Atlanta Hawks 107 – New York Knicks 126 – Game Recap

To paraphrase Dwyane Wade circa 2010, “Sorry if everyone thought we were going to go 0-82”. I guess this Hawks team was tailor made to get a thorough beating under the MSG lights on opening night!

So, with our first win under our belt, let’s take a look at what happened tonight!

The good:

– Tim Hardaway Jr. (31 pts. 6 rebs, 5 ast, +14 +/-) had a heck of an second quarter on offense. He just couldn’t miss (which was not true for the rest of the game, since he ended up shooting 10/22 from the field and 3 for 9 from three) in the historic second stanza, and that propelled the Knicks to a wide margin – and effectively to the victory, since they would never relinquish that lead for the night. Last time I wrote that his game screamed “empty calories”, this time he served us a healthy lasagna. That said, this was the same old Timmy: streaky as hell. prone to mediocre shot selection, not doing very much in the half-court offense. He also was extremely volatile in his defensive effort: this was very evident in the second quarter, when right in the middle of our scoring break Atlanta Hawks coach called a timeout with 7:59 remaining, after a fastbreak THJ dunk. Right after the timeout, Timmy completely forgot his defensive assignment and Kent Bazemore wound up drilling a totally uncontested corner three. Now, against the Hawks this might not be a problem, but during the course of the season, maybe down the wire in an exciting game? It could be a momentum stopper of huge proportions. Then again, aren’t we rooting for losses this year? So, yay Timmy!

– Noah Vonleh (12 pts, 10 rebs, 3 ast, +22 +/-) did a lot of damage in his 16 minutes. He kept the Knicks boat afloat in the first quarter, when our Bockers couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn, by ferociously attacking the offensive glass, getting fouled and throwing down a nice putback dunk. He was projected to be our third-string center, but got more minutes because Mitchell Robinson got semi-injured tweaking his ankle after a minute of play. Against a rebounding-challenged Atlanta team, Vonleh was deadly. It’s going to be hard for Mitch to keep his back up center slot in the rotation, but in the long run it could make him stronger, which is definitely not a bad thing. I’m doubling down on my bet that Vonleh will be this year’s KOQ in terms of endearment from the Garden crowd.

– Enes Kanter (16 pts, 11 rebs, 3 ast, +7 +/-) was the Enes that we learned to know, and that means the same crossbred result of making an Energizer bunny mate with a very wide and very ground bound oak and giving him a feathery touch around the rim. Strangely quiet in the first quarter, was held scoreless until 4:23 remaining in the second quarter. He finished the half with 10 points. Again, I know we’re not supposed to win a lot of games this season for our good, but I like to watch competitive losses, and Enes is probably our best bet to keep us in a lot of games. He’s just too good on the things that he does well (rebounding, inside scoring) and looks to be marginally improved on defense, especially on lateral movement.

– Allonzo Trier (15 pts, 4 rebs, 2 blk, +9 +/-) had definitely the best debut of all the rookies playing tonight. On a good night, like tonight, he is instant offense and looks the veteran part. Granted, we were playing against a glorified G-League team, but his poise in his first NBA game was a sight to behold. Coach David Fizdale probably was right in saying he has a real knack for chasedown blocks, as he stuffed people at the rim twice, and generally didn’t look too much out of place in the half-court defense. He also had a monster jam to end the second quarter, when he drove down the lane and challenged three Hawks to stop him from scoring; they failed, he slammed the ball with utter force and the Garden erupted. The moment was a little bit reminiscent of the early-KP putback dunks.

– Trey Burke (15 pts, 3 rebs, 4 ast, +14 +/-) ditched the preseason jitters and came back to last season form. He scored efficiently and smartly, even posting up Trae Young a couple times with good results. It’s a shame that he isn’t a good shot creator for others, otherwise he would be a sure bet to enjoy a long, starting point guard career. As it is, he’s probably best suited to bench energizer-stabilizer. Anyway, he’s by far our most polished point guard as of now and I feel Hawkeye-fine with him at the helm. Hawkeye as in “the plainest of plain Janes in the MCU”. Well, being average is better than being terrible, right?

The bad:

– Nobody really sh*t the bed tonight, but a special mention goes to the first quarter offense. The Knicks started 0 for 8 from the field and didn’t score until Frank Ntilikina connected on a long-range shot with 7:52 to go in the first quarter (shout out to my man Frank for netting the first field goal of the Knicks season!). To put that into perspective, a fan scored before any Knicks could, hitting the half court shot during a timeout with 8:03 remaining and cashing for his effort a hefty 10.000 dollars, or 1/650 of Joakim Noah cap hit for the next three years.

Truth be told, our offense keeps on being underwhelming. Yeah, we scored 126 tonight but it didn’t feel like a single bucket came from organized half-court play. I’m not sure what’s the problem here, but Fiz needs to be more imaginative with stuff, otherwise in nights when our opponents don’t turn the rock over 24 times and don’t get crashed on the boards we’re in for horrendous spurts of rim-clunking.

Fun-sized bits:

– The 49 points scored in the second quarter are the most ever scored by a Knicks team in that period. That’s no small feat, especially when we don’t run many successful plays.

– The Knicks apparently chose coach Fiz to be the cheerleading spokesperson on the Jumbotron. That’s a really smart choice, seeing as Fizdale oozes charisma from every pore. He’s a really great communicator, and people genuinely seems to be stoked when around him. There was a nice exchange between Fiz and Kanter in the second quarter after a broken play that got salvaged by an errant Hawks foul where you could really see the chemistry broiling.

– The Knicks also chose Lance Thomas to address the crowd before the game. Let’s just say I’m way more passionate when ordering a Big Mac speaking gibberish after a night of partying.

– Vince Carter was starting tonight. The dude is 41 and was the only Hawks starter posting a positive plus/minus. Did I mentions that the Hawks are hot garbage? Trae Young, though, was better than I expected (not that I expected much).

– Frank had a good game, with an excellent first quarter, especially on defense. He played a lot of minutes (34, more than anyone else in the game) and was his usual defensive self. He also was his usual offensive self, clearly overthinking in a couple occasions and rushing his shot in another couple. His crossover in the third was sick, as was his finish at the rim, but his handle is still loose and high. He was the only Knicks playing more than one minute who posted a negative plus minus for the night. Hoping this doesn’t become a trend. Overall, though, he was decorous at the very least.

– Knox was a mixed bag. He shoots from the right areas, as DRed noted in the comments a few days ago, but shoots very badly. His forays at the rim are terrible, as he contorts his body in strange ways, probably to avoid contact, and his go-to move right now seems to be an awkward floater from anywhere inside the paint (nothing that his scouting report didn’t mention). I mean, the kid shot 4 for 16 and notched 10 points. Anyway his motor looks better than advertised and there’s no sense of entitlement in him. I doubt he’ll ever be a star, but a decent contributor at 9 is not that bad.

– Baker was cool as the back up point guard. A zero on offense (save for his 4 assists) but a total pest on defense and pretty much never in over his head. He’s so, so much better than Mudiay at this basketball thing.

– Hezonja’s game is all over the place, but tonight his effort level was much better, deflecting balls here and there in the second quarter and going for nice drives. His body language is still horrible, but this kind of good J.R. Smith-lite games are a welcome sight.

– NBA League Pass has introduced a new feature this year that allows you to keep track in real time of stats and stuff. Sometimes it throws at you the most random stuff, like “Taurean Prince just tied Craig Ehlo for 16th in the all-time Hawks 3pts made leaderboard with 210”. NBA League Pass: making life easier for recappers around the globe.

– Mike Breen and Clyde are such a class act. I missed them so much along the summer.

And that’s it! 1-0, undefeated, baby! Let’s see what our guys will do against the Nets on Friday. Until then, let’s debate about whether or not Courtney Lee deserves to be traded for half a sack of potatoes.

 

Brooklyn Nets 113 – New York Knicks 107 – Game Recap

Sooo… Preseason is over, and it went a little better than we could have expected, I guess. And the last game of preseason brought us a new gift: a game recap!

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

The good:

– Frank Ntilikina (9 pts, 4 rebs. 5 ast, -17 +/-) played a really good game, despite the awful plus/minus. The kid was pretty much always in control of his actions, and his defense is still remarkable. On a night where a lot of Knicks fumbled defensive rotations, Frank was always on his toes, ready to step in front of the guy with the ball. In the beginning of the second quarter there was an excellent defensive possession where he defended Jared Dudley on a drive, then rotated seamlessly onto Treveon Graham (who by that point got the ball and was ready to shoot) and forced him to travel. That stuff is ingrained in his DNA, and should make him a solid contributor.

As for his offense: he certainly is not the most athletic guy in terms of speed and quickness, but tonight he got to his spots with a lot of old man craft. His scoring game is starting to get a little resemblance to Andre Miller’s: slow but calculated movements that allow him to make the best out of his height and wingspan. I really like the move where he starts to spin just inside the paint, pinning his defender on his pivot foot, and gets to the rim with the left hand. The kid has worked out in the summer and it shows. Is he a point guard? Jury’s still out. Is he an NBA player? Hell yes.

– Mitchell Robinson (7 pts, 4 rebs, 3 ast, -17 +/-) is incredibly raw, but incredibly springy. I liked the fact that he got the start, and I liked the fact that he was extra hungry for the moment. He even had a patented block on a three point shot, and in the third quarter reverse-dunked the ball while standing still under the basket – showing that the knew where he was and was able to choose the most efficient way to put the ball in, even if it was a little goofy. He moved well, didn’t get into foul trouble and, while his defensive rotations weren’t always crispy, he surely doesn’t look like a guy who hasn’t played organized basketball in 2017-18. Massive steal on our hands (but please, Mitch, never shoot again outside of the paint. He missed a 20 footer by a couple miles, making Fiz cringe visibly). Also those 3 assists? Not bad for a guy who should be pretty useless when he’s not jumping here and there.

– Noah Vonleh (13 pts, 5 rebs, 3 ast, +4 +/-) is a nice third/fourth big to have on the team. He’s tremendously strong, and goes after boards with abandon. He can shoot a bit the three pointer, even with a super flat arc, and generally stays out of the way of driving guys. Doesn’t always seem to be in the game mentally, but when he is people tend to notice. I miss Kyle O’Quinn, but here I am betting that on some nights the MSG crowd will just love the sheer force of Vonleh. He should just try to foul a little less, especially on the offensive end (it should be said, though, that tonight the refs were very eager to blow the whistle for offensive fouls. It looked like someone tinkered with the NBA 2K19 sliders too much).

The bad:

– Kevin Knox (3 pts, 2 rebs, 1/6 fgs, -6 +/-) is in for some veeeery rough nights during his rookie season. Tonight we caught a glimpse of what is his worst case scenario. He’s pegged to be a scorer but really lacks the instincts that make you an efficient scorer. He just shoots the ball when he’s half-open or nobody around him is moving, and throws the ball awkwardly towards the rim when driving against half-court defenses. What do you say? I just described Emmanuel Mudiay? Heh, pretty much. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Knox will be at the very least a rotation player in the NBA and a better player than Mudiay, but the Knox rookie experience is going to be really ugly here and there. He also fouled too much, being aggressive but in the worst way. Let’s just be patient with the kid, though, ok?

On a side note: I can’t say I like the offense we saw in these 5 preseason games. It was made by a lot of ISOs, very few guys getting open on movement, not a lot of effective PnR action. I know we have just 3, at best 4 shot creators from the dribble, and most of them are just adequate, but I came away totally unimpressed by the offensive part of Fizdale’s work. We have a few guys who are good at attacking close-outs, but those opportunities usually manifest themselves when the defense is scrambled. I really hope things will get better during the season, I don’t think anyone should be submitted to 82 games of THJ chucking contested jumpers all night long. Oh wait, we are the Knicks. We are destined for this (at least we got spared the multiple jab-step part that came with Melo in town)

– Mario Hezonja (14 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, +3 +/-) is the proof that you shouldn’t check box score numbers to get a feel of who was contributing to the team. Mario has all the talent in the world and sometimes that becomes very apparent, as in the fourth quarter when he effortlessly went into a layup motion a split-second after catching an outlet pass from Mudiay. His body language, though, is Mickey-Mouse-gouging-his-eyes-off-meme atrocious. The Knicks defense tonight got in shambles right after he entered the game in the first quarter. His defensive stance is so inadequate that even Ron Baker could blow by him easily, and he’s pretty much always checking off the game with his mind. I’m lucky to be bald already, otherwise Mario’s game would make me pull my hair off with my own hands, night in and night out. He’s a sure bet to have a patented Doug McDermott 20 pts outing from the bench on some nights, but numbers shouldn’t fool anyone. This kid doesn’t look like an average NBA player, and at times it looks like he doesn’t even want to be playing basketball. Such a shame.

– The Knicks defense. Now, the final score was close, but it wasn’t really the story of the game. A late game push, our trademark fake Knicks comeback, came into fruition thanks to some hot shooting from our own tall Sharlto Copley, Luke Kornet. Tonight the main problem was that our defensive rotations were ugly, with a lot of guys wandering aimlessly on the perimeter and some others repeatedly dying on screens (looking at you, Ron). As a result, we got a collective case of Hornacek-Rambis-Fisher PTSD, since those Nets shooters got open on the perimeter all night long. As I said, I think the spark for the awful defense we saw tonight was Hezonja entering the game, but the effort was all-around disappointing. Let’s hope it was just a one-night thing (and now this sentence triggered some PTSD in me, since it was something that I heard from the vast majority of ladies who I got to know… better).

Fun-size bits:

– Ron Baker got the start! He’s quite useless as the primary ball handler and never looks to shoot, but his effort is always welcome. I don’t know why tonight he got crushed screen after screen, but his on man defense is always on point. Hoping he sticks around as a 12th man in the league after this atrocious Mills’ contract expires.

– Mudiay is still a bad NBA player, but his Wes Unseld impression is spot on. His outlet passes are gorgeous.

– The refs robbed Kornet of a good block that would have contributed to give him something to show in the boxscore, beside his 9 points. If the inflatable Steve Novak doesn’t hit his threes, he’s really doing nothing out there.

– I still don’t rationally understand how Lance Thomas can be our starting power forward, but I feel it’s the right choice for now. He’s always checked in, and that’s a good example for young guys, even if he’s still doing very few things out there. At least he looks better in his new haircut.

– THJ scored 18 points on 50% shooting, but as always his game screams “empty calories”. Trier is pretty much the same, but doesn’t impact our payroll like THJ and is a lot more fun to watch in his perky-jerky dribbling. It’s like THJ is regular Coke and Trier is Coke Zero, as the second one at least doesn’t weigh on you or your waistline (or, in this case, our cap).

– Apropos of Trier, good news guys! The league sent a memo that traveling days won’t count against the 45 days limit, effectively extending the window to make a decision on Iso Zo. I like him as a scorer out of the bench. He looks the shortest 6′ 5″ guy ever, but knows his way around the game.

And that’s a wrap! I hope I haven’t bored all that much, and I really, really, really want to say thank you to Mike K, Brian and all the KB staff for giving me the opportunity to write for this blog. Let’s hope it’s not a one-night thing (PTSD setting in 3… 2… 1…).