Losing to the Celtics is always hard and stings always deep, that’s for sure. Anyway, to put it into bizarro Dark Knight terms, this wasn’t the loss we deserved but it was the loss we needed. I’ll gladly take another competitive loss, propelled by a lot of young players, even if it means dropping one to those untrustworthy leprechauns. A fun game all in all, with some unlikely heroes, a scary but ultimately mild injury to Knox and a Ron Baker layup!
– Enes Kanter (17 pts, 15 rebs, 2 ast, -6 +/-) had a very quiet first half, leaving the most of rebounding duties to fellow big Noah Vonleh. In the second half he came to play, moving around with the same energy we know so well and being a beast on the glass and down low, adding a couple steals as an extra. He also hit a clean three in the fourth! I wonder if, hadn’t Enes fouled out (and on a bogus call at that), we could have won. The loss ultimately came down to a few 50-50 balls and Kanter gives always his all, maybe he would have dived on the floor to prevent the ball from getting back into Boston hands. While on the court he was the beneficiary of a lot more PnR action tonight. It shouldn’t be a surprise that running more pick and rolls yields better results on the offensive end, but we needed to know we have the personnel to run them correctly. While tonight was a little hit-and-miss, the action was much more fluid and it showed.
– Noah Vonleh (7 pts, 13 rebs, 3 ast, +7 +/-) was amazingly effective on the boards in the first half, pulling down 9 boards in his first five minutes of play. He was also effective in putting the ball into the basket from close range and was average on defense. What I liked the most, though, was seeing him play the Draymond Green role in a pinch, finding guys on the perimeter or near the rim with a pass after the short roll. It was most evident in a wonderful sequence with 7:51 to go in the second quarter, where Hezonja found him at the stripe on a pick and roll and Vonleh made a splendid pass to Trier in the corner, who went on to drill a nice three.
– Allonzo Trier (15 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, +4 +/+) and Damyean Dotson (10 pts, 2 rebs, 2 ast, +7 +/-) were crucial to the second quarter comeback, hitting timely shots and playing controlled but efficient basketball. Dotson got the nod to play after Knox injured himself, and play he did. He tallied 22 minutes of play, was not afraid of shooting and even had a nice drive to the rim that got me wondering why in the hell Frank is unwilling or unable to do something similar. Allonzo has already established himself as a capable scorer one on one, and his defense is fine. Sometimes he develops tunnel vision, but it usually happens only when a play is utterly broken. He’s been by far our best rookie for now, and there’s a chance he’s been our best guard overall – and that is more an indictment of the others that a compliment for Zo.
– Frank Ntilikina (5 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, -22 (!) +/-) was out of sorts all night long. His first minutes of defense on Jayson Tatum were a clinic, and he hit a three pointer with 5:47 remaining in the first quarter, but was invisibile for most of the 20 minutes he played. I guess he wasn’t feeling very well, given that Fiz didn’t elect to put him in for defensive purposes at the end of the game, choosing instead Ron Baker for that role. Anyway, Frank’s futility in this game got me thinking that the starting lineup has some tinkering to be done with. Having on the floor an offensive zero (Lance) and a timid offensive player (Frank) at the same time is not a good recipe, especially when you also have Timmy on the floor, who’s able to get off 20+ shots per game but is unable to involve his teammates. Anyway, bad game for Frank (and hideous plus-minus), let’s move on.
– Mitchell Robinson (1 pts, 2 rebs, 50% at the line, +4 +/-) displayed the full catalogue of “bad defense positioning”. He entered the game right after Knox sprained his ankle to shoot the free throws, and Boston feasted on his bumbling defensive rotations. He jumped at guys he had no business at blocking, fell for the simplest head fakes, failed to position himself between the man and the rim inside the arc. I’m not disappointed one bit in him, but he’s miles away from being a contributor at high levels. I still think he’s been a huge steal, but against a well coached team like Boston his glaring flaws and his rawness will be exposed every time.
– Timmy misses the cut for the second straight game, while still scoring 20+ pts. I’m sorry but I can’t bring myself to put him in the good column with that shot selection (even if tonight it got a little better). I just hate the fact that in the half-court, Timmy’s presence is a surefire recipe for watching at least two guys pulling a Westbrook on the perimeter, standing around in their certainty that nobody’s gonna pass the rock once it falls into THJ’s hands.
– Ron hit a layup on a cut! And the pass came from the aforementioned Timmy, proving that when he wants he can find open guys. He just chooses the well traveled road of wanton chuckery.
– Jayson Tatum is a total stud. I wish Knox was even half as good as he is. Second year player, 24/14 on 15 shots. He also committed a boneheaded foul on Trey Burke shooting from 35 feel with 1.9 seconds remaining in the game, giving the Knicks a chance to tie the game. A J.R. Smith like foul, to be honest.
– Fizdale is a joy to watch on the sideline, always jolting with energy and connecting with his players. Also, his rotations are pretty good, a real breath of fresh air after two years of Horny.
– Trey Burke played a solid game, even while missing the first of the three free throws that could have tied the game in the last seconds (I really don’t know why he misses so many freebies). His defense on Kyrie was good throughout the whole game, and was very careful not to pick up his dribble when venturing down the lane. Keeping the dribble alive allowed him to dish a few dimes tonight, falling just short of a double double (11 pts, 9 ast).
– The Garden has something called “Millennial Cam”. It looks like someone overimposed Snapchat captions on unsuspecting guys. It’s as fun as you can think it is just by reading that sentence.
– Lance Thomas scored 1 points in the first 46:44 minutes of the game and 5 points to close the game. He also blocked Horford in the first quarter! That said, his game is still awful and I hope Fiz will try another starting PF very soon. What about trying Dotson there? Can it really be that much worse?
– Through three games, Ntilikina has a 108 DRtg and a -12 Net Rating. Through the same span, Ron Baker has a 93 DRtg and a -1 Net Rating. I love Frank and the sample size is incredibly small, but things have to change (looking at him AND at Fiz).
It’s ok guys! We fought hard and we lost. We really couldn’t ask for more. See you on Monday, when we’ll face the Bucks and Lance Thomas will play 30 minutes because of his unfathomable defensive reputation.