San Antonio Spurs 118 – New York Knicks 130 – Game Recap

Quick: when was the last time you felt this good about the potential of our team? I think it has to be when KP was posting 30ppg to start the 2017-18 season and things looked rosy (and possibly unsustainable).

While it looks that everytime we play the Spurs at MSG we put on our best face, it was tremendously refreshing to see this team perform well and to see some pieces click together so nicely (DSJ-Dotson-Mitch, especially). I feared DSJ was able to connect only with DeAndre Jordan, probably because they had already played 40-something games together: well, this game proved me wrong, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Other things to be happy about: 37 three point attempts and 25 assists are quite a gaudy number for this team. Sadly, apart from DSJ (more on him later), the only player who tallied more than 2 assists was Noah Vonleh, who was probably the worst Knick on the court last night.

I also have to say that I don’t remember a Spurs team so pedestrian. As you might know, since I made no mystery of it through my years as a commenter on this blog, the Spurs are my second team (mostly thanks to my Manu roots) in the NBA, so I watched a lot of Spurs basketball in the last 15 years. Apart from the Richard Jefferson iteration, I can’t remember a Spurs team playing so deflated and kinda out of sync. I know they’re missing their two point guards, but wow, they’re not positioned well for the immediate future. There’s a real chance they end up missing the playoffs this year. I say this because, while this was a good win for the aforementioned reasons (plus some that will be highlighted in the usual sections), we didn’t beat a great opponent, merely an adequate one. It’s good anyway, since we’re a very bad team, but these are not your typical Spurs.

A brief summary of the game: after a heated battle in the first quarter, we emerged victorious at the end of that period on a score of 30-26. From there on, we never relinquished the lead, that at some point ballooned to over 20 points. Heroes were everywhere to be found through the night, with even Lance Thomas harnessing for a game some of his latent basketball skills such as “putting the ball in the hoop” and “snatching some boards”. In the fourth quarter we let the Spurs have a taste of our own fake comeback medicine, but a steady shooting night from Dotson never let the dam crumble down, plugging holes at the most delicate times. We escaped with a comfortable win and, honest to god, it was soul-soothing to see Mitch and the kids finally smile a bit.

The good:

– Damyean Dotson (27 pts, 5 rebs, 2 ast, +14 +/-) played one of his best games as a Knick and did pretty much what we should ask of him every single game: get open on the perimeter, grab a few boards, don’t surrender on defense. He won’t knock down 61,5% of his threes everytime, but if he is the 37% shooter from three that he looks to be he’ll be a nice contributor with a real point guard at the helm. With last night outing, Dot became just the 11th Knicks player all-time to hit at least 8 threes in a game. You know who isn’t on the list? THJ, that’s who. Getting rid of little Chuck had really some merits. Also, it was time a guy shot 13 mostly assisted threes in a game. It’s 2019, basketball has evolved, and if you don’t have credible volume threats catching and shooting from the perimeter, things won’t be goink well. Man, I miss Danilo Gallinari.

– Mitchell Robinson (15 pts, 14 rebs, 1 ast, +7 +/-) has, among a lot of good things going for him, a trait that makes me think he will be a surefire top-5 center for a long time: he develops, almost in real time. He had a few glaring flaws entering the season: fouling too much, shooting badly his free throws, being mediocre at defensive rebounding. Can you say, with a straight face, that he hasn’t improved a lot in just half a season? In the month of February (aka the Kanter-free portion of the season) he’s grabbing 8.3 boards, shooting 69% from the line while “only” fouling 2.9 times per game in 21.5 minutes. I won’t bore you with basic per-36 projections, but suffice to say that he’s already addressed a lot of things that would have slowed his rise to dominance in the League. I’m also changing my stance about including him in a trade for AD: just don’t. He’s probably the best contract in the League by a long mile among the non-max ones, and he can only keep improving. I already see in him things that we were only hopeful to see in KP. To me, Mitch has become totally untradeable (unless it’s for Giannis, Embiid or maybe Zion).

– Dennis Smith Jr. (19 pts, 6 rebs, 13 ast, +10 +/-) stuffed the stat sheet last night, and did so while never turning the ball over, leaving that dubious honor to Mudiay. His game has still a lot of flaws, particularly in the shooting department (sometimes it looks like he’s shooting in claymation), but there’s no denying that he shows all the signs of potentially becoming a goodish PG, which is the most we ever dreamed to ask of him. If he can stop jumping in the air while passing (something he never did last night, and it showed in the TO column) and keeps on finding open guys here and there I’m totally ok giving him the keys to the Knicks car. The most amazing athletic sequence of the night, that came with the game already decided but was nevertheless greatly satisfying – a predaceous steal in the passing lanes that led to a backboard alley-oop to Mitch – also showed an important trait to search for in a PG: the joy and the instinct to make plays for other people, especially big man. Hubie Brown always says that you have to reward the big man that covers for you on defense, and boy is he right. With that alley-oop, Dennis did the right thing for the team and for the audience. Good boy.

The bad:

– Noah Vonleh (3 pts, 3 rebs, 3 ast, +5 +/-) is looking more and more out of sorts. I understand the need to play him a bit with DeAndre Jordan sidelined; what I don’t understand is how is it even possible that this guy is the same I dubbed the Knicks 2018/19 MVP for a few months. He’s turned into a pumpkin and I don’t know why. His season numbers still aren’t that bad, but his WP/48 cratered and went under .100. Right know he doesn’t have a place in the offense, other than jacking shots from the perimeter and trying a couple old-school baby hooks in the general vicinity of the hoop. On defense, he looks unfocused. Last night he had a chance to shine a bit more but was simply terrible. Apart from the assists, it seemed he and Lance Thomas exchanged bodies before the game.

Fun-sized bits:

– Kevin Knox had the second double-double of his career. Generally speaking, he played an ordinary game, but you take what you can get. Still not a good basketball player. Also, his fouls are really, really stupid. A foul on DeRozan for an easy and-one and two (!) fouls on three point shooters? Come on, man. On the other side, his lob for Mitch was very pretty.

– Let’s talk a bit about Mudiay. In his second game after the shoulder injury, he scored well against the Spurs second unit (19 points on 10 shots, definitely not bad at all). Sadly, the team just doesn’t play as a team with him as a the leading ball-handler. Case in point: he played more or less 10 minutes with Mitch on the court. He never, never, never, passed him the ball. Like, you have this 7’1″ athletic marvel and you can’t bother/are not able to throw a lob to him, even if the man rolled correctly after the pick? Sorry, but Mud shouldn’t be playing ahead of Kadeem Allen.

– Speaking of Kadeem: I hope he isn’t playing because management did the math about the 45-day thing, and not because Mudiay is suddenly available. This would be like being cash strapped, having both a Prius (owned) and a Hummer (leased, with the leasing due to expire in a few months), and still going around with the gasoline-chugging Hummer just because it was cool in 2015.

– I’m ok with not playing Kornet after his brutal recent stint (I’m not ok with playing Lance Thomas instead, but whatever). That said, why did we hand a 45-day contract to a guy we knew would suck and we almost never played, instead opting to sign Ellenson to play spot PF minutes? 45-day contracts failures are pretty inconsequential, but Hicks was a big failure from the start.

– This was the second time in Lance Thomas’s whole career when he scored at least 16 points and grabbed at least 7 boards (the other was a 2015 game against the Hornets where he went for 16 and 8). This guy played 373 games in the NBA and gets paid 7 million dollars to vanish from the court night after the night. He’s the real heir to David Copperfield. Very nice game last night, though.

– John Jenkins is another guy I hope to see more alongside DSJ, not Mudiay. The man is a sniper, but needs the ball in the right spots, otherwise he’s useless. Mudiay wouldn’t be able to pass the ball in the right spots to Antetokounmpo.

– Rebecca Haarlow (who’s looking better by the day, I don’t know how) with a disturbing snippet from the last game against the Wolves: “Mudiay asked coach Fizdale if he could keep on shooting or if he’d be better passing the ball to his teammates: Fiz told him ‘If you’re hot, just keep shooting!'”. Fizdale’s approach to offense is a Russian Doll-like loop of facepalms, only (spoiler alert – but watch the show! Russian Doll is very good and Natasha Lyonne is great, even if the ending is so-so) we find ourselves in front of a depressing loss after every mistake and not in front of a sink after every death.

– At a certain point in the second half, we called a timeout. Right after the timeout the ball was inbounded in the wrong halfcourt, resulting in a halfcourt violation. I’m (mildly) colorblind, and I’m better at solving Rubik’s cubes in my sleep than Fiz is at making plays in the huddle.

A really reinvigorating win, this one was. And I liked it, because the minutes allocation were good, if not optimal. See you on Tuesday, when we’ll test our mettle against the Magic. I hope we see another 30 minutes of Mitch, and less of Mudiay.

PS: I wasn’t able to recap the last game because I was busy with the semifinals of that singing contest. It’s likely I passed the round, I’ll know more today. If that’s what will happen, there will be some Finals atmosphere around here come April :D


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Just an Italian basketball fan with an insane passion for all things Knicks (and yes, linguine Alfredo is not a real Italian dish).

31 thoughts to “San Antonio Spurs 118 – New York Knicks 130 – Game Recap”

  1. Random stuff:

    > Mitch breaks .200 WS/48 barrier for the first time (.202)! Zach Lowe was gushing about Mitch on his latest pod but in his pod a week earlier he stated there was no reason to watch the Knicks, citing Frank being out with injury and DSJ just not enough. Knick fans must have twittered him into awareness after that omission. Lotta people been sleeping on Mitch. Caution: 53% FT% (gotta be min in the mid 60’s)

    > Dot’s heated up after Jenkins signing. Coincidence? While I’ve been high on Dot since the start, my opinion of him has tempered. His off ball defense has been poorer than expected and his 71FT% is very worrisome if we’re looking for a reliable shooter next to KD and Kyrie. I’d be interested in where he ranks on spot or catch-and-shoot 3’s if anyone’s got that data.

    > Pump the brakes on DSJ. He’s a terrible shooter off the dribble and even when he gets to the line he’s shooting an abysmal 55%. Still I think he might be fine as a reserve 1 guard (subbing for Kyrie) as our 3rd shot creator. Though Fiz is reluctant to try my suggestion, I’m very eager to watch how DSJ and Trier perform when Kornet is center since that config rates to maximize their effectiveness.

    > Poor Kadeem – I guess he didn’t read the fine print on his “Kill it and keep it” contract. Why is Mudiay getting minutes? Are they thinking of trading DSJ in AD deal and re-signing Mud at min? Perhaps it’s better to keep Kadeem on the bench before he prices himself out of a vet min deal?

  2. Great cap!

    I think DSJ is likely to be at least a rotation level point guard. Where he lands on that rather large spectrum will come down to his 3PT shot and free throws. At 37%+/75%+ I think he could be legitimately good. Obviously he has a long way to go to get there, though.

    Another question is how will he respond to having good teammates, if/when that happens? Running the show while surrounded by Mitch, future bit players, and scrubs is a fun role for generating oos and ahs at MSG, but if he’s going to be a long-term piece he’s going to need to be comfortable not being a team’s primary playmaker (I think so anyway, unless he makes a quantum leap).

    I actually kinda like the theoretical fit with someone like Kyrie, but making it work practically is another story that would require a lot of adaptation on DSJ’s end.

  3. Also, I hate to say it because he seems like a great guy, but boy, DAJ getting a non-serious but somewhat lingering injury sure was a pretty good scenario for us for many reasons…

  4. More Stuff:

    Hubie Brown always says that you have to reward the big man that covers for you on defense, and boy is he right.

    No offense Hubie but I like Shaq’s line : If you don’t feed the big dog, the yard won’t get guarded

    > If we land Kyrie and KD, I’d look to flip Knox and maybe something else for Covington or Bertans. Bertans had a poor night but is a career 41.6% from 3 and the 26yo has been a solid above average player on RPM/BPM/WS48 the last 3 years.

    > Frank needs to hit his 3’s the next 1.5 months or I doubt Knicks will pick up his option for 20-21 season and FO will look to trade him this summer.

    I’m also changing my stance about including him(Mitch) in a trade for AD: just don’t.

    I hear you Farfa and I’ve argue this but there is one scenario which would give me pause. KD tell FO he’ll sign if one of Kyrie/AD/Kawhi is also on the team. Kawhi and Kyrie turn out not to be options and Pels will do AD trade but Mitch must be included. Ugh

  5. Semi- important:

    Since the Porzingis trade (which for this season was really the trading away THJ trade + simultaneous benching/eventual release of Kanter, more time for Mitch, DAJ, etc), the Knicks have the #10 DRtg in the league (110).

    Yeah so they have the #28 offense, whatevs.

  6. Don’t trade Mitchell for Anthony Davis?? Come on, now. I love centers who can defend and score that efficiently. I would consider getting a Tyson Chandler tattoo. But Anthony Davis is a player you trade in a chip like that to get… now, if you avoid including Mitch in a package and get a player like Anthony Davis that would be sweet.

  7. AD? Or Mitch + 30 million in cap space. Not an easy choice right now. Does AD defend better than Mitch?

    Great cap Farfa, like water in the desert….

  8. I think it’s more that ok, if we do have to include Mitch in a deal to get AD for example, do it, but he has to be a center piece of the deal, because that’s should be his value right now.

    The production he’s already shown plus the promise makes me firmly believe he’ll be the 3rd guy on a very good team, with potential for more if he continues developing fast. I agree that you trade a Clint Capela for an AD, but that’s the value I would put on Mitch, specially considering his contract is so amazing.

  9. @6

    I’ll elaborate a bit more: it’s a matter of context. Mitch is a far worse player than AD, but Mitch’s contract is ridiculous. AD is a surefire real-max player, but he’ll be under contract only for 1 more year and even if he gets traded and immediately signs an extension, he’ll eat at your cap very badly (while deserving every penny and more). You can build a two max core around Mitch pretty effortlessly, with AD some serious cap gymnastics are required.

  10. Stratomatic "I'm tired of the Knicks paying lip service to DEFENSE. Get defenders & two-way players. Then play them! says:

    I love Mitch, but imo a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. We need bonafide star players. AD can be the best player on a team that wins a championship. It’s going to be tough for Mitch to get to that level or to attract someone else like that with cap space unless we have another star.

  11. In a vacuum, I would do Mitch for AD, but acquiring AD after signing KD and Kyrie would literally require the Knicks to trade everyone on the team except, like, Trier, Dotson, Jenkins and Kornet. And even there, it would require KD and Kyrie to take not insignificant paycuts (about $2.5 million each). Trier would need to go if the paycuts are smaller.


    Plus the room exception to sign someone and then all minimum guys.

    That’s probably still a Finals-worthy team, so I guess I’d do it, but it seems highly unlikely that they could pull it all off.

  12. @10

    Yes but:

    – If you trade for AD before signing other guys in free agency, you’re essentially taking yourself out of the chase for two max players.
    – Gutting your team for only one sure year of AD, if he really wants a change of scenery, reeks a bit of Melo (even if the players aren’t even comparable). An immediate extension has to be on the table.
    – Would NO accept a trade centered around Knox, Dotson, DSJ and Frank? If so, than by all accounts do it. But if you include a guy who as a rookie is producing historical advanced numbers you’re essentially throwing everything at the sink (unless you already signed two real max free agents; in that case the win curve matters more).

  13. It makes me nuts the future of the franchise rides completely on the fall of ping pong balls in the spring. With the number one pick something wonderful can happen…. without it all the options while much much better have vast holes in them…..

  14. Yeah, it’s really a lot about context in this case. Mitch is of course tradeable as all players not named Giannis or LeBron or Harden should be, but the value he commands on the trade has to account for the level he’s showing plus the awesomeness that is his contract.

    My absolute dream is that we draft Zion, sign Kyrie and Durant and keep everyone, just a core of Irving, KD, Zion and Mitch would make all the decades of suffering worth it.

    It’s just not happening but man, I’ll enjoy imagining while it lasts.

  15. Stratomatic "I'm tired of the Knicks paying lip service to DEFENSE. Get defenders & two-way players. Then play them! says:


    We are not positioned poorly given our historical record, but we shot ourselves in the foot a few times recently and set ourselves back. Now we have cap space, but we’ve tried free agency in the past and it didn’t work well with better teams than we have now. Personally, I think it all hinges on Durant. There is no logical reason for any star player to come to NY for basketball. However, there could be other reasons. Also, since we have 2 slots, we can at least make the case that 2 stars gets us close and there will be a lot of young talent to provide upside in the years after that after this draft. I’m not sure if anyone will bite because there are better teams with a lot of space and others that might still make moves. We’ll see. If it doesn’t work, we’ll probably wind up rolling most of the cap space over with short term contracts. If free agency does fail, the path forward with draft picks and internal development is likely to be a very long one.

  16. What’s funny is normally not wanting to trade a rookie for a player of Anthony freakin’ Davis’ caliber would be an easy example of irrationally overvaluing your “homegrown” players. In this case, though, the cold-hearted realist view might just be that Mitch represents better $/production value for the next 3 years or so.

    I guess what it comes down to is whether or not we’ll be operating above the cap. If we sign two max contracts, the added flexibility from Mitch’s contract vs AD’s will only get us an exception or two here and there and save James Dolan some money. In that situation, production matters a lot more than value (win curve!) and we should trade Mitch for AD. If we totally strike out in free agency though, it likely makes more sense to keep Mitch (AD is probably not interested in coming in this scenario anyway).

    If we miss out on two max players but are able to sign one, the situation becomes pretty tricky. I might have to look around the landscape of the league before deciding what to do. If your max player + AD gives you a good shot at the finals, I suppose you trade Mitch for him. If not, keep Mitch and try to upgrade the team with the remaining space.

  17. Last night was the third Knicks game I attended this season. We’re 2-1 in those three games. For the sake of Zion, I will not be attending any more games.

    Last night, incidentally, was also the moment where I learned to stop worrying and love the Mudiay. I’ve been so against him from day 1, but he doesn’t suck.

  18. @16 – I think you’re not completely joking. Maybe I’m Charlie Brown going for the football yet again, but I think that if this management group whiffs on a top 3 pick, the very top tier of free agents (KD, Kyrie, Kawhi), and AD that they won’t be so shortsighted.

  19. How many assists did he have?

    I didn’t say he was good :)

    I’m just coming around to the idea that he is perfectly fine and if we can get him at a price around the room exception he could provide surplus value as the backup to Dennis Smith or (god willing) Kyrie Irving.

    A few months ago I would have been against even that.

  20. he doesn’t suck

    He’s not the worst player in the NBA anymore. He’s some sort of a homeless man Tyreke Evans. I wouldn’t want him as my backup PG because he can’t really make plays for other people. I’d prefer Kadeem Allen by a long mile.

  21. Fun win last night! Good play all around by the youngsters.

    Is anyone else slightly worried about the tank? Since we got rid of Kanter, Hardaway, etc…I believe our defensive rating is 8th in the league. I know, small sample size but I’m worried with the addition of a real PG (DSJ) and the subtraction of Kanter/more minutes for Mitch and the fact that the team truly is now a bunch of young players (probably an improved team morale), that we might win more games down the stretch. Anyone else worried about this?

    I’m torn cause I want to see good play from Mitch, Knox, Frank, DSJ, Kornet, Trier as they are all here next season but I don’t want them to be TOO Good, ya know?

  22. I’m not particularly worried because we’re still very bad and the Bulls and Hawks seem legitimately mediocre.

    What’s funny though is for years pro-tankers got ripped to shreds here for rooting for losses, but as the reactions to victories like last night’s show, we’re really okay with it as long as the minutes are going to guys who could be long-term pieces! It was the Courtney Lee fueled wins that sucked.

  23. Is anyone else slightly worried about the tank? Since we got rid of Kanter, Hardaway, etc…I believe our defensive rating is 8th in the league.

    Here’s the MOV in those games:


    So it’s a MOV of -5.88, which is better than the overall MOV (minus ~8.5) but yes, it’s a small sample. And replacing Kanter with Jordan is obviously going to improve the overall defense.

    I’m worried about the tank all around, but not because they have gone 2-7 since the trade. Fizdale could go balls out for the final 22 games because he fears that he’s “losing the team” or whatever. He could start treating the Cavs, Suns and Bulls games like Game 7 of the Finals.

  24. DSJ assist/turnover numbers have taken a radical step in the right direction since joining the Knicks.

    Before trade: 24.2 AST%, 20.3 TOV% (woof)
    Since trade: 38.4 AST%, 12.5% TOV%

    He has more than doubled his assist/turnover ratio as a Knick. He’s also getting to the line a lot more, his free throw rate has gone from .230 to .389. The only problem is he’s shooting like shit, both from the floor and the free throw line. His shooting across the board has gotten worse– he was at a passable .500 eFG% in Dallas but that has cratered to .468 here.

    Historically he has been a poor but not godawful shooter. If he can get his shooting together (a big if, I know) and keep up the good playmaking (another bit if) he’ll be a useful player.

  25. I would generally be opposed to trading mitch for just about anyone because he’s very likely to vastly outperform his contract. AD is better than Mitch, but is he 28 million dollars better? No. On the other hand, if getting AD means you win a championship and keeping Mitch means you lose in the second round, is that worth it? Yes. So there’s definitely a point where making that trade would make sense, I just don’t know if the Knicks can realistically get to that point.

  26. My absolute dream is that we draft Zion, sign Kyrie and Durant and keep everyone, just a core of Irving, KD, Zion and Mitch would make all the decades of suffering worth it.

    We’re always (myself included) pie-in-the-sky, but the viability of Dennis Smith as a starting PG and the presence of D’Andre Jordan is really making me optimistic for some perfectly reasonable scenarios (*if* Durant really wants to pull a LeBron and come to New York without superstar teammates, that is).

    This is a very easy 9 man rotation to assemble team around Durant, for instance:

    1 Dennis Smith, Emmanuel Mudiay
    2 Danny Green, Damyean Dotson
    3 RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox
    4 Kevin Durant, Kevin Knox
    5 D’Andre Jordan, Mitchell Robinson

    With 3 guys from the pool of Frank, Kornet, Trier, Vonleh, Allen, Jenkins, for depth.

    Plus 6 1st round picks over the next 4 seasons, and a pair of seconds from Charlotte.

    Maybe I’m just delirious from personally witnessing an incredibly enjoyable game last night, but something like that seems fairly possible and could give us the best multi-year stretch of Knicks basketball since JVG left.

  27. Smith has a ways to go before he’s a viable starting point guard, but there’s certainly a chance he becomes one.

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