Mick Jagger used to sing “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you will find, you get what you need!”, and that’s exactly what we got tonight, and maybe more. A highly competitive loss where our youngsters play a lot of minutes, learn their trade and generally play well? Count me in for a season of this! Maybe, just maybe, sprinkle a win here and there as not to make my dopamine level drop too low.
By now you should be acquainted with my writing gimmicks, so let’s not waste any more time and let’s get into the meaty part of the recap.
– Enes Kanter (29 pts, 10 rebs, 2 ast, +2 +/-) utterly mauled every Nets opponent into the paint. He’s so dependable on the low block, pulling all sorts of tricks (up and under moves, reverse layups under the rim, rhino-like pushing moves towards the basket, and a lot more) to score down low. It speaks volumes about the evolution of the game that a guy like him appears to be mostly dead weight on the cap and not a supremely desirable asset for any contending team; on the ’90s, a guy like Enes would be heavily courted by a lot of front offices. Right now, at the ripe age of 26, he acts as a steady release valve for our offense and as a sort of emotional mentor for the rookies. Yes, he’s still getting beaten on a lot of PnR actions by the other team, but he’s usually getting better positioning this year, and I swear I saw him force a guy to travel for the second game in a row. Also, didn’t look fatigued at the end of the game, although he played a shade over 35 minutes, so he has to be in peak physical condition. If I have to find a flaw in tonight’s game, it’s the ill-timed flagrant foul he committed with 5:44 remaining in the final quarter with the score tied. It’s okay to foul hard a guy who’s open under the rim, it’s not okay to do that in a manner that pretty much auto-indicts itself. All in all, an exhilarating game for Enes (but what happened to his promise to shoot threes if open? Ok, he shot one tonight on a gorgeous no look pass from Frank and he bricked it, but I still think he should shot more if he’s open on the perimeter and nothing else is happening).
– Kevin Knox (17 pts, 6 rebs, 75% 3pts, -4 +/-) had a refreshingly good game, and a fat share of playing time, being on the court for 28 minutes. The key to his scoring, as of now, are three pointers and free throws. Tonight, the threes were there, and so was the effort on the glass and on defensive rotations. The rim attacking part, well, that’s still awful. Someone mentioned a couple days ago in the comments section that Knox problem at the rim is that his first step comes too far from the hoop. While that is certainly true and could use some fine-tuning, I think it’s much more about his upper body strength and general lack of confidence and coordination. In the second quarter he had a positively Antetokounmpo-like layup attempt, where his first step came just inside the arc, the second on the midpoint and he was alone at the rim with all the time in world… and then missed badly. He can get to the basket, but when there he’s playing hot potato. Wretched layup attempts aside, not much to complain about tonight. It was nice to see him calmly drilling a corner three to tie the game at 93 apiece, just to come down to the bench for the ensuing timeout, get scolded by coach Fizdale for something (apparently defensive positioning) and not bat an eye. I hope the layup problem can be solved by coaching, ’cause the guy looks like he has what he needs between his ears.
– Frank Ntilikina (9 pts, 1 reb, 4 ast, +6 +/-) was the key to the third quarter break that pulled our Knicks back into the game. In the middle of the third stanza he erupted for 7 consecutive points – one trifecta, a midrange pullup, a whatchamacallit high-arc shot from the charily stripe – and was hounding opponent everywhere on defense. Second night in a row where he racks up 3 steals. Caris LeVert gave him fits in the first quarter, so much that I thought he was ill, seeing that Fiz was benching him just after 6 minutes of play. It surely wasn’t the case (and LeVert kept giving fits to everyone, hitting shots all night long, even some of the no no no yes kind), as he came back into the game in the second quarter and finished the night playing 30 minutes. On a sidetone, I think Fiz is doing a great job with the minutes distribution.
– Trey Burke (8 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast, +4 +/-) finally had his highly anticipated regression to the mean game. He shot 1 for 6 from two, and all of his attempts were of the midrange variety, and they were pretty much always open. He looked very tentative in running the offense, and aside from a single defensive possession in the third where he went Gary Payton on D’Angelo Russell was a liability on D, especially in pick and roll sets. Amusingly, he got substituted just after the aforementioned possession. I guess this was due, a reminder of the fact that we still have one of the worst PG rotation in the league. Also, against a tall, strong team like the Nets, he’s physically outmatched and that depresses his game.
– Mario Hezonja (2 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, -11 +/-) played his usual game. Detached, uninterested, unimpressive. 13 minutes of almost nothing, just standing around on defense and on offense, offering little resistance to the Nets offense and showing revolting body language. He looks like the student that enrolled in college because his parents were pressing him to do so and then mailed in every single midterm test, getting by on Cs to collect his bachelor on air-guitar playing or something. It’s game two and I’m already losing hope on Mario.
– Ron Baker’s offense also makes the cut. While watching Ron play defense falls just a hair short of arousing (seriously, his effort is top notch and he’s very strong; in the third there was a defensive possession where he just pushed away Rodions Kurucs with an arm swipe and the 6′ 9″ string bean Latvian almost fell on the floor), his offense is so bad it’s indescribable. You have to watch it to really understand. For one thing, no Ron Baker shot looks the same, even at the stripe, and he was supposed to be a knockdown shooter when making the team in 2016-17. He also probably has some psychological issue attacking the rim; in the third quarter, the most eventful one of the night for the Bockers, he had a clear lane to a layup from the left side and opted to pass the ball to Vonleh, who was doubled. You couldn’t see his facial expression driving to the cup, just his floppy mop top breezing by like an offensively-challenged golden helmet, but here’s my 20 bucks saying he had the deer in the headlights one.
– Where’s Timmy, you might ask. Isn’t 29 points enough to make the cut into “The good section”? Not tonight. Not on 25 shots. He shot 40% from the field, contributed pretty much on nothing else (yeah, he had three steals, but they were of the Timmy kind, the ones where he is out of position on defense and the ball caroms to him, a gentle gift offered by a jocular basketball god), and was supremely atrocious in the last minute and a half. At first, he turned the ball over while defended by T-Rex armed Jared Dudley; then, he presented the world one of the worst one on one defense I have ever seen. He went on a defensive stance intended to funnel Caris LeVert to the left, but as soon LeVert dribbled to the right he almost went out of his way, leaving the Nets guard free to cash in his game winning layup. But since all we want for Christmas is a top 4 pick next year, Timmy, you the real MVP.
– Allonzo was a bit discombobulated on offense, but he’s one of the most NBA ready undrafted rookies I have ever seen on a Knicks jersey. He looks to have gained Fiz’s trust, since he was the first Knick out of the bench.
– Here’s a detailed recap of Lance Thomas’ game: *snorts*
– Vonleh was next to useless this time, aside from his much needed 6 boards. His defense his strangely ethereal, especially for a super athletic, muscular guy like he is.
– In the first half, the Knicks totaled 5 assists. This offense is at times unbearable, even if I get what Fiz intends to do. I just can’t help loathing the iso-Timmy game (totally favorable to the iso-ones, though. That’s efficient enough).
– Remember how I singled out the fact that against a good rebounding team we would have payed dearly our mistakes? Well, the Nets outrebounded us 55 to 36.
– Also remember how I said our opponents wouldn’t turn the ball as much as the Hawks? Heh… The Nets turned it over 22 times. We turned it over 3 times (and one of those three was the egregious Timmy blunder with less than 90 seconds on the clock).
– Timmy is now 9th on the 3pts made Knicks leaderboard, surpassing Latrell Sprewell (thanks, NBA League Pass!).
I guess we’re done for tonight. Tomorrow we’ll face the Celtics, and I think we’re gonna get pretty much steamrolled. I suggest you all adopt the Alonzo Mourning Acceptance Gif as your lifestyle for the next few days.
See you tomorrow!