We’ve all had a night to sleep on the frustrating and disappointing loss to the Houston Hardens last night. In my quick recap I didn’t get into one of the unbelievable stats to come out of the game. The Knicks are the first team since 2013 to lose a game while shooting as high as 57.7% from the field. I’m not in love with that stat. It’s way too specific, and feels a bit like cherry picking, but it does tell part of the story. The Knicks did just about everything right (for once) on offense. Afflalo was cooking and hitting from all over the floor. They got him in the post and he was brutalizing whoever he had on his back. I’d like to see a lot more of that when Melo sits. Staggering Melo, Porzingis, and Afflalo so that two of them are almost always on the floor together seems like the way to go. Part of the effectiveness of the offense, though, is the continuing horribleness of the Rockets defense. In the game thread, I alluded to the fact that the Rockets are near the bottom in the whole league in defensive efficiency and it stands to reason that allowing a team to hit nearly 58% of their shots from the field won’t help that number.
The Heat’s defense made the Knicks look awful. The Rockets defense made the Knicks look like world beaters. The truth probably resides somewhere in between.
The story of the game was turnovers and offensive rebounds. Calderon and Seraphin each had 5 turnovers. Calderon’s turnovers came as a result of Patrick Beverley’s tough on-the-ball defense. He was lazy with his dribble on several occasions and it really cost the Knicks late in the game. Seraphin’s turnovers were the product of his high self esteem. He’s a black hole when the basketball touches his hands. He tries to lead the break. He tries to dribble between two post defenders. He tries to speed-inbound the basketball when caution is advised. He tries to Magic Johnson the ball into the hands of his teammates when a simple pass will do. I hate to get on him after he outplayed Dwight Howard all night long, but you can’t turn the ball over 5 times from his spot in the rotation. Too many of those turnovers were of the knuckleheaded variety.
I could write this whole recap about the Rockets, frankly. I noted in the game thread that we’d probably learn more about them than we would about the Knicks. I think that’s mainly the case. Instead I want to note the quietly efficient game that Porzingis played. He took what the defense gave him for the most part and rarely forced the action. He only took one three pointer, and that was because the shot clock was winding down and he had the ball in his hands. One day you’d like to see Kristaps become a go-to-guy and put the team on his shoulders. We’ve already seen him do it a few times. For now, as he’s getting his feet wet, he’s just excellent at letting the game come to him and he puts himself in the right spot to succeed without the ball in his hands. He could definitely find the ball in his hands more, but the Knicks’ guards can’t seem to find him when he’s open. Every game I shout at the TV when he’s got space without a defender nearby and the ball inevitably swings to the other side of the court. Dwight Howard isn’t the player he once was, and I think it’s mainly a mental thing. He does have the super powers to dunk a player into the great beyond and Porzingis was posterized for the first time in his career. It almost felt like the Matrix. As soon as that dunk went through, ripples of digital surf radiated from the #6 on Porzingis’ back.
Up next, the Knicks get the Philadelphia 0.76ers and their tank-tastic brigade of sourpusses. I won’t be happy unless the Knicks win that game by 15-20 points. They’ve played tough teams close all season. They’ve made mediocre teams look better by allowing them back in games. We’re entering a stretch against the weaker part of the NBA and it would behoove us to destroy as many of them as possible. It will show that we belong in the mid-to-upper tier of teams in the league. It ought to build some confidence. It should give the key guys some rest and the bench some fine tuning minutes. If we end up allowing any of these teams to hang with us into the final minutes, I’ll be very cranky with my television, which is an otherwise lovely part of my family.