing team game planning for Mitch” thing was real on a few possessions, but still – three shots in 25 minutes? Our point guards sucks badly at getting the right players in the right spots.
– About sucking point guards: Frank’s in the middle of a horrible shooting slump (2-for-16 for the last two games, 0-8 this time). He had a very anemic stats line: 2 boards, 1 assist, and nothing else. Still: him and Mitch were the only Knicks with a positive plus/minus. You don’t need to remind me raw, single game plus/minus is a resoundingly bad way to measure a performance, but when it becomes a constant… I don’t know what else to say. Is there some reason why we don’t trot out an Elfrid-Frank-Bullock/Dot-Mook-Mitch lineup out there with RJ out? Apart from Pills’ likely meddling? Frank is posting a +5.1 On/Off rating, third best in the team.
– Dotson looked like he couldn’t miss tonight, but then I took a look at the boxscore and: 17 points on 6-for-14 from the field (but a sound 5-11 from three). Even on hot nights, Dot shoots at best at just a slightly above-average clip. For the season he barely breaks 40% from the field and is at 32.5% from three. He’s a 3-and-D template with no actual evidence of functionality at both, the umpteenth Knicks conundrum.
– Oh and you know our other 3-and-D guy? That BulLOCK guy? He’s shooting 41% from the field and 31% from three. At least we’re consistent.
– I mean, Bobby Portis sucks and all, but he’s the only Knick apart from Morris to shoot at least at league average from three. Talk about roster construction.
– In unrelated news, have you seen that Zion guy? He won’t ever shoot 4-4 from three again, but boy was so Knicksian to draft at 3rd last June.
– In more unrelated news, take a look at this Ringer article about KP. You can feel the writer trying ultra hard to find good things to say about him. Even national media is catching up to what we already knew.
– And now, in incredibly more unrelated news and an unabashed feat of self-promotion, I hereby submit to you the lyric video to one of those three songs I talked about a couple weeks ago. Feel free to skip it entirely, or don’t and tell how cool it is that I’m doing trite 80s-inspired music (but seriously, I’m quite happy about the final result and I’m glad to share it with you).
See you soon!