I beat LA and all I got is this Hezonja block.
Games like this, man. They are exactly what’s wrong with this team. It’s weird to say that after a win, and somehow a wildly amusing one, what with the fact that we swept the Lakers during the worst season in Knicks’ history and forced a loss upon the self-appointed King of MSG. Nonetheless, you just have to look at the minutes allocation to see that one of these two scenarios is in play right now: a) Fizdale doesn’t listen to management and/or b) management doesn’t understand the basic fact that, deep into March in a totally lost season, guys who should be playing lots of minutes should be young and under contract, even if with a team option, for the next season (I’d bet on b, which is somehow scary and very Dolan-like). I know. in the end you’re supposed to play five guys for 48 minutes anyway, and it’s not like our roster is littered with healthy long-term prospects under contract. But, well… let’s take a look at the box score, shall we?
Team expiring: 102 minutes
Team maybe expiring: 29 minutes
Team “we should play more”: 109 minutes (37 to Knox, 41 to Dotson – who, in all fairness, is not guaranteed for next season, but come on).
It doesn’t look that bad, right? Wrong.
I know, I should be prasing these Bron-defeating Knicks and not be so Mitch-centered, but guys, I think we have a huge problem if we don’t recognize the fact that he should be playing 30mpg no matter what and the guys on the court should be passing him the ball every damn time he seals a guard or a wing under the basket. I counted at least 8 such occurrances tonight, and not a single time someone tried to give him the ball. Seriously: he received a grand total of one pass (who he promptly converted) in 15 minutes of play. If he’s as smart as he looks to be, which is at least above-average, I think Mitch has realized how good he is/can be compared to all of the other scrubs on our roster. He’s a rookie and as such certainly shouldn’t be entitled to anything, but believe me, if I was him I’d be sulking quite a bit (and I’m mostly a very happy-go-lucky guy). This season should be about Mitch, Trier (a very blah game), Knox, Dotson and [redacted]. Nobody from the Mud-Hez-Vonleh-DAJ-Lance should play more than 20 minutes in a game, and that’s only when injuries are a factor. Through dungeons and injuries, it’s March 17th and we’re forced to watch Mudiay and Hezonja combine for 69 minutes. Tonight they were very good and so in a vacuum deserved the playing time, but what’s the benefit for us?
Ok, rant’s over, let’s take a look at the game!
For once, the game was actually very watchable. Lots of points scored, a few hot-shooting barrages, not a lot of defense in sight. Now that I think about it, it looked like your typical late-aughts All-Star Game (with much worse players). Neither the Knicks nor the Lakers were able to gain a comfortable lead (the Knicks were up 11 at the end of the first, with a season record of 41 points scored in the period – just after having scored 83 in a whole game against the Spurs), but the Lakers got their 11-point lead much later in the game and looked poised to steal the win. But alas, no, they went back to their terrible status just in time for us to win it in an absurd fashion.
Here’s what happened: with just 3:45 to go, the Lakers were leading 122-111 after a smooth LeBron jumper. From there on, all hell broke loose: Mudiay suddenly remembered how to throw a lob for DeAndre (113-122). Kuzma lost the ball. Knox committed one of his stupid trademark offensive fouls late in the game. KCP missed badly a three. Hezonja missed a three, DeAndre snatched the board (his fourth in the last 90 seconds) and promptly passed the ball back to Mario, who drilled the three. Mudiay committed a stupid foul on Caruso with the Lakers on the bonus, but Caruso went on to shoot 1-for-2. Dotson scored on a stepback long two from the corner. LeBron missed a three, Johnathan Williams (who?) grabbed the board but Hezonja stole the ball from him, the ball got to DeAndre near the basket and Kuzma fouled him. “Who ya got?” calmly drilled both freebies. Bron drove to the rim but got blocked by Jordan and Mudiay got the rebound after a missed tip-in by Extra-H Williams and incredibly passed the ball again under the cup to Dotson who went for a 6th grade-like layup. LeBron shot another jump shot, missed the target, Dotson got the board and passed the ball to Mudiay. KCP fouled inexplicably Mud, who wasn’t even looking at the rim, with just 22 seconds to go and no foul to give. A stone cold Mudiay sinked his free throws, giving the Knicks the lead, and then the masterpiece: LeBron took his sweet time to go for the game-winning layup, only to end getting blocked by Hezonja. The block was as clean as it gets and made for a memorable moment, probably borderline iconic and cult-like.
A few notes about the game (while this would have been a game good for the “good/bad/fun-sized”, it’s too late in the season and in the end it counts for nothing):
– At last, a legitimately good offensive game for Mudiay: 28 points on 11 shots (!), 8 assists, the clutch free throws to win the game. His defense was his usual ugly, but his offense really benefited from the appalling Lakers’ defense. Even bad players can have good games now and then (shout-out to Acie Earl scoring 40 points in 1996 for Toronto).
– I don’t like the fact that Jordan is stealing minutes from Mitch, but honestly, it’s not his fault, so let’s take some delight in seeing him transform into a strange Capela-Jokic off-brand hybrid. He’s averaging 2.9 assists per game as a Knick, while his career-high until last season was 1.5. His last five games: 10.8 points, 13.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists. The numbers are cool (his impact, a little less)!
– Damyean Dotson had another good game. 25 points, 6 boards, and a team-high +9 plus/minus. His shooting is very erratic, but we would all have signed up for this with a second-round selection. Over the last 4 games, he’s 16th in the whole League in scoring. I’m not one to value pointzzz that much, but that’s an achievement in itself given the clogged toilet offense we’re running (with a few exception for the DeAndre passing experience).
– Hezonja! Such a sad tale of squandered talent. This kid has all the tools to be a successful NBA player, but no pulse whatsoever. The rare times when he does, he looks like a worldbeater. More often, he’s a hopeless husk of a hope-glazed former lottery pick. Tonight we got good Hez, 17 points on 8 shots, 8 boards, and the block on James. In a lost season, Hez is personally responsible for 2 of the top-5 2018-19 Knicks highlights (the other one, I’m sure you got the memo, is the Giannis stepover).
– Hey, so Knox is able to hit more than half his shots more than once in a month! Problem is, even when he does that he does nothing else and commits a lot of dumb and-one causing fouls. But I like the fact that his shooting splits will look a bit better. Maybe we’ll be able to trade him for a late first.
– I don’t want to talk about Mitch. He’s so misused these days that it makes my soul weep endlessly. I’ll just say that only four rookies in the history of the league rocked a longest streak of games with at least two blocks: Mourning, Shaq, David Robinson and Manute Bol. We’re in really rarefied air.
– I’ve never been a fan of LeBron. I always recognized his greatness – I’m not blind, after all – but his demeanor annoyed me to no end. I made sure to tune into every important Bron game to root against him (as I rooted against Jordan, Shaq, Kobe – I like me some underdogs, that’s what I’m saying). I think the Spurs beating the Heat in 2014 is my happiest non-Knicks, non-Virtus Bologna sports moment ever. That said, even I can’t bear rooting against him anymore. I don’t think I ever saw him so miserable. Every camera cut to him sitting alone on the end of the Lakers bench evokes all sorts of #feels. He’s still an amazing player (who has stopped playing defense), but he went from one-man-army juggernaut to basically an afterthought. I think it’s quite unprecedented and it also speaks volumes about the importance of roster building. It’s not the first time he has bad teammates, but it’s probably the first time he’s had such ill-fitting pieces around him. Someone suggested the Lakers should trade him. I totally agree.
See you tomorrow for the Raptors game! Carry on, just 12 games to the end.