Recap: Knicks 111, Rockets 116 (OT)

We’ve all had a night to sleep on the frustrating and disappointing loss to the Houston Hardens last night. In my quick recap I didn’t get into one of the unbelievable stats to come out of the game. The Knicks are the first team since 2013 to lose a game while shooting as high as 57.7% from the field. I’m not in love with that stat. It’s way too specific, and feels a bit like cherry picking, but it does tell part of the story. The Knicks did just about everything right (for once) on offense. Afflalo was cooking and hitting from all over the floor. They got him in the post and he was brutalizing whoever he had on his back. I’d like to see a lot more of that when Melo sits. Staggering Melo, Porzingis, and Afflalo so that two of them are almost always on the floor together seems like the way to go. Part of the effectiveness of the offense, though, is the continuing horribleness of the Rockets defense. In the game thread, I alluded to the fact that the Rockets are near the bottom in the whole league in defensive efficiency and it stands to reason that allowing a team to hit nearly 58% of their shots from the field won’t help that number.

The Heat’s defense made the Knicks look awful. The Rockets defense made the Knicks look like world beaters. The truth probably resides somewhere in between.

The story of the game was turnovers and offensive rebounds. Calderon and Seraphin each had 5 turnovers. Calderon’s turnovers came as a result of Patrick Beverley’s tough on-the-ball defense. He was lazy with his dribble on several occasions and it really cost the Knicks late in the game. Seraphin’s turnovers were the product of his high self esteem. He’s a black hole when the basketball touches his hands. He tries to lead the break. He tries to dribble between two post defenders. He tries to speed-inbound the basketball when caution is advised. He tries to Magic Johnson the ball into the hands of his teammates when a simple pass will do. I hate to get on him after he outplayed Dwight Howard all night long, but you can’t turn the ball over 5 times from his spot in the rotation. Too many of those turnovers were of the knuckleheaded variety.

I could write this whole recap about the Rockets, frankly. I noted in the game thread that we’d probably learn more about them than we would about the Knicks. I think that’s mainly the case. Instead I want to note the quietly efficient game that Porzingis played. He took what the defense gave him for the most part and rarely forced the action. He only took one three pointer, and that was because the shot clock was winding down and he had the ball in his hands. One day you’d like to see Kristaps become a go-to-guy and put the team on his shoulders. We’ve already seen him do it a few times. For now, as he’s getting his feet wet, he’s just excellent at letting the game come to him and he puts himself in the right spot to succeed without the ball in his hands. He could definitely find the ball in his hands more, but the Knicks’ guards can’t seem to find him when he’s open. Every game I shout at the TV when he’s got space without a defender nearby and the ball inevitably swings to the other side of the court. Dwight Howard isn’t the player he once was, and I think it’s mainly a mental thing. He does have the super powers to dunk a player into the great beyond and Porzingis was posterized for the first time in his career. It almost felt like the Matrix. As soon as that dunk went through, ripples of digital surf radiated from the #6 on Porzingis’ back.

Up next, the Knicks get the Philadelphia 0.76ers and their tank-tastic brigade of sourpusses. I won’t be happy unless the Knicks win that game by 15-20 points. They’ve played tough teams close all season. They’ve made mediocre teams look better by allowing them back in games. We’re entering a stretch against the weaker part of the NBA and it would behoove us to destroy as many of them as possible. It will show that we belong in the mid-to-upper tier of teams in the league. It ought to build some confidence. It should give the key guys some rest and the bench some fine tuning minutes. If we end up allowing any of these teams to hang with us into the final minutes, I’ll be very cranky with my television, which is an otherwise lovely part of my family.

Quick Recap: Knicks 111, Rockets 116 (OT)

Maybe the Knicks like sleep. They sure fell asleep on multiple occasions down the stretch in this game and gave away a 14…..14…..14….14…..14 point 4th quarter lead. They slept on inbound passes. They slept on the defensive glass. They slept while dribbling in the vicinity of Patrick “I’ll pick your pocket just like that” Beverley. There was some very nice hooping and then there was deep, deep slumber.

The Positives: The Knicks seemed eager to share the ball and got Afflalo cooking on a night when Carmelo Anthony sat out with some sort of flesh-eating virus. Porzingis played within himself and rarely forced the action. Seraphin was slippery and tough on defense.

The Negatives: Lance Thomas and Kevin Seraphin have the same disease. They both think that when a couple of things go well for them, they’re Kobe Bryant. Seraphin threw away a ton of possessions. Lance Thomas took a seriously boneheaded shot late in the 4th quarter. Knowing your limitations is an important life skill that neither of those guys possess. Maybe it’s what’s got them where they are as pro athletes, but they’re really painful to watch when they try to do too much. Langston Galloway couldn’t hit a snowflake at the South Pole at this point. He looks lost and pretty useless out there during his minutes. I thought Grant had a good thing going and he hardly saw any action. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but Calderon’s 5 turnovers were killer. The lazy dribbling along the sideline that Beverley exploited was one of the key plays of the game. The Rockets are so much better with Beverley on the floor.

On the Rockets end, James Harden did just about everything poorly. He’s just selfish and stupid most of the time. Every bad thing that happened to the Rockets tonight started with Harden being a ball hog. Every great thing that happened for them started with Beverley’s defense and Harden’s amazing passing. He didn’t do it enough, or the Rockets may have won the game in regulation. Dwight Howard is a giant ass. He has a punchable face.

More tomorrow when I cool off from watching that disaster.

2015-16 Game Thread: Knicks vs. Rockets

Oh, the ups and downs of the long NBA season. The Knicks, very recently, looked like an up-and-coming team, coherent on offense and much improved on defense. How quickly things fall apart. A four game win streak was immediately followed by a three game losing streak, and the Knicks’ offense sure looked impotent in those most recent three losses.

I’ve been on record recently as a Miami Heat believer. It pains me to admit that, given my long standing hatred of Pat Riley and his stupid beachfront franchise. The Heat’s defense can be stifling at times and the Knicks showed their inability to hang with them for more than a half at a time. Hassan Whiteside is an absolute beast. The two losses we’ve been handed at the hands of the Heat are painful, but not quite as bad as the emotional aftermath would seem. The Heat are second to the Spurs in the NBA in terms of defensive efficiency. They can make you look bad.

The Rockets, on the other hand, have been very bad. They are near the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency and in the bottom half in offensive efficiency. Dwight Howard has been on and off the court throughout the young season, which probably skews those numbers unfavorably, but the eye test would also suggest that Houston looks like a mess in all aspects of the game. Harden is typically disinterested in the defensive part of the game. Ty Lawson has been poor. The team, in general, looks like a bunch of individuals trying to figure out the game on an individual basis. There’s no cohesion, as Clyde likes to say.

Anytime you go up against a team with James Harden, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, and Terrence Jones you feel as though the deck is stacked against you. There are other names that jump out on any given night, and it’s hard to believe that the Rockets are as bad as they’ve been so far. On any given night, you expect that they’ll figure something out and go on a 10-game winning streak. The key for the Knicks is to exploit the Rockets’ lack of cohesion on the defensive end and limit the Harden express train to the free throw line. He’s going to stick out his arms and jerk his head back on every possession and you have to be smart about how aggressively you reach in on him. Porzingis ran a clinic on defusing James Harden’s wild forays to the rim in the clubs’ first meeting of the season.

Everyone has theories about why the Knicks offense disappears for long stretches. The bench has lost its early season luster and everybody seems to have gone cold at once. That’s going to happen. It’s also likely to happen against a team like Miami, as I mentioned above. The key is not to panic. I’d like to see the Knicks get Afflalo more involved via ball movement. He’s good at posting up and he’s good at flashing to the lane, off the ball. I’d like to see him triangulate with Melo and Kristaps some and get a few easy looks as team’s try to compensate for the double threat known as Melzingis.

I’m not sure what we’re going to learn about the Knicks from this game. I think it’s far more likely we’ll learn something about the Rockets, and whether they’re just a bad mix of players or a very good team working through some early season growing pains. For our sakes, I hope they’re a bad mix of players who wilt at the sight of our New York Knickerbockers. Let’s go Knicks!!!

You Bet Your Assets: EuroKnicks

In the always on world of the Intertubes there is no offseason. There is no basketball frontier to remote or obscure. Ball is life. 24-7-365. Anywhere, everywhere, always and forever. Ball is life.

With that in mind, I thought I’d turn my attention to a couple of assets controlled by the Knicks, that are sometimes out of sight and out of mind. The two assets in question are our dear European Knicks – Louis Labeyrie and Guillermo “Willy” Hernangomez. You remember them, right? They’re the Knicks we haven’t invited to meet the parents yet.

It’s become increasingly possible to follow the development of far away players via the Internet. There are a number of high quality projects dedicated to scouting different leagues, compiling data and highlights, and communicating regularly with fans about very special things. Thank the basketball gods that such projects are possible and that smart, talented folks have channeled their passions into stuff for us to enjoy instead of work or actual human relationships.

It is via these services I bring you a look into the development of our EuroKnicks, and I’ll start with the longest tenured EuroKnick prospect Louis Labeyrie.

Labeyrie was selected in the 2nd round by the Knicks at the tail end of Phil Jackson’s first draft with the team. When his name was announced, I imagine three people in the civilized world had ever heard it uttered aloud before. Two of them were Louis’ parents. Labeyrie wasn’t a highly thought of prospect when he was selected and he only really showed limited upside in the various basketball camps he attended to show the world his skeels. To this day, I’m not really sure what Phil and company saw in Labeyrie that made him worthy of an actual, honest to goodness draft selection, but they took him and he’s ours.

Labeyrie had never really established much of a track record, playing in the LNB for Paris-Levallois club. He was a low minute reserve, as are many very young prospects. Louis managed to work himself onto the Knicks summer league team in Las Vegas, but as you might remember (or not), he averaged 10 nondescript minutes over four games and was gone. What you most certainly do not know is that he returned to his Parisian home club and has finally cracked 22 minutes per game over the club’s 8 games and is averaging 10.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, .6 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game. He’s hitting half a three per game and his shooting line goes .642/.400/.579 so far. Labeyrie has demonstrated this sort of per-36 value in the French pro-league before. He’s only 23 this year, and he’s alternated this sort of production with some lesser production in his 4+ seasons as a Euro-pro. This season’s minutes are a pretty substantial bump, so it’s nice to see him keep up the good work. A couple of highlights for Louis in this young season have been games versus Villeurbanne and Chalon. I don’t know what either of those teams are, nor do I claim to have a good grasp on the level of competition in France, but the production seems positive whatever the case. There are a ton of French players in the NBA nowadays, and France is always competitive in the Eurocup, so I expect the level is relatively high all things considered. The game lines:

Villeurbanne – 14 points, 9 rebounds, a steal, 5 blocks in 34 minutes. 7/11 shooting from the field.

Chalon – 19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, a block in 26 minutes. 8/8 shooting from the field and 3/3 from three.

Paris-Levallois are 3-6 in league play….so there’s that. On the other hand, we have our young Porzingis buddy, Willy Hernangomez. Willy was selected by the Sixers in the 2nd round of Krisdraft and traded to the Knicks for 37 future second round picks, give or take a dozen. Why were the Knicks so high on Willy? I expect that one reason is that he looked excellent next to Kristaps playing in the ACB for Sevilla. As Clarence Gaines zeroed in on Krakeem Porzinguwon, Hernangomez became hard to ignore. After the Knicks acquired his draft rights, word came out that Willy is only one of 7 players in Spanish League history to produce a PER of 20 or more at the age of 20 or younger. In addition to Willy, only Stanley Roberts, Tiago Splitter, Rudy Fernandez, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotic, and Luis Scola have accomplished that feat. Hernangomez did it for Sevilla, thanks in part to the disfunction of that club and its need to thrust a young player into a high profile position. Kristaps benefitted from that situation as well. This season Willy has returned to the pro club that held his promising rights, Real Madrid.

Before suiting up for Real, we were treated to a little WHG action during the Eurobasket competition that saw our young fella join forces with Pau Gasol, Mirotic, and the rest of the Spanish national team. In the early going, he got some run and produced very nicely, but as the competition got more serious his minutes became an afterthought. In the young Real Madrid season, Willy has seen limited playing time, as one would expect for a 21-year old on a world class team. He’s only cracked 10 minutes in three of the team’s 7 ACB games (6-1) to date, but his per-36 numbers are very encouraging. Playing behind Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez, Gustavo Ayon, and Andres Nocioni, WHG is averaging 18.8 points, 12 rebounds, a steal, and 2.6 blocks on .667 shooting from the field, per-36. Of course, you have to take those kind of extrapolations with a grain of salt, but it is encouraging that the rates are identical to his Sevilla numbers, where he played a much larger role the last couple of years. He’s very productive.

Before sitting down to write this piece, I would have sworn up and down that Labeyrie was garbage and that Hernangomez is our future Gasol brother, waiting in the wings. I’m not sure I have enough information or expertise in such matters to render a sound judgment, but the Interwebs make this sort of thing a lot of fun. I’m now ready to imagine that Labeyrie is Renaldo Balkman on Super Soldier Serum and that Willy Hernangomez bends time and space. If you want my real, non-scientific, limited exposure opinion on these guys, I’d have to imagine that Labeyrie stands little chance of every contributing in the NBA. I’d argue, however, that the Knicks may have stolen WHG in the second round, although those 37 future picks are bound to hurt at some point. Hernangomez comes from a family of top level Spanish players. Mom and dad both played. His brother is a very good youth player. His sister is now starting to rise up the ranks of women’s youth basketball in Spain. He’s in elite company with some of the metrics. He passes the eye test. He’s been selected at a very young age to play alongside Pau Gasol and company. Real Madrid wanted him enough that they plucked him back from Sevilla. He played well with Porzingod. I’m hoping that he’ll show up to play for the Knicks next season and begin a journey that lies somewhere between Scola and Gasol for many years to come.

In the meantime, it will be fun to update this little look at our assets, mainly because I love to show you my assets, and we can commence with conjecture and faux-expert analysis as a means to love one another in Knickdom.

Who in the world is Zemgus Girgensons?

Who in the world is Zemgus Girgensons?

If you know the answer to that question, you’re either Latvian, a Buffalo Sabres fan, or play fantasy hockey. As I am none of those things, I had no idea who Zemgus Girgensons was. That name meant absolutely nothing until I began to tease out the possibility that Kristaps Porzingis might have a shot at being a starting player in the 2016 All Star Game. Crazy, you say? I have a simple answer for you: Zemgus Girgensons.

Girgensons is a very league average sort of center for the Buffalo Sabres, but he was a starter in last season’s NHL All Star Game. It seems that his Latvian fan base got their act together to dominate the voting and sent their national hero to play with the big boys. In the NBA, we’ve seen this sort of thing before as Yao Ming dominated the center position out West thanks to votes from the world’s most populous nation. Japanese fans have had a similar impact on MLB All Star voting over the years, and we all might remember the way the Kansas City fan base gamed the system to load the starting AL All-Star team with Royals. It helps in retrospect that the Royals just won the World Series, but you wouldn’t necessarily count their roster among the best players in the sport. They certainly proved themselves to be the best team in the end.

The Knicks find themselves in a perfect storm of Porzingasm thanks to the fresh wounds left behind from a 65 loss season in 2014-15, the disappointment of dropping to 4th in the NBA Draft Lottery, and the general atmosphere of shock surrounding our selection of the skinny Euro from Latvia. The team is playing better than expected, in some ways, the rookie looks like a franchise player, and Kristaps Porzingis is destined to be a much better player in his respective league than Zemgus Girgensons. The fact that he’s in New York City, he’s got tremendous promise, even beyond his precocious neophyting, and that he’s the biggest Latvian export the world has ever seen creates a perfect storm.

There are plenty of quantitative reasons to like what Porzingis has done for the very competitive Knicks this season. His on/off numbers are outstanding. His defense has been better than average and his offense has become increasingly efficient as he’s adjusted to the league a bit. The qualitative aspect of Porzingis’ impact on the sport is what will drive him towards a starting position on the All-Star team. He’s got heart. He’s got intensity. He’s confident, but self-aware. He says all the right things when a microphone is put in front of him. He seems to learn something new every night and he hasn’t once had bad games back-to-back. In fact, none of his performances are what you’d actually call bad.

Porzingis has shown a remarkable versatility in impacting games positively. He’s made mistakes, to be sure, but think about all the things we’ve seen him do. He’s rebounded like a beast, and especially on the offensive end where he’s produced a list of highlight put backs over brand name NBA stars. He’s started to hit the three more consistently, which has always looked like the most likely outcome with that beautiful stroke. He can put the ball on the floor and shoot on the move. He’s shown a Dream Shake. He’s got a sky hook from the left and the right side. He understands how to use his length by going vertical and changing shots around the rim without reaching into the defender. He has quick hands on defense and forces turnovers. Every game brings a new dimension into view and we’re loving it.

There’s going to be plenty of room to analyze Porzingis’ performance via metrics. There will be positive and negative in the snapshot. If the Knicks keep winning games and look competitive, and if he’s continuing the visual fireworks on a regular basis, it just may be Kristaps Porzingis in the starting lineup of the NBA All Star Game, rather than Carmelo Anthony. As a Knicks fan, both would be nice. Certainly, Melo will be on the team. In a way, I sort of dread the possibility that this could happen because it’s just the sort of storyline that drives clickbait pieces about Melo’s jealousy and rifts in the team that are likely to be both false and poisonous to the conversation in the fan base.

Who knows? I may be wrong and it may never come to it, but the name Zemgus Girgensons is out there after all.

Knicks vs. Lakers Game Recap

It’s hard to avoid the story that Kobe Bryant has likely played his last game at Madison Square Garden, and by “likely,” I mean “definitely.” The way he was making the hugging rounds yesterday, looking deeply into Sasha Vujacic’s eyes, murmuring softly in Italian, it seems certain. It reminded me a lot of the Derek Jeter goodbye tour, as a champion and an icon of a generation limped sadly into the night. Kobe played within himself for stretches of the game, rolling on a handful of signature jumpers, but there’s really nothing left. He looked foolish trying to defend Melo on nearly every possession they were matched up, which is saying something given Melo’s present condition. Carmelo Anthony isn’t all the way back yet and you can see him labor to move on occasion. That didn’t stop him from cooking soup at Bryant’s expense throughout the game, and he played ball denial on Mamba in crunch time as if he were 1990s Dennis Rodman.

The crowd was decidedly pro-Lakers at several points, or at least pro-Kobe Bryant. In a way, I felt bad for those fans who trotted out their preposterous looking yellow and purple clown suits to salute a player who’s given them so much, only to watch him participate in fumbling away a game they led in the 4th quarter. It’s no fun watching a player who has been invincible in your uniform look so mortal. Kobe wasn’t really the chief problem for the Lakers yesterday. He chucked a few crazy looking shots in a “mega heat check” kind of way. It’s as if he thought he’d better try to shoot some fadeaway 40-footers just in case he had that 101-point Garden finale in him, and when it was apparent he did not, he sat in stretches as part of a normal rotation. This is a Knicks blog, so I won’t belabor the point about the LA stuff more than I have to, but their roster is a mix of placeholders and youngsters and it hardly makes a lick of sense from the outside. They have a coach who doesn’t seem to understand the way the league is headed, an ancient star who still plays as if he’s due 20 shots, a mix of instant offense shooters with no other discernible skills, and some good young guys waiting in the wings to take over. The future may be fine in LA, but the present is a hot mess.

Our Knicks showed some of the same sloppy, disjointed play that had them coming in as losers of their last three games. In the quick recap I noted that the game may have been over at the half if they’d been playing an elite team, but you always knew that the Lakers were just too bad to hold on if someone on the Knicks could string together a few nice possessions. In the end, the starters provided a lot of the winning push, with a huge contribution from Langston Galloway, who seems to be in the middle of every successful run. The Knicks figured out how to get Calderon some open shots off Jerian Grant penetration, Melo did Melo things, Robin Lopez played with some fire and intensity, and Kristaps Porzingis continued to build on his all around play.

The numbers for both teams were eerily similar. The Knicks shot 33-84, while the Lakers hit 33-94. Both teams were 9-27 from three. The Knicks were 24-29 from the free throw line, and the Lakers wake up this morning bemoaning the fact that they only mustered 14-23 from the stripe. That seems pretty significant given the final margin. Both teams turned the ball over at a low rate…9 apiece. The Knicks were actually outrebounded on the offensive end, which is mildly surprising. Part of that situation may be related to Kyle O’Quinn’s 11 minute invisibility act. He came into the game in the Top-10 in the NBA in offensive rebounding rate and you can’t grab boards on the bench. I mean, you can but that would be weird.

The other big story from the game was the ejection of Derek Fisher. Fish is too cool for my liking sometimes. I think it’s an admirable trait to maintain poise in the face of pressure, and it rubs off on the players a lot, but there are times when it pays to get fired up. The Knicks complain a lot about the whistle, game to game, and I think some of it has come to a head. The reality is, every NBA team complains a lot about the whistle. It’s almost an epidemic. Porzingis never complains, though, and he rarely crinkles up his nose at some of the ticky-tack calls he’s been getting. He commits stupid rookie fouls, there’s absolutely no question, but a handful of the calls that have gone against him so far have been plain terrible. The phantom foul on the Kobe three attempt was just awful and deserved the sort of reaction it got from our coach. It was worth being tossed, given Porzingis’ cool and the recurrence of his fouling woes. He must be on the floor for the Knicks to compete, and it seems like Fisher will have to be more vocal about the whistle he’s been getting.

After he left for the locker room, Kurt Rambis took over the team and immediately sat Vujacic in cement. He also left O’Quinn on the bench and tightened the rotation a bit. I don’t know if he has a different take on who should be playing, but his second half choices reflected a bit of a departure from the head coach. People might make a bigger deal out of that than it deserves, but Rambis seemed to push a few of the right buttons. One of the rotation situations to keep an eye on is the slimmer role Derrick Williams is playing in the nightly mix. Even when the Knicks are struggling to find offense, he sits firmly on the bench and when he enters the game, he only plays in relatively short spurts. He’s obviously never in the game at the end. Clyde and Breen brought up the point that he’s second on the team in free throw attempts despite his low minutes, and he managed six attempts from the line on a night when he only played 15 minutes. When Afflalo returns, it will be interesting to see how he’s used. Something worth monitoring.

The last note is something of a bridge to our next contest with Toronto. It appears as though there’s a chance that Arron Afflalo will be back in time for that game, and he’s sorely needed. Cutting either Calderon or Vujacic out of the rotation can only improve things that seem to be broken at the moment, and it seems pretty clear that Vujacic is the odd man out. I imagine he might still get some spot minutes on the opposing team’s star, just to frustrate and bother them, but Afflalo was signed to play big minutes for the team and take some of the pressure off Melo. The Knicks desperately need that now, despite getting a lot of production out of Porzingis right out of the gate. If you can triangulate Melo, Afflalo, and Porzingis things will open up a lot and we might see less struggle to score the ball. The Grant kick outs that Calderon splashed will benefit Afflalo as well, and the spacing may even benefit Derrick Williams in whatever minutes he gets.

Toronto is going to be a very tough test, but then again every game this season is going to be a test until the club proves it’s ready to sustain energy and efficient play, and especially that it can close out winnable games.

2016 Quick Recap: Knicks 99 Lakers 95

Well, that was a game. It was a game played between two teams on a basketball court. You could call it sloppy. You could call it scrappy. You could call it ugly. All of those things would be correct. It was sort of the event equivalent of Sasha Vujacic.

* The Knicks are establishing themselves as a club without jump shooting of any kind, and that’s really making life difficult in a lot of ways. Part of the problem is that the starting backcourt doesn’t hit shots, but that would be piling on. Jerian Grant is better than both those guys, by a mile, but he can’t shoot either. It’s telling that we saw Lance Thomas thinking seriously about being that guy during the second half. He gets that itchy, desperate look when he has the ball behind the arc sometimes. Calderon fed off Grant’s penetration briefly and got his shot going, but his awful defense made things way too easy for the Lakers on the other end of the floor on most possessions. (Afflalo will relieve some of that pressure soon, which is welcome news.)

* With Melo hot and cold, somehow Langston Galloway is the most reliable shooter on the floor. Oddly, both coaches yanked him just as he was starting to impact the game. In the end, he hit the huge shot that gave the Knicks the lead for good. You have to love his cool and his hustle. He’s special.

* Kobe is really a shell of himself on both ends of the floor, which helped Melo a lot. Most of the cooking Carmelo did today was when Kobe was “defending” him and Byron Scott wisely removed Kobe each time to stop the bleeding. Kobe wanted the ball late in the game, as the Knicks were turning the tides and moving closer to the win and Melo played extraordinary ball denial on him, keeping him out of the picture. Credit where credit is due, Melo really played him well, but real Kobe would have found a way to get open.

* The education of Porzingis continued as he showed flashes, clanked shots, got his hands dirty, fouled some, and generally impacted the game positively while he was on the floor. He tipped a few balls in that late comeback and closeout and grabbed some typically aggressive boards. The Knicks are really much better with him on the floor and he’s going to be a beast when he starts hitting some of those shots he’s floating on.

* If the Knicks had been playing a good team, it may have been over at the half, but they were always the better team and had the better star player. The full recap will be up tomorrow, but let’s put aside the frustration for the night and just feel good about our first home win.