2015-16 Recap: Knicks 112, Blazers 110

Excuse me for getting this up late today, guys and gals, I got myself good and drunk to celebrate the win last night and thought perhaps it wasn’t the best time to write. Or maybe it was, I probably would have been more funny. Now I feel like I deprived you of the drunken review you deserved. Oh well, here goes a somewhat-hungover attempt at analyzing last night’s impressive comeback win.

What a strange game. Kristaps submitted 0 points, in large part I think due to the fact that it was the second night of a B2B and he had to battle Cousins down the stretch in Sacramento. Again, I like the small-ball lineup of putting Zingis at the 5 because of the spacing it creates, but he CANNOT be guarding a guy like Cousins for any kind of extended minutes. The kid will get beat up, and it showed against Portland. Taps was not ready to play. The infamous rookie wall is real, and though it may not be a massive block of ice that rises 700 feet into the sky like the one north of Winterfell, the metaphorical wall still has an imposing reputation, and few rookies can escape it.

I noted that Melo looked pissed off towards the end of the Sacramento game, and he carried that over the state lines straight into Portland. Melo had a 13/21 night shooting for 37 points, submitting a TS% of .741. However, despite all this, his +/- was -7. What? Yes, you read that right. The real hero of the game was…… the bench? Collectively our oft-made-fun-of-by-me bench was +42 last night, and they were the deciding factor. The bench has cost the Knicks plenty of games this year, but they were ready to fill in for an anemic Jose Calderon and Kristaps Porzingis in Portland. Maybe they scored some great weed in a Portland Dispensary and had an epic bongo session before the game to build confidence, and if they did, I recommend they do that before every game. Derrick Williams was sensational (3-4 from 3 and +18), but I think seeing O’Quinn freed from the prison cell he calls the bench was the most relieving thing about the game. O’Quinn was 7/8 from the field with 7 rebounds in only 19 minutes, and showed once again why he should be the first big man off the bench, not Kevin Seraphin (a coach’s DNP, another happy statistic from last night).

The Knicks were down 10 entering the 4th quarter and the Porzingod had accomplished nothing. It looked like another night to hold my face in my hands glumly as I watched the seconds tick away on another road loss, but the Knicks played with a fire I’ve seen from them several times in 4th quarters as of late. They had real chances to beat Dallas and Sacramento in similar 4th-quarter comebacks this past week, but couldn’t quite seal the deal. Last night, Melo would not be denied. As if he knew the fanbase was turning against him, Melo seemed to have purpose to remind us, himself, and the league, that he is still an incredible scorer when he is on and can win a game with his talent. The performance shines even brighter considering that Taps was a non-factor, and it was awesome to see retro-Melo do his thing.

Portland’s guards scored plenty of points as I assumed they would against the Knicks’ lackluster backcourt, but Lillard was a Kobe-esque 11-28 from the field in large part due to Langston Galloway and Aaron Afflalo’s efforts on defense. He had to work for every shot, and it showed in the 4th quarter as his legs began to fade. Like every other person with a pulse, I was terrified of that last shot he put up, but once it went out and the buzzer was sirening the echoes of the Knicks finally being off the schneid, all was well in Knicksland.

The Knicks get a couple of well-deserved days of rest before hosting Minnesota and KAT, and after only 19 minutes in Portland last night, Taps should have all the energy he needs to come at the #1 pick full-throttle. Really should be a fun game, and with Philly and Okafor looming after, the Knicks have a real chance to be a game from .500 after Wednesday and back in the discussion for a playoff berth rather than a depressing slog to a lottery they have no ping pong ball in. As I’ve said before, the Knicks have no incentive to lose this year, so they may as well compete like they did last night and see if some of the other East teams start to regress after the quarter-mark of the season.

Okay, I’m gonna go lay back down and wait for NFL kickoff. Our (amazingly) tied for first place Giants (5-7) don’t play until Monday, but for those of you that are degenerates like me that are playing the first playoff game in Fantasy today, or have a friendly wager or two on some of today’s games, it’s a rather big day regardless. And any day sitting on a Knicks win is a good day, so enjoy the unseasonably warm weather and kick those feet up, everybody.

2015-16 Game Thread: Knicks @ Trailblazers

Webster’s Dictionary defines Melodrama as a drama, such as a play, film, or television program, characterized by exaggerated emotions, stereotypical characters, and interpersonal conflicts. Though I’m certain that this pun has been used extensively before my inclusion of it in this piece, it does effectively describe the last few minutes of last night’s loss at Sacramento. The New York fanbase has been decisively anti-Melo for the last few weeks in the wake of the Kristapocalypse (a phrase I will continue to push until I’m finally convinced it has as many legs as Lieutenant Dan) and though I was initially weary of the opinion to trade him, I am beginning to come around. The Knicks are exhibiting all the signs of being a bottom-feeder in the league, and despite the promise the future holds for the future, it may be time to cash in the chips they still hold.

Melo’s misguided heave at the buzzer, despite the obvious foul committed on the shot, was indicative of the current state of the team. You could see him getting upset towards the end of the 3rd quarter, and without a doubt he played with tremendous effort, but he came up shorter than Kevin Hart on the game-winning attempt. I don’t want to get too into what I think should be done with Melo, either for his sake or for the sake of the Knicks, but the Knicks’ season suddenly has a splash of writing on the wall a-la The Shining. Is it time to Red Rum the team, trade Melo, and see if there’s a 2016 1st rounder in play? Perhaps. But my hunch is to wait a while, as I’m sure is the position of the front office, and see how the team responds to this stretch of adversity that has included only 2 wins in the last 10 games.

One of many things to be concerned about is that the Knicks have a SOS rank of 25th, and if this is their record after what is likely the easiest stretch of the year, it’s difficult to imagine that things are going to get better. The triangle offense has been woeful at best because of the personnel the Knicks have trying to employ it, and we may not see a P&R until the next season begins. It’s sublimely frustrating to watch the offense continually run ISO’s without challenging the defense to rotate and respond, as evidenced by the Knicks’ 15.4% assist ratio. The ball is stagnant in the triangle, and often after a pass or two it ends with a oh-fuck-is-he-going-to-shoot-this post-up or a wait-somebody-is-open-six-feet-from-you contested jumper.

The Knicks play with a slow pace (94.4, 24th in the league) courtesy of the triangle they’re forcing down the throats of their players as if the scheme was puréed vegetables and the team were babies who would prefer applesauce. Portland also enjoys a leisurely stroll down the basketball court, themselves playing at a 95.0 pace, so tonight figures to have the intensity of an elderly couple holding hands on a park bench. Portland and New York are both playing on the second night of a back-to-back, so I wouldn’t expect either team to push much beyond the limitations they have both set for themselves.

Portland is not a good team; they hold an identical record (10-14) as the Knicks, and their highest-paid player is Al-Farouq Aminu at $7.5 million. Yes, that’s right, Damian Lillard is still on his rookie contract. What most concerns me about this matchup is the monstrous advantage Portland holds at guard. Lillard and the suddenly relevant CJ McCollum will probably wreak havoc on Calderon and Afflalo, and though it will be no unfamiliar sight to Knicks fans to see their guards outplayed, Portland has one of the best backcourts in the league and will probably be Harlem-Globetrottering Jose and Aaron. The good news is that the Blazers have no answer for Many Plates of Meat (my new favorite idiom for Kristaps) and he has a great opportunity to show Portland how good he is.

The Knicks’ next two games are home against the Timberwolves (the KAT vs TAP game we’ve waited for) and at the 76ers, both of which are winnable. Should they beat Portland, they could conceivably be on their way to climbing back to .500. The Knicks have every reason to believe they should be able to win tonight and I expect an effort reflective of that. Losing to Sacramento was indeed heartbreaking, but there was a lot to like about the competitive nature the Knicks displayed following the embarrassment at Utah. Kristaps blamed it on the Boogie like the Thriller himself down the stretch last night, and though seeing him guarding a player with the physicality of Cousins is not ideal for his rookie campaign, it was yet another of the encouraging things we’ve seen about Taps in his rookie season. The boy is competitive as hell, and he showed that after Boogie decided he was going to try and “Sportscenter” him every time he got the ball. It is not a stretch to say that Kristaps got the better of Cousins in the last few minutes of that game.

It would be good to see Melo bring the confidence he had from last night’s second half tonight, but he needs to believe that Afflalo (0-6 from 3 last night) and other open shooters are worth passing it to. The reason Melo took that ill-advised shot at the end was because he was tired of seeing teammates miss. The Knicks shot less than 40% from the floor last night, and though they outrebounded the Kings by 10 and shot 12 more free throws, the game of basketball will always ultimately come down to how many shots you make no matter your collective team effort. Melo would be the first to tell you his 6-11 performance from the FT line was unacceptable, but the loss was not on him; it was a team loss, and one that could have been avoided had the team made more shots.

The problem with the current offense, as we all know, is that the triangle is not creating open shots. It is no surprise that the Knicks are shooting so poorly, because so many of their shots are contested. Without generating open shots, it’s difficult to score in this league. I would love to see Fisher tinker with the starting lineup, perhaps bringing Afflalo off the bench like Portland did last year when they first acquired him. I know I’m not the first person to suggest this, but based off the matchup tonight, it seems to me the inspiration is right in front of their eyes.

I’d like to bring something new into the previews I write, since I can safely assume anyone who takes time to read a basketball blog is probably not just a fan of the Knicks, but a fan of the league. So I’d like to talk about a few things going on in the league tonight outside of Knicksland, specifically since the game is a late West coast trip and there’s plenty of basketball to watch until the tip.

1) Boston plays Charlotte tonight. Last year, this would be a game you would ignore at all costs, but this year, these are both playoff teams. Boston’s success isn’t too surprising, but Charlotte’s most definitely is. Boston very nearly toppled the Warriors last night (and if you didn’t watch the game, you’re a fool) and is extremely fun to watch. Charlotte is stunningly a game behind Cleveland for 1st in the East as of right now, and they are certainly worth your time to check out. Also, all of you Batum-lovers can check the guy out as a 2nd/3rd option on a good team.

2) The Pacers play Detroit in another East matchup you would have happily skipped last year. This is further evidence of the improvement of the East, but this is an interesting matchup because of the respective strengths of both teams. The Pacers will have no answer for Drummond, but the Pistons will have no answer for PG13 (thanks, Bill Simmons, for pushing that nickname so hard it actually happened). If you play fantasy basketball you’ll be glad to have either of these gentlemen on your roster tonight.

3) San Antonio plays the media-proclaimed San Antonio East (Atlanta) Hawks, and it should be an excellent game. Atlanta won an extremely entertaining back-and-forth game at Dallas a couple nights ago, and San Antonio is quietly 19-5 and rolling right along. The Spurs would get a lot more attention if it weren’t for the Warriors, and they won’t even get a crack at the Dubs until February (which is an incredible scheduling quirk imo), but this should be a great game for fans of the beautiful game. And no, I don’t mean soccer, although these teams both apply principles of teamwork normally found on the pitch that I wish the Knicks would pick up on.

4) And, speaking of the Warriors, they survived double overtime last night at Boston and have another road game tonight at Milwaukee. If only the Bucks were a better team, I could believe they would win based on the circumstances, but I don’t think the streak ends tonight. It’s gotten to the point that if the Warriors are in your building, it is a mini super bowl for the host team, and I expect the Bucks to go all-out. I’d say they have about a 30% chance of winning the game, but honestly, I am not going to pick against the Warriors. Ever. It’s always a blast to watch Warriors games because of the atmosphere in the arenas where they play and the blatant otherworldliness of their current performance. It’s literally like nothing we’ve ever seen before, so if you’re watching any game while waiting for the Knicks to tip off, this is the one I would recommend.

Quick Recap: Knicks 97, Mavericks 104

Well, the end of the game was certainly entertaining. I think it’s time to put a ring on Kristaps’ finger, he’s The One for us. This started as affection and is becoming true love. I could gush about Zinggod for a few hundred words without breaking a sweat, but you all saw him. 13/18 for 28 points is a helluva line, even if he was held to a Gentleman’s 4 rebounds. The Mavericks are an extremely good defensive rebounding team and they also made a ton of shots, which contributed to limiting rebounding numbers across the board. Zinguistics was clutch down the stretch (THAT BLOCK) and set the arena on fire with his late 3’s. His heroics were stymied by Melo’s insistence on losing the game, but I’m not going to let that temper my enthusiasm.

Dallas shot 11-20 for 3 in the first half, and the significantly charred nets had to be replaced. The Mavs went 2-11 for the rest of the game on 3-point attempts, so I commend the halftime adjustment to stick with shooters and limit the switching. It was another vintage Dirk performance; he is one of my all-time favorite players because of how good he is and the kind of guy he is, and it’s good to see him playing so well into the ever-darkening twilight of his career. It wasn’t good to see it tonight, though, as Dirk turned in 25 points on 9/18 to show his protégé he can still ball. It was awesome to see Kristmas inspired by the performance and turn in a terrific one of his own.

The bench combined to shoot 11-30 in another uninspired attempt at competing in the sport of basketball. Langston “Dumpster Fire” Galloway went 1-6 and appears to be so deeply in a funk that he has become a human disco circa 1974. They are really dragging this team down, like, horror-movie style, and if this keeps up this is going to be their yearbook photo at the end of the year:

Drag me to Hell

To start the season I really thought the bench would be a strong factor in a potential Knicks resurgence, but they have been terrible the last couple of weeks. If it weren’t for Ole’ Saint Kris, this season would be tough to bear, but it’s December and Kris the Season to be merry. The game was pretty much a blowout for most of the second half until a mini-push to finish the 3rd quarter and a stronger push in the last 4 minutes of the game that added a lot of unexpected but certainly welcome drama to the end of the game. I get angry every time I think about Robin Lopez’s 4-year contract paying him about $14 million a year, especially now seeing Kristaps play the 5 some more. Taps should probably be limited to playing center sparingly this season, but it is an extremely interesting lineup and creates a lot of spacing.

I was prepared to write about how terrible a game this was to watch until Kristaps nearly got the Knicks all the way back. That was really cool and leaves me with a good taste in my mouth despite the King’s Landing Bowl of Brown that the Knicks fed me for most of the game. We may not get to see the Latviathan play Dirk too many more times, so I’m glad the two were able to have a bit of crossover in their careers. Feels like when Jordan used to play guys like Kobe or Iverson in the late 90’s as the torch was getting close to being passed, and I know all the comparisons are unfounded and not based on the actual games of the two players, but Dirk is a hero to Richzingis and clearly the two brought their A-games tonight and were excited to play each other. Let’s just hope the next time these teams meet Melo decides to give success a chance.

Game Thread: Knicks vs Mavs

The Knicks get the Mavericks on the 2nd night of a back-to-back, which is good news for the Kristapsbockers. The Mavericks won last night in DC and look like they are better than most believed they would be, and the Knicks are coming off a poor performance against the Bucks on Saturday.

Should be a fun game, and we get to see Kristaps guard his “mentor” Dirk Nowitzki for the first time! Enjoy the festivities folks, and go Knicks!!

Good Zings Come to Those Who Wait

It’s a bad time to be a great basketball team.

Let me repeat: It is a bad time to be a great basketball team.

The Knicks are chilling at 11th place (coincidentally the name of Tom Haverford’s latest Pawnee nightclub following the failure of the previous 10) in the vastly improved East with a record of 9-10, and much like the last 5 minutes of a 90s family sitcom, find themselves given an infusion of fresh hope following a period of relative torment. See what I did there? Relative torment? Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving, I’ll be here for the duration of this article and the jokes will only get worse.

I’m not sure whether or not the Knicks are going to be a good enough basketball team to make the playoffs in the surprisingly competitive East this year, but they’ve improved in every conceivable way from last season and are laying the foundation to become a contender again with the probably-going-to-be-Richzingis as the franchise’s cornerstone. What I am sure of is that the timing of their rebuild is very fortuitous, considering the landscape of the NBA and how many years away they are from realistically contending with the league’s best teams.

I hope you all read Zach Lowe’s article on the Knicks and Taps that was published Tuesday on ESPN.com, but if you haven’t, here’s the link: This is a must-read article for Knicks fans, you can come back to my ravings later, in the meantime, click this link!

In a typically phenomenal article by Lowe, a lot of things stood out, but one part that really made me stop and think was when he pointed out that a lot of team executives had quietly decided (and I believe rightly so) that their best course of action for team-building strategy would be to wait out the Warriors.

The Dubs are playing at a historically high level. They have the best record to ever start a season, a once-in-a-universe player who may possibly have signed a dark contract with Beezlebub to make shots no mere mortal would attempt, a “Wait, let me check that again” point differential of +15.4, and a team made up of personnel that fits together like new socks and gets along so well that they have become the basktball equivalent of one of those couples that is, like, baby-elephant-adorable, and you can’t help but be disgusted by them.

Baby Elephant Ballin

But there is nothing disgusting about this Warriors team. They are basketball porn.

…Maybe that’s a bad metaphor for arguing against their being disgusting, but any pure basketball fan can’t help but watch this team in awe. It is easily one of the best three teams I have ever seen in my 25-odd years of watching basketball, alongside the 1995-96 Bulls and the 2000-01 Lakers, and it’s entirely possible that the only thing keeping me from rating them higher is nostalgia.

The Knicks have no incentive to lose this year because of the Andrea Bargnani trade which robbed them (I assume that trade was made at gunpoint) of their 1st round pick in the upcoming Son of the Sports Guy Draft. Knowing this, the Knicks made a real effort to fill out the roster and give Melo confidence that the rebuild was in motion but wouldn’t be a complete demolition. Even so, I don’t think the Knicks imagined themselves to be a playoff team before the season started, and they still may not be because of the improvement of so many teams in the East, but they have every reason to win as many games as possible and get some playoff experience for The Lord of the Zings.

Smeagol Rings

Roughly a quarter of the season has been played, and I think that’s a large enough sample size to judge most teams. Maybe not completely, but like, your typical somewhat-informed neighborly judging. This has been a strange season thus far for a number of reasons, but one of the strangest things is the amount of parity in the NBA. Hell, the Undisputed Champion of Parity, the NFL, is probably jealous. Or at least they would be if they could find time between counting money and measuring television ratings.

By my estimation, the NBA has only three truly bad teams: the Nets, the Lakers, and the 76ers. There are a few other contenders in the West, like Sacramento, Denver and Portland, but so far we can’t definitively say that any of those three teams can’t be competitive against most teams in this league, which means we have 26 teams that could conceivably beat each other on any given night.

If you added that up and thought my math was off, first of all, I was an English major, so give me a break. Second, I left Golden State off the “could be beaten on any given night” list because thus far, no one has beaten them. To be fair, they have yet to play Cleveland, San Antonio or Oklahoma City, the three teams that I think are best suited to compete with them, but to every available statistical measure and test of the eye, they may very well be at a level that none of those extremely talented teams can compete with in a 7-game series.

With that being said, I return to the chorus I began this song with: This is a bad time to be a great basketball team. Knicks fans know this all too well (as do several other franchises that were successful in the same era) from their time being a great team in the 90s while Jordan’s Bulls snuffed out hope like a waiter who tells you they’re out of what you came to the restaurant for in the first place. There’s a consistent historical precedent in this league where being a great team has meant losing to a greater one. The NBA is not an underdog league, in large part due to the playoff structure which heavily favors the more talented team.

That being said, there are always windows of opportunity getting ready to open, especially in today’s NBA where short contracts are the new norm for teams as terrified of commitment as they are of the luxury tax, specifically the uber-penalty for repeat offenders, and so cannot realistically keep a team together for longer than a few years.

Golden State has been afforded a unique degree of roster flexibility because of what is by far the best bargain contract in the league, which pays Steph Curry just over $11 million this year and $12 million the next. But, as their other young players come up for contract extensions like Draymond Green and Klay Thompson did the last two summers, so does the comically underpaid reigning MVP, and this complicates their cap situation. Simply put, it’s going to be impossible to keep the band together.

Getting the band back together

Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli both declined contract extensions and will enter the market as restricted free agents next year. The cap is estimated to rise astronomically from $70 million to $89 million because of the NBA’s new television contract, but even that generous cushion won’t protect the Warriors from the realities of their cap situation. The Dubs are probably going to have to let one of their young assets go or trade Bogut to get out from under the last year of his contract before next season. They have plenty of options, but their bench is going to suffer one way or another. Their top 3 will remain otherworldly, but like every juggernaut before them, they will begin to age and be too pricey to maintain over time.

It’s a sobering reality in the salary cap world of sports, but the best teams are always destined to regress. Golden State isn’t going to anytime soon, but that suits the Knicks just fine. Would you really want to be Cleveland this year, with a literal going-for-broke $110 million dollar payroll and knowing in the back of your mind you may just not be good enough, even if completely healthy, against the Dubs? Would you want to be any of the teams with young-to-middle-aged superstars subject to attrition in the next summer or two of free agency? I know I wouldn’t.

The Knicks will have roughly enough cap room next summer to sign a max contract player, and many want Hassan Whiteside to be that player, despite the fact there is a center under contract for three more years after this one with an average salary of $14 million/year and that the Heat would be guaranteed to balk at a sign-and-trade involving Lopez. They could have more cap room if Afflalo or Williams opts out, or if they can trade Calderon, and I expect some wiggling to happen this summer with respect to the situation at the guard positions, but they will regardless have plenty of room to further improve the roster. And with The Latviathan now joining the well-liked Melo to play 41 games a year at basketball’s Mecca, under the direction of the Zen Master to boot, I imagine there are players looking at the Knicks a lot more closely as a place to sign in the next year or two.

The what-Mario-fixes dream is Kevin Durant, as it is for a lot of franchises, but that won’t be an option this summer. You can etch that in stone. He will sign a 1-year deal in Oklahoma City with a 2nd-year player option to delay signing a multi-year deal until the cap rises once more at a historical rate for the 2017-2018 season, much like LeBron has shaped his last two contracts, so the NBA can stop worrying about the “summer of Durant.” Everyone already knows Durant is going to sign the 1-year contract, but people need things to write about so it’s fun to theorize that maybe Durant might explore free agency this summer. He very well might, just to take in the ego-satisfying experience of free agency, but Durant is signing the 1-year contract if his agent is worth what a VCR is.

Despite the improbability of signing Whiteside or Durant, the Knicks have plenty of options to upgrade the roster this summer even without a 1st round pick. I would take a long look at Demar DeRozan and Mike Conley as options at guard, and you have to at least see what Al Horford would think about a move to NY. This isn’t even to mention the myriad of possibilities for simply improving roster continuity with a couple lower-risk signings like Evan Fournier or George Hill. The important thing here is to note that it’s not a big deal if the Knicks aren’t contending next year, because it is in their best interest to wait out the Warriors, and in their own conference, the Cavaliers, who are set to hemorrhage a lot of their roster over the next two years as LeBron begins the cruel career stage of aging.

The Knicks’ future is bright because of the Kristapocalpyse, but like any religious journey, they’ve got to slog through a lot of tedious shit to get to enlightenment.

Knicks 78, Heat 97

Sometime towards the end of the second quarter, the Knicks decided they were willing to get outcompeted by the Heat, which is a discouraging trend of late. When the lead evaporated before halftime and the third quarter became a friendly competition between Knicks to see who could hit the front of the rim the softest, the signs were there. Even with a spirited start to the 4th, the Knicks were caving faster than a mole with vertigo and they essentially watched Gerald Green assassinate their chances to avenge the loss on Monday.

The turning point happened when Green was fouled on a 3-pointer in the beginning of the 4th, resulting in three made free throws that effectively Frankensteined a player that every relevant statistic considered to be an inanimate corpse. The Knicks then watched helplessly as Green went all NBA-JAM-He’s-on-Fire for the next few minutes and put the game out of reach.

It certainly didn’t help that the Knicks only managed 29 2nd half points, resuming their woeful offensive play after a promising first half, or that The Latviathan was laden with foul trouble throughout and could never really establish himself in the game, but a lot went wrong in the 2nd half.

Bosh Spice

Bosh Spice was extremely effective at bothering Porzingis and helping get him into foul trouble. Because of his unique skill set and underrated defensive ability, I assumed Bosh would be problematic for the Zing God, but Bosh really brought it tonight. Must have liked the spread at Melo’s Thanksgiving last night or something, but the sequence when Bosh blocked Porzingis and found Green open for 3 to extend the Heat’s lead to 13 early in the 4th was dream-shattering. It essentially ended the game.

The bench was notably improved, going 18-43 for 28 points, but still shot a poor percentage and had too many defensive breakdowns. It was a step in the right direction, but in the past three games the second unit has been little more than an awkward euphemism for a 2nd-string sex toy.

The Heat undeniably have more talent than the Knicks right now, and they are a good test because of that, but the Knicks have to play with more intensity against the good teams in this league. The Heat had 28 FTA to the Knicks 15, only 4 of which came from the starting 5. That kind of emphatic lack of aggression is a symptom of an uninspired team, and that understandably happens from time to time in a sport where teams play 82 games in a season, so hopefully the Knicks can rise above their Holiday malaise and regroup.

It’s important to point out how good the Heat’s defense is and how that is a contributing factor to the Knicks’ performance against them, but to be held under 80 points twice in four days by the same team is concerning no matter the situation. The ball moved less than a coma patient for large portions of the second half as the offense stalled and that’s something Phil Ja–err, Derek Fisher, will need to address. Even a simple pick & roll from the top has been difficult to execute lately and a lot of that has to do with the terrible outside shooting, resulting in defenses sucking in towards the paint and sealing off driving and passing lanes.

The Knicks will be glad to see a team dealing with a host of their own existential issues, the Rockets, on Sunday, but they have plenty to work on until then.

2015-16 Game Thread: Knicks vs. Heat

What could be better than a quick sojourn to Florida for Thanksgiving just as winter is beginning to set in up north? Apparently, anything, so far as the Knicks are concerned. They couldn’t get on a plane back to New York fast enough after Wednesday’s appropriately recapped performance, and hopefully an exorbitant meal and the nostalgic sight of a behemoth-sized Snoopy floating through the streets gave the Knicks back whatever they lost in the Sunshine State.

I assume that none of you decided to attend the music-less moshpit known as Black Friday since you’re all aware of the existence of the internet, but I would be remiss not to list what I’m thankful for on this post-Thanksgiving morning that I’ve spent hiccuping through the aftermath of mixing roughly 139 different versions of alcohol.

I’m thankful for the impending Kristapocalypse that was foretold by James Naismith as he climbed a ladder to retrieve a ball from a peach basket that, incredibly, no one thought to cut the bottom out of for FIFTEEN YEARS. I’m thankful for every moment Sasha “.33 TS%” Vujacic spends on the bench thinking about what to get Kobe for Christmas and not on the court trying to outduel him for the ’15-16 title of Least Efficient Shooter. Get Cic or Die Tryin’ literally has 45 points on 66 shots, which is an incredibly impressive feat of mediocrity. And finally, I’m thankful for Amazon. Seriously, is anyone still leaving their house to do their Holiday shopping?

Game 17 of the season welcomes the Miami Heat to New York, a team they played just four days ago. Miami ranks 3rd in the league with a DRtg of 98.7, and they held the Knicks to a season-low 78 points on Monday. A lot of that had to do with the bench’s recent allergic reaction to success, having shot put the ball towards the general vicinity of the basket to the tune of 7-47 in the last two games, including 0-16 from 3. Everyone on the bench is sneezing and itching, but Langston Galloway has broken out into hives and is in danger of going into anaphylactic shock if he doesn’t improve on his 1-14 performance over the last two games. If the Knicks are going to beat this very talented Heat team, their bench is going to have to show up for work.

The good news is that Wade and Bosh have been slumping lately. They shot a combined 8-28 against the Knicks on Monday (an agonizing stat after seeing how badly the Knicks were beaten despite this) and combined to go 4-18 in their loss at Detroit on Wednesday. They also had to spend Thanksgiving in Detroit, where I imagine they were served slow-roasted mufflers smothered in recycled oil with a side of dirty air filters basted with engine coolant. Also, Luol Deng is sitting tonight, which I’m not sure is a good thing since that means more minutes for Justise Winslow.

Should be fun, and a good test for the Knicks’ struggling offense. Only one thing left for me to say about this game:

Round 2: Fight!