Well, well, well. Did anyone ever doubt we would end up winning this one? I mean, did you see beforehand the Bulls’ starting lineup? Three undrafted guys. A late first round-pick on his third team. A good center with a journeyman resume. If there ever was a blatant tank job, it was this one. Not that I blame them: it’s the right thing to do, just like it was the right thing to do to play our (mostly) young guys and be happy with any result.
In short: of course we did win this one. To be honest, I’m pretty amazed that we were able to let the Bulls mount a fake comeback of their own, letting them shave the deficit to a meager five points before putting the game in the fridge for good.
It wasn’t a good game to watch. The Knicks were hitting on all cylinders in the first half (even getting to a 28-point lead), but the atmosphere and the intensity were very similar to a glorified scrimmage against a varsity team. There are things that aren’t quantifiable, and one of them is the heaviness of the air inside of an arena when a game is played. You can’t gauge that heaviness in measurables, but you feel if it’s high or it’s low. Anyone who’s ever watched a game knows what I’m talking about. Well, this one was as heavy as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man right after having been defeated by the Ghostbusters. Fluffy, vanilla-white, strangely inconsequential. It looked like nobody was playing for something because, to be honest, nobody was playing for something (save for the guys on unguaranteed contracts for next year, but even then, the effort wasn’t enough to make up for the overall suckiness).
Final result notwithstanding, the script was pretty much the same as it has been in the last month (since Mudiay came back from his injury): the less Mud is involved in the offense, the better the ball moves. It’s just a shame that we’re left with zero PG on our roster apart from him thanks to a wide variety of injuries, since even Kadeem went down with a concussion and I guess will be questionable for Wednesday. I mean, who am I kidding, Fiz would play Mud anyway for at least 30 minutes, but right now he can just play the “who the hell should I play here instead?” card and nobody can hold him accountable for that.
Onto the notes for the game:
– Keep in mind that whatever will get written here has to be taken with a grain of salt, because when you play early April NBA basketball a lot of things are not reliable, but it’s so easy on the eyes seeing Mitch and Kornet play together. That’s not even on them as players, it’s more on them as specific molds: the rim running center, quick in space and able to cover the perimeter on defense, and the sharp shooting tall guy, with cinderblocks for feet but long enough to protect the rim up close. It wasn’t hard to figure that it could have worked, and I’d say early results are good. Maybe not real NBA good, but early April NBA good for sure.
– Kornet scored a career-high 24 points on just 11 shots, and added 6 rebounds and 3 blocks for good measure. Is he the third best player on the active roster right now? I think he is. I honestly hope they’ll keep him around, as a situational sharp shooting big good for 10 minutes per game he’s pretty good. He even had a monster jam in traffic, but then again, early April NBA. Or Fizdale magic, call it what you want.
– Tied for third best player on our active roster there is Damyean Dotson. who after a shooting slump came back strong and went on to score 18 points on 8 shots (6/7 from three), while adding to the table 6 boards and 6 assists. I swear, Dotson is a better distributor than that sorry excuse of a playmaker going by the name “Emmanuel”. I can’t still get if Dotson is a plus defender or merely an average one (I guess the latter), but for this season Dot’s play is one of few good notes.
– Our second best player is a sophomore 26-year fake point guard, who plays point guard much better than our nominal point guard. Kadeem Allen was somehow able to record a game-high +20 plus/minus in under 10 minutes of play, before the aforementioned concussion put him on the shelf for the remainder of the game. He also had 5 assists in those 9:46 of playing time and just one turnover.
– His PG buddy, instead, was a mess (strange, huh? But they fixed him for good!). The whole Knicks team went on to shoot 50% from the field tonight, including a stupendous 47.4% from three, and recorded 24 assists. Mudiay shot 33.3% (17 points on 21 shots), had 4 assists to 3 turnovers, and was able to post the second-worst plus/minus of the whole game, Bulls players included. For fuck’s sake, for all his improvements (which are certainly real) Mudiay is on pace to a .024 WS/48 season. Kadeem Allen stands as .101 (small sample size, I know, but come on). I think bringing back Mudiay is a borderline fireable offense, but I’m not even hoping to see him on another roster in August. I think resignation did set in, and we’ll have this useless waste of space as our backup (or, god forbid, starting) point guard for two more years. We shall see.
– I liked a bit DSJ in his Knicks time, but man, is he frail.
– Kevin Knox had a strange game. Numbers are goodish (19 points on 15 shots, 9 boards, 3 assists, 1 block in 40 minutes) but his impact on the game is almost null. Season’s almost over, at least, so we can look to improvements in summer league (or to draft day trades, I beg of you Perry). For now, be happy to know that Kevin is 14th in the all-time NYK list for most points scored in a rookie season, and a good bet to end 12th. If he improves a bit his shot selection, there’s even a chance he’ll have a better TS% in his rookie season than Willis Reed had in his. I can’t wrap my head around that thought (not that it means much, but really? Willis Reed shot .477 TS% in 64-65? Ouch).
– By the same logic, did you know that Frank Ntilikina had a better rookie TS% than Micheal Ray Richardson? Were players shooting with a blindfold on in the 20th century?
– I know you want me to wax poetic about Mitchell. I would, but I’m almost out of words and angry at the fact that this guy (with a quiet line of 14/10/4/3) was able to shot only 4 times in 33 minutes on the court. Much of that stems from the fact the Mudiay is an atrocious passer (unless it’s his drive and kick move he dusts off twice a game, just to revert back to dribble dribble dribble midrange jumpers for the rest of the game), but some of them has to be on the coaching staff. He’s sealing shorter guys in the low post, give him the ball! The man has a really cool touch around the rim. There was a possession where Dotson mistimed the pass for a lob, but Mitch was still able to catch it, move around Robin Lopez and score with a reverse left-handed bank layup. He has a feel for putting the ball in the basket from close, it’s not only power dunks. Also: I love when he blocks a jump shot and immediately recovers the basket to jumpstart the fastbreak. He did just that for his third block: a smothered Antonio Blakeney three turned into a rebound turned into an opportunity to run. Glorious.
– I’m a bit sad seeing his block% going down a bit. Right now it’s 10.6%, good for third ever in the NBA. And it went down in the last two games (when he had 4 and 3 blocks, respectively. Damn). I’m much more happy, instead, seeing his REB% go to respectable heights. For the season he’s at 16.8%, a far cry from his early season 12.2%. I never, never, never expected him to improve so much in that area. That REB% would be good for 20th in the League if he qualified for the leaderboard.
– Phoenix won a huge game for us last night. Right now we need to lose three more games (or Phoenix to win three, or any combo of Knicks losses and Suns wins than amounts to three) and we’ve locked the last spot. I’ve warmed a bit on the top 5 of the draft. Of course you’d like to pick Zion and immediately transform yourself into a playoff-hopeful team overnight, but I can see this team working out even with Morant, Culver, Clarke or (gasp!) Barrett. A DSJ-Dotson-Barrett-(TBD)-Mitch team would probably lose a lot of games again but it would be a fun team to watch.
– Bron, can you insist to bring Fizdale to Los Angeles? I want to see this team coached by Mike Miller. The Westchester one, of course, not the shoe-losing, three-bomb abusing one.
Let’s prepare to get our asses handed to us in Orlando on Wednesday for good! See you soon.