To the hoop, y’all.
For years, I’ve been watching Knicks games begging the television to show me a New York Knick driving to the basket. Good things happen when you go to the basket. Any playground kid knows that going to the hole opens things up for your teammates, gets you high percentage shots, and leads to free throws. For some maddening reason, over the last handful of seasons the Knicks have settled for jump shots. Those jump shots have come from all over the court – from two, from three, from half court (I’m talking to you JR Smith). Sometimes the Knicks have been good at making jump shots, but more often they’ve been mediocre or worse. They’ve been near the bottom of free throws attempted in the league for what seems like an eternity…including this season. Tonight they took…
36 FREE THROWS
I wrote that in bold, using capital letters, but I would have used some sort of puffy, sparkly font if I could. The Knicks went to the rack, used cutters, stayed in motion, and shared the ball. They’re not going to turn the corner on a lot of teams, but ball movement and lots of motion will make good things happen. The offense hasn’t really been the biggest trouble during the recent stretch, however. It’s been the defense. Tonight we saw a combination of active, aggressive defense that resulted in easy baskets and transition. Part of the Knicks’ success on defense was Orlando’s sloppy, helter skelter play. I love the collection of talent on that team, like I love the talent on the Timberwolves, but neither of those clubs has a sense of how to play together. They play a bit like a bunch of strangers, and the Knicks effectively took them out of their comfort zone all night. It’s tough to adjust when you aren’t accustomed to playing together and, frankly, Scott Skiles’ rotations have always been maddeningly inconsistent and unpredictable. His tenure in Milwaukee was marked by players heading in and out of the rotation on a game-by-game basis. If these Magic are ever going to play well as a unit, he has to stick with a short rotation of guys. To that end, they traded Harris….we’ll see if it works.
Seven Knicks, including all five starters, scored in double figures. Melo only shot 7-22 and missed all of his threes, but continued his fantastic all around play with 11 rebounds and 6 assists. Porzingis carried the Knicks during the Magic’s effective run in the 3rd quarter, finishing with 18 points and a full load of hustle stats – 2 steals and 2 blocks. I get on Arron Afflalo’s lack of contribution A LOT, but I have to give him credit for showing up on the boards with 11, while chipping in 3 assists. Calderon carried over his more aggressive offensive game, which is when he’s at his best and actually looks like an NBA player. Robin Lopez couldn’t neutralize Vucevic, but he matched him, which is a win in anybody’s book.
A delightful all around experience. Hope you got to enjoy it friends.