2015-16 Recap: Knicks 89, Celtics 97

This game had all the makings of a hang-around game in which the Knicks would eventually lose. All the symptoms were there. The lethargic rotations, the 4th-quarter regression; it all conspired to knock the Knicks one notch further out of the 8th playoff spot in the East. And so it did, as the Celtics stormed out of MSG tied for the 3 seed and the Knicks retired to their apartments to regroup and maybe do a Netflix binge or brush up on their 2K skills. No starter for the Knicks played particularly well, and without the much-maligned Jose Calderon, the spacing was an issue against the disciplined Celtics’ defense.

The Knicks’ starters shot 21-59 (36%) from the field against the Celtics, and looking at that stat, it’s amazing to see that the Knicks remained in the game at all. When your starters shoot sub-40%, it’s almost always a recipe for a loss. I’m not sure what the exact numbers are because it’s a tough statistic to find precise information on, but I know that teams that shoot under the 40% mark lose something in the range of 90% of the time, so there’s a sliver of a moral victory here in the way the team competed and kept the score within striking range despite the shooting woes that plagued the Knicks throughout the game. I had to go and look at a bunch of game results to figure this out, and it was late and I had had a couple of drinks and I’m sure there’s another good excuse for why this information could be wrong but I can’t think of what it is, but teams are now 18-30 in games played directly after playing the Warriors. It’s a meaningful stat, because while looking through the day-by-day schedule results, I noticed so many teams played against middle-of-the-pack or worse competition following their scheduled lesson in basketball brutality against the Dubs, and even more interesting, over half of the time teams had two days off or more following a game against the Warriors. It’s a curious scheduling quirk (if you read any of my stuff you’ll know I’m kind of obsessed with how the schedule affects the rise and fall of teams in the NBA standings) and it certainly raised my eyebrows as I cycled through counting up wins and losses.

It was a disappointing result in a big game against a division rival which could have propelled the Knicks into the next stretch with a bit of confidence. Before the All-Star break next weekend, the Knicks play at Detroit, and then have a 3-game homestand with Memphis, Denver and Washington coming to NY before the break. All of these games are winnable, and the Knicks are going to need to win 3 of those 4 to go into the week off feeling confident about where their season is headed. I think the next game at Detroit carries a lot of weight as to how the homestand will go, because the Knicks need a boost to their collective gusto after the (not very close) losses against some of the league’s best. It’s easy to grow disheartened when you get your ass beat by OKC, the Clips, the Raptors and the Warriors over the course of 10 days, because you see what kind of talent is on the playoff caliber teams and maybe you realize you aren’t in that class as you play against them. But beating those teams shouldn’t be a goal for the Knicks this season anyways; beating the teams they are capable of beating and finding a way to get into the 6-8 spot in the East is their attainable goal, and even if they slide into the 8 seed and get swept faster than the parlor post-tea-time at Downton Abbey by the Cavs, it will be a successful run with the current roster before the Knicks can build around what they have and improve it for a more realistic run next year.

It’s the time of year where every game starts to become magnified. There are only 30-ish games left for most teams in the league, and the competition level tends to crank up after the All-Star break as teams begins to jockey for playoff positioning. The NBA season is a long grind, and individual games don’t carry as much weight early in the season because teams play 82 of them, but as the amount of games left begins shrinking every team can look at the standings and their schedule and do the math. The Knicks are in a precarious spot right now, as they’ve been several times this year. They’ve faced down a tough stretch of losses with a streak of wins to rebound and put themselves right back into the playoff conversation several times this year, and they will need to do so again. It must be tiring to dig yourself out of the same pit over and over and then watch the dirt fall back in around you as soon as you’ve made some observable progress, but as the theme of the game thread suggested, Groundhog Day really is kind of the perfect metaphor for this Knicks season.

No matter what, we’ve got Porzingis, everyone. So in the iconic words of Aaron Rodgers, everyone R-E-L-A-X. We’re gonna be fine.

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Erik Judd

I'm a lifelong basketball fan whose interests range from some things to other things.

39 thoughts to “2015-16 Recap: Knicks 89, Celtics 97”

  1. Porzingis really does make the losing not so bothersome, as come on, with a guy like that, it’s hard not to see this team having a bright future.

    Hmmm…then again, I guess New Orleans hasn’t been able to do anything good with Anthony Davis. They’ve also done a terrible job overall, so hopefully that’s a fluke. Even the Timberwolves eventually got good with KG, ya know? When you have one of the top players in the league, you’re likely going to eventually stumble into a 55+ win team at some point, and Porzingis looks like he will be one of the top players in the league in the future, so, long story short, I’m still very happy about the future of this team.

  2. What the Knicks could use this summer is a solid 3&D shooting guard, and a solid penetrating point guard. I really don’t know when the last time we had those.

  3. Not having Calderon seems to have two effects. One, the starters just don’t shoot as well, which is understandable, but a bigger effect than I expected. Two, the bench is much weaker on defense because Galloway is a starter. The bench is a unit that seems to do well by getting defense to turn into offense. Last night the second unit had to play a lot of half court sets. Williams is not as good in that setting and the rest of the second unit didn’t do much either.

  4. I think New York is the second most desirable market to LA, so all things being equal, having a competitive basketball team and The Greatest European Player Ever means we probably won’t suffer the way New Orleans and Minnesota did. Nobody is interested in living in either of those two cities. Last year’s lottery had to be disappointing for Karl Towns. You’re getting drafted in the same year both the Lakers and Knicks have top 4 picks, but you’re a generational talent and you’re going to Minnesota instead of one of the two best sports markets. Towns outplays Porzingis on a consistent basis, but nobody cares because Porzingis plays in New York. Minnesota wasn’t the worst place to land since they have a bunch of young talent, but I doubt Wiggins and LaVine ever evolve into All Star talent up there. I really wish these kids would take their QOs and hit free agency after 5 years because I don’t believe inept franchises deserve to essentially ruin great players’ primes by locking up Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Eric Gordon to long term deals. But hey, the Hornets gave Anthony Davis $146 million or something like that, so it’s cool.

  5. I tend to agree, massive (that the desirability of New York as a market will be a major factor in the Knicks turning out a great team at some point in Porzingis’ prime), but the lessons of New Orleans to me I think is more that you have to worry about a team making bad choices to fill in their roster to “win now” with someone like Davis. In other words, it doesn’t matter how desirable you are as a destination if you fill your entire cap up incorrectly (as we saw firsthand during the first decade of this century).

  6. Zinger has been pretty ordinary lately, I think between the respiratory infection and number of games, he’s just worn down.

    But that running 10 foot floater last night was wondrous, anyone else I would say lucky shot, but with KP, it’s just part of his ridiculous skill set.

  7. New Orleans did some really dumb things. No two ways around it. Wasting AD’s prime is going to be a shame. Let’s hope we don’t do it with Treetops.

  8. Two thoughts:

    1. Afflalo is a chucker. He has taken over Melo’s old role of stultifying the offense every time he touches the ball, and JR’s old role of claiming that every shot was “a good look, just didn’t go in.” When he’s streaky hot (sometimes, usually in the first quarter), great. When he’s streaky cold (often, almost always in the second half), yuck. He should be benched and scolded every time he wheels and deals and throws up a ridiculous shot. That would be about every other time he touches the rock, so he’d get plenty of scoldings and bench time.

    2. The Celtics play very aggressive zone-concept D, aka they pack the middle, get in the passing lanes and foul constantly. Watch how Crowder in particular was clutching and grabbing Melo, including on his dubious flagrant. Look at all the hard swipes at the ball every time KP touched it in the paint. It was a hackfest. If the refs give them impunity, they will slow a lot of offenses and beat a lot of teams.

    3. (I know I said 2) The triangle seems to particularly bog down against a zone, particularly when only one or two people on the floor are reliable from 3.

  9. No, NYC is only a destination when it is a top-half team, and it is only a destination for top free agents when it is a contending team.

    You think Durant is coming here even with the Latvian Unicorn?

    You need a good quality modern-NBA team to win, and then you get the free agents. And we are not modern (we have the pieces, but need a 3-baller and more ball movement to be that), we are not quality (consistency is horendous, and we finish games poorly as ever), and lately we are not good.

    As unlikely as it may be, Conley and Bazemore would be perfect.

  10. The Knicks will likely only have the room to add one highly paid player after next summer, assuming AA and D-Will opt out. Are they really going to be that enticing to FAs after next season, especially considering it will be another seller’s market due to another giant cap jump? Porzingis’s future will still probably be pretty ambiguous as far as whether he’ll become a super-elite player who can give NY a leg up. That means that the idea that Porzingis in his prime will be a draw for FAs is irrelevant until summer 2019, when Melo and Lopez expire (and when Kristaps will get a fat new contract).

    Doesn’t sound all that different from the Pelicans, who similarly invested in vets when their star was too young and when they didn’t have any other foundational pieces.

  11. In other non related news, ESPN is ranking Stephen Curry as one of the 25 greatest players ever. He may very well end up being one of the 10 greatest players ever, and his 2015-16 season might end up one of the 5 greatest individual seasons ever, but come on. I think all of this adoration is a little early for him. He would a good to great player his first four seasons, and he’s been elite the past three. People are talking about the guy as if he came in the game kicking doors down like Chris Paul, Shaq, or Tim Duncan. The contract he’s on right now isn’t a max contract because he didn’t demonstrate that he was a max contract level player. I think this is starting to become ridiculous.

  12. I’d argue that Melo and Robin Lopez are better players than anyone on NOP’s roster not named Anthony Davis, and that core group could win 50 games in either conference. I think it’s NOPs bad choices in players. Holiday, Gordon, and Tyreke Evans have never been much better than average basketball players, and they were all on their second NBA contracts (and all are still younger than 28). It was just a mediocre front office job, and I’m not sure the two situations are comparable unless we give D Will and Afflalo 8 figures a piece this summer.

  13. Ranking Steph Curry as a top-25 player is ludicrous, but that’s ESPN’s platform: junk journalism and crass punditry. Is he having a top-10 season of the modern era? Absolutely yes. So yeah, let’s put him on the list and see how many pageviews we get.

  14. I agree about Curry. It all seems rather premature. He’s basically halfway through his third great season which really isn’t the kind of track record that merits that kind of praise.

    That said, the numbers he are putting up this year are otherworldly. The people who have posted a .300 ws/48 for a full season include Chamberlain, Kareem, Jordan, and James. That’s pretty elite company and if he finishes the season above that threshold that would be remarkable.

    I think people forget that Curry is actually pretty old already. He’s going to have 4-5 years of good compiling and then a nice steady decline (if the injury issues don’t happen again) but he’s got a long way to go to catch the guys in the 200 WS club. He’s at 65 currently.

    But for all that, I have never seen a better shooter than Curry. Not sure I ever will. He’s that good.

  15. @10, the point is that a market can work against a team. Gasol signed with a worse team in Chicago in a conference clearly controlled by LeBron James over OKC because they had a much better market to offer. If New York and Milwaukee both win 50 games and want the same player, chances are that player will sign in New York. Nobody is saying players will just run to New York because New York & Porzingis, or at least that’s not the point I’m trying to make. The point is good, young talent, competent front office work, and a large media market (and I believe we have all three currently) is a pretty good recipe to grab free agents. We just can’t spend on the wrong ones as Brian stated upthread.

  16. I don’t think Gasol went to Chicago because of his marketing ability; I think he went there because Chicago is fucking awesome and Oklahoma City is not.

  17. Yeah Steph will be 28 next month. For frame of reference Melo came to the Knicks when he was a couple months before his 27th birthday. Curry doesn’t have much time left

  18. I would love to add Conley and Bazemore! But why would we think that Conley will sign here? I’d even take his understudy Chalmers over what we have.

  19. @17, I think that was my point? OKC is the superior ball club with two top 6 or 7 players in the world and he chose Chicago and Derrick Rose’s Knee Replacement instead because it’s a better city.

  20. Let’s try Jimmer instead of Grant. Grant was a minus 17 in just 7 minutes of playing time last night!

  21. @17, I think that was my point? OKC is the superior ball club with two top 6 or 7 players in the world and he chose Chicago and Derrick Rose’s Knee Replacement instead because it’s a better city.

    I thought that by “better market,” you meant for Pau’s brand marketing. But now I know you meant the Michelin-rated restaurants and nightclubs market.

  22. The Knicks will likely only have the room to add one highly paid player after next summer, assuming AA and D-Will opt out. Are they really going to be that enticing to FAs after next season, especially considering it will be another seller’s market due to another giant cap jump? Porzingis’s future will still probably be pretty ambiguous as far as whether he’ll become a super-elite player who can give NY a leg up. That means that the idea that Porzingis in his prime will be a draw for FAs is irrelevant until summer 2019, when Melo and Lopez expire (and when Kristaps will get a fat new contract).

    Doesn’t sound all that different from the Pelicans, who similarly invested in vets when their star was too young and when they didn’t have any other foundational pieces.

    Which brings us back to the Melo conundrum. Invest in a team now, and you’re unlikely to get the young pieces you can use to build around Porzingis.

    Maybe Phil’s reasoning with all the one year deals was to lessen the pain of not having a draft pick this year. Maybe Melo goes this summer and we build through the draft again next year. We shall see.

    I would be listening to offers on AA and D-Will right about now, though.

  23. It would seem that Melo would have maximum value sooner rather than later to a team in contention looking for a big shot in the arm. But would he go? And he would be missed if he were gone.

  24. I’m with you guys about looking to be sellers. I’m hoping some team gets desperate/stupid and is willing to give up something decent for AA, DWill, etc.

  25. DWill and AA will be gone unless Phil offers a lot of money.

    A couple of 2nd round picks for them will be fine.

    Melo is going nowhere.

    He’s gonna retire as a Knick and I would bet that this is not his last contract here.

  26. Melo, Porzingis, even Robin Lopez would be so much better paired with a good point guard. I think that’s step one in any route to relevance.

    Also, I hesitate to trade Melo when he is taking the load off KP, he is playing well, will likely age well, and besides his contract will mean less of a hit with cap rising. A good PG would mean so much it’s sad

    Half the reason the offense is so stagnant is lack of a decent floor general to run plays. Galloway doesn’t seem to have that.

  27. I do not think the triangle is fit for Traditional Pgs. If the staff were willing to make some tweaks then sure but I have not seen anything from Fish that screams ingenuity.

    If they could get Calderon off the books and AA opts out maybe they could go Bazemore and Batum. Let Bazemore guard the pgs and just have a big lineup out there. If Gallo can man the PG in the triangle I suspect Bazemore is capable. Just let Batum and Melo take care of the play making duties. Hopefully, KP will be a much improve passer too.

    Also, If KP gets strong enough, not necessarily bigger but stronger, by 2017 that line up can shift down and they can bring in a pg when the market will have several more pgs available.

  28. The only problem with bailing is that we have a good chance to make the playoffs. And if we could ever find the right point guard we’d actually be a good team.

  29. The amazing thing is the Wizards are still in it. If you told me Steph had 25 points on 10 (!!!!!!) shots after 1, I’d assume the Warriors were already up 40 and Steph wouldn’t play a minute of the 2nd half.

  30. I agree about Curry. It all seems rather premature.

    I don’t know. At his current pace, he’s going to set Ray Allen’s all time 3 pt record in the next 5 years. He’s already considered the greatest shooter to ever play by many observers. shooting is a pretty big part of the game, if not the most basic and fundamental aspect of the sport. (And it’s not like he’s a one-dimensional player, too. Between the shooting, the ball handling, the “clutch plays”, and his very underrated defense, he’s the most dynamic player I’ve seen since Jordan (and a few more years like these past two and even that could be open to discussion)).

  31. New Orleans did some really dumb things. No two ways around it.

    New Orleans kind of got screwed by the league (their owner at the time) when the trade with the Lakers for Paul was overturned. The package of Dragic, Kevin Martin, Scola, and the Knicks 2012 pick was better than the package they got from the Clippers. (And Martin was turned into Harden shortly thereafter). NOLA has made some poor decisions since, but they were pretty good last year. And Davis hasn’t exactly been a top tier player this year, so it’s kind of on him that the team has taken a step back with him.

  32. On the one hand, I’m happy for MKG that he’s back to playing. I like MKG a lot.

    On the other hand, it sucks that the Hornets are close to having a pretty complete roster. Augh!

    On the mysterious third hand, if MKG plays well, doesn’t it make it kind of hard for them to play both him and Batum? Maybe they’ll be unwilling to give Batum the max and the Knicks can swoop in!

  33. I don’t think so. MKG is really versatile defensively and there’s not an nba lineup in which he couldn’t guard two guys. More often four. The guy you have trouble playing with MKG is another wing who can’t shoot, but Batum fits fine with him offensively, I think. Hornets have done a great job staying in the race with a lot injuries. Should but a contender for that 8 seed with MKG back and Jefferson right behind, though Jefferson not exactly a game changer these days.

  34. Yeah, I guess in the modern NBA, having two wings who can guard multiple positions and shoot is pretty freakin’ valuable.

    The funny thing is that I went to a Hornets blog and they’re all thinking Batum at $18 million. Dudes, you’re not getting Batum for less than the max salary! No one is! It’s not happening!

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