I wanted the Knicks to win this game. Actually, scratch that. I needed the Knicks to win this game. I’m going through a very rough patch in my personal life right now, and I certainly could have used it a little Bockers win balm to apply upon my emotional wounds. I know, sports wins don’t matter at all big picture-wise, but you try and find solace where you can, amirite?
That’s why the third quarter looked a bit like heaven. After going mano-y-mano for two quarters with the Sixers, they came out firing on all cylinders right after the long break. It was like watching a recent vintage Golden State game, where the opponent finds himself irredeemably lost and bludgeoned by a dozen or so well placed buckets. Seriously, the Knicks went on a 15-0 run to open the quarter and looked like they wouldn’t ever look back after going up 17 with 4:15 to go in the third (on a serendipitous right-handed putback slam by Barrett, nonetheless). It was beautiful basketball all around. Players doing their best on offense and on defense. Frank playing like an Andre Miller spin-off, dusting off spin moves, floaters and even a weird-ass up and under from 12 feet. You couldn’t have asked for more.
But then, one of the basketball god looked down and thought it was time to intervene. Ripping off a page from Satan’s book, that particular god probably transmutated into a snake and whispered to Fizdale’s ear “Hey, you know what? Frank’s probably tired. Why don’t you put in some of your reserves?”. Fizdale (understandably so, to be fair. You have to rest your guys from time to time) complied. Everything fell apart in a little more than two minutes, and the copious lead all but evaporated, leaving the Knicks up just 5 and the momentum entirely in the past, like some old furniture you couldn’t care less about that gets left in the back of a storage box in the suburbs.
The fourth quarter was a hard-fought matter until the very few minutes, where the Ben Affleck of Carmelo Anthonys, after a pretty much well-rounded game, suddenly developed a severe case of tunnel vision and in two separate occasions didn’t pass the ball to an open teammate (once it was Mitch right under the basket!), choosing instead to deploy some ill-fated late-era Meloisms that didn’t find the net and condemning the Knicks to the umpteenth loss at the hands of personal Knicks slayer, emoji-tattooed, placeholder name avatar Mike Scott. A three pointer from the insufferable Embiid sealed the deal putting the Sixers up by seven. From there, it was pure formality for the Process nephews to put the game away.
And so I came away from the game with a loss that I didn’t want, but still got because it was the right outcome. This looks a bit too much like regular life, you guys.
– I’m kinda conflicted here. There are two guys who were clearly better than the others, but neither of them delivered in the clutch and one of them posted such a line that if it came with the words “Tim Hardaway Jr.” before it we would have collectively barfed in resignation.
– Well ok. Let’s start here. With a little less than 3 minutes to go in the third I witness one of the most unlikeliest* sight ever. It said “Leading scorers: Frank Ntilikina (17 pts, 1 reb, 1 blk, +2 +/-) 16; Joel Embiid 11”. It was everything you needed to know about Frank’s night. For once, he decided that focusing on intangibles and corollary-like stuff was so 2017 and focused on scoring. Mind you, it’s not like he shot that much (8 shots in 33 minutes), it’s that he shot well and attacked with a lot of purpose. His pull-up game is not weak sauce anymore these days. Problem is, if you don’t put him in the PnR and/or don’t free shooters around him he’ll never notch another assist in his life. He’s a very unbursty type and he’s not strong like RJ, so defenses will never collapse on him. That’s why he didn’t collect a single assist. I have no answers, though, as to why he grabbed just a single board. It’s like you can’t have the whole package in one game with him (apart from his Dallas breakout). For now it will suffice, seeing as Frank’s posting 0.050 WS/48 (!) and positive VORP. I never thought I’d see the day, honestly.
*shout out to SOAD fans.
– On the other hand, it’s hard to anoint Marcus Morris (22 pts, 13 rebs, 6 ast, +5 +/-) with a “good” moniker, what with the very recent memory of him throwing away the game with bone-headed plays; at the same time it’s undeniable that this was a very, very well rounded game from him. Numbers speak for themselves – even if efficiency does not. A quick aside: how is it that it seems like there’s only one Knicks per game that can connect with Mitch on the pick and roll/lob play? Do they forget that the guy jumps very high? Do they draw straws and only the one who gets the shortest one can throw lobs to Mitchell? Morris was the one tonight, in just two instances, right before he went into hero mode. It shouldn’t necessarily be the coaching staff’s task to say “hey guys! That thing worked! Why don’t you do it again?” when things go downhill; what did we sign vets for, if so?
– RJ Barrett (8 pts, 7 rebs, 3 ast, -5 +/-) didn’t have a bad game per se, but he completely vanished when every play mattered. I’m not asking him to be the undisputed alpha on this team (and how could he? He’s just a 19 year old rookie), but just because you mentioned Mamba mentality – throwing up in my mouth right now – it’s not like you should pull a Kobe against Utah in the 1997 playoffs. Also, 8 points on 12 shots? Ouch. I guess he just needs to picks his spots on drives, right now there are times when he just decides he’ll go inside only to get bottled/stuffed/sometimes fouled but uncalled. His advanced stats are terrible, but I’m still not worried. My preseason predictions about him, though, were waaaay off base.
– I didn’t figure that the Randle’s experience would be such an empty calories affair. A quite invisible 17 and 8 for him. And to say that I liked him before he wore a Knicks uniform. There’s still a lot of time, though.
– Taj Gibson had a goodish game (11 points, 4 boards, a cool spin move and dunk in the third) but only played 13:40 minutes because of foul trouble, having commited two quick ones in the first three minutes of the game. *checks boxscore* Oh well, they were the only ones he committed.
– Bobby Portis fully understood how to play 20+ minutes against Philly: never get into Embiid’s breathing space, defense be damned. 24 minutes of playing time, seven points, a whopping -14 +/-. Within 25 days I’ll start the “Trade Portis” campaign, be warned.
– Mitch also got in super foul trouble, and stayed there (4 fouls in 13 minutes). He still managed to block 3 shots, grab 2 boards and stuff two almost-crunch time dunks. But yeah, let’s pretend he’s just a run of the mill guy and not our best player.
– Kevin Knox is losing playing time, but I’m not complaining. His defense is atrocious at times, and he deserves to be set on a short leash. I don’t know why ne netted a team high +7 +/- in just 10 minutes while letting his guy run circles around him.
– Damyean Dotson played almost 20 minutes and was terrible (2 points, 1-6 from the field, -12 +/-). I guess he belonged in the bad section after all, but at this point he’s such an afterthought that sometimes I don’t ever remember he exists.
– Dennis Smith Jr had a passable offensive outing (13 points and 2 assists in 15 minutes), but was very lackadaisical on defense while displaying all of his low BBIQ. I want to know what happens when Elfrid comes back.
– The NBA should cut some of the bogus foul calls drawn by whoever is Embiid’s defender. Mitch was whistled for his third foul on a side swipe by the Cameroon-born player. It was really awful officiating, Embiid looked for contact and Mitch is not at the point where he can comfortably teleport away. I said it last year, I’ll say it again: the NBA should do what it can to stop Embiid from being a giant, petty thorn in the ass. Evidently the KAT brawl isn’t still enough.
Until next time!
Just know that I love you all (well, almost). There’s strength in numbers.