Another feel-good loss for our Knicks! We are 1-3 and I didn’t feel this good about the direction of the team since… maybe the pre-Melo half of 2010-11? We keep piling close losses – this one was waaaaay closer than it looks – while playing young guys and having a solid rotation in place. Our coach might not be an offensive genius, but looks like he has what it takes to mold this team. I’m having a lot of fun in watching games this year, and it feels strangely intoxicating rooting for losses. There’s nowhere to go but upwards!
– Trey Burke (19 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast, +5 +/-) was instrumental in getting back into the game in the third quarter, hitting some tough layups and being a pest off the dribble. He was badly exposed in the first quarter, as was the entire Knicks defense. The main problem with Burke is his size and build, which coupled with his defective natural defensive instincts make him a liability everytime we go up against a tall and strong team. Bledsoe is definitely not the tallest PG out there, but he’s built like a truck and that’s a problem for Trey. I guess Fiz got the memo about it, because he didn’t play a single minute in the final quarter. Still, a very effective game for Trey.
– Noah Vonleh (11 pts, 5 rebs, 1 ast, -8 +/-) is quickly becoming a fan favorite. His energy is contagious, and he’s playing consistently within his limitations. That allows him to play a paltry amount of minutes, injecting the team with much needed vigor at times. His defense is quite shaky, but it never hurts to have a big body banging down low. The only issue I had with him (and every other Knicks out there not named Dotson, to be fair) is that he was a little soft on the defensive glass, allowing Giannis and co. to feast on the offensive boards all night long, which is definitely no bueno and, in the end, what kept the Knicks from winning this game. Only Knick to shoot better than 50% from the field. Only Knick to shoot more than 2 FTs.
– Mario Hezonja (18 pts, 4 rebs, 3 ast, -14 +/-) played an interesting game, hitting shots from all over the court and looking uncharacteristically spirited throughout the game. He made the most of the opportunity bestowed on him after Knox ankle got twisted, and will probably be a major part of the rotation in the next few games. If what he needs to breed confidence is the trust of the coaching staff, this might be a turning point in his season.
– Damyean Dotson (14 pts, 8 rebs, 2 stl, -8 +/-) was the only Knicks who really cared for the defensive caroms, notching a second-best 8 for the team. Watching the game it looked like he couldn’t miss a shot, while looking at the box score it shows that he shot 13 times and missed 8. I must have a very selective memory that makes me remember only THJ missed shots and Damyean made ones. Anyway, he’s the other Knick who benefited from the open window in playing time caused by Knox absence, getting on the court for 33 minutes and looking the part. I sincerely hope he keeps at least a spot on the rotation even after Knox returns. We need to know how much he can be useful to the team going forward.
– Frank Ntilikina (5 pts, 1 reb, 5 ast, -6 +/-) is starting to worry me a little bit. Now, he didn’t really have a bad game, hence the “meh” section, and his defensive stance, positioning and effort were always nice, but I don’t know how much his playing time can be in the high 30s if he keeps being this tentative on offense. I still believe part of the problem is the composition of the starting lineup – we’ll get to that later – but there are times when Frank is visibly shying away from the ball, and that’s quite inexcusable for a seemingly very smart 20 year old lottery pick. Ron Baker’s head getting hit by an errant Vonleh’s elbow opened some playing time for Frank at the PG in the second half, and while he notched 5 assists, proving that his passing game is good if basic, he never attacked the rim from the dribble, and in the fourth quarter it really looked like he was actively running away from the guys in blue and orange who had the ball in their hands. Not a “bad” game, but we need to see more from him if he wants to be a cardinal part of the rotation.
– Lance Thomas (4 pts, 4 rebs. a whole lot of nothing else, +6 +/-) had his usual transparent game, but luckily saw only 18 minutes of playing time, which in the long run are still 18 minutes too much. I think he is the main culprit (or better yet, the combo Lance + THJ) for our usual slow starts in the first quarter, since he’s such an offensive liability that his man is always sagging off, clogging the lane. This, coupled with the tentativeness of Frank and the boneheadedness of Timmy, make our starting lineup a very predictable unit. I suggest again that Fiz changes something, even if I know that won’t happen soon, especially with Knox out.
– Enes Kanter had his fourth straight double double (14 pts, 13 rebs) to open the season, but this one came with no substance at all. He got crushed on the boards when it mattered most and wasn’t able to push around anyone. His energy level looked a lot lower than in previous games.
– Ron Baker has a penchant to hurt his face. At least this time was much less violent that last year’s impact with AD. Anyway, he was able to post a plus minus of -5 in just one minute of play. By the way, he’s the third Knick in four games to go down with an injury with just a little more than one minute of playing time (Mitch in the first, Knox in the third). Freaky.
– Allonzo Trier was quiet tonight but is always a competent cog in the rotation. For an undrafted guy, he certainly deserves a spot on an NBA roster.
– Ah, Timmy. Another 20+ pts game, another mediocre overall performance (24 pts on 23 shots, -25 +/-, 140 Drtg). We can appreciate the fact that he can score, and we certainly need someone who can put up points in a hurry, but his season for now has the distinguished smell of “usage soaking placeholder with middling efficiency” (54% TS, 31% USG). His shot distribution can be improved (28% of his shots come from 10ft to 3pt range territory), and while his WS is better than the eye-test might suggest at .113 the sample size is still too small to rely on numbers to evaluate his game. I wish Fiz would do something to make the ball move a little more on offense, even just implementing more PnR actions on a daily basis.
– Speaking of PnR, shout out to Mario for trying to initiate the high PnR very often.
– The Knicks got outrebounded 55 to 43, with 19 of those 55 coming on the offensive end. This will be a glaring issue against a lot of teams in the NBA, and that’s good, we need losses. But that’s also bad, we need to develop guys who can hold their own on the boards.
Well, we couldn’t expect to win this game, especially with Middleton going nova from 3 and Giannis doing his usual Godzilla impression, so I think we managed pretty well.
See you on Wednesday against the Heat! Don’t know why but I sense a win is coming. Great fun recapping this team this year!