Game Thread: Knicks vs. Hawks

Well, I’m back again to give you some Knicks vs. Hawks preview action. I’ve done a couple of these already this season, including just a couple of days ago. It would seem like there’s not much new to say, except that there’s always something new when it comes to the NBA. You have to work hard to run out of things to say about the league.

This is the last meeting of the season between the two clubs, which is music to my ears. The Hawks are further along the evolutionary path and a danger to hurt the Knicks whenever they face off. That said, there are some fascinating similarities in the way the teams play, or at least in the results they produce. There are also some areas where they diverge. Both the Knicks and Hawks are in the bottom part of the league in fouling and being fouled. They’re both in the bottom part of the league in turning the ball over. The Hawks are a better shooting team than the Knicks, but they’re 2nd to last in the league in rebounding, while the Knicks are 12th. The Knicks are 11th in offensive rebounding, while the Hawks are dead last.

When I say that the Hawks are further along the evolutionary path, I mean that they’ve established a nice flow in playing together. Anecdotally, there was a moment in the game two days ago that highlighted, to me, the comfort and skill with which they interact. The ball swung to Al Horford on the right side, free throw line extended, and he shot it back to Paul Millsap just above the free throw line. The Knicks defense was very fast to adjust to the ball reversal, but Millsap was even quicker to take advantage by touch passing it back to Horford for an open look. Even if I’m remembering the specifics of that sequence inaccurately, I’m sure I’m close enough that the point remains valid. It was impressive and typical of the attitude and style of the Hawks. They only run 5.4% of their plays in isolation, while the Knicks are up near the top of the league at 9.7%. In fairness to Carmelo Anthony, who’s 2nd only to James Harden in isos, he’s pretty good at it. The Knicks, as a team, would be better off running less isolation long term, but the level of inconsistency among the non-Carmelo Anthony players is such that sometimes Melo is the best option. Still, the Hawks are near the top of the NBA in assisted baskets and the Knicks would certainly like to achieve that kind of team play. Part of the evolution for the Knicks will be adding better players. They’ve taken some strides in that area, but they’ll have to do much more. The other part of the evolution will be something Phil Jackson likes to stress in his team-building.

In his book, “Eleven Rings,” Jackson wrote:

In their groundbreaking book, Tribal Leadership, management consultants Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright lay out the five stages of tribal development, which they formulated after conducting extensive research on small to midsize organizations. Although basketball teams are not officially tribes, they share many of the same characteristics and develop along much the same lines:

STAGE 1—shared by most street gangs and characterized by despair, hostility, and the collective belief that “life sucks.”

STAGE 2—filled primarily with apathetic people who perceive themselves as victims and who are passively antagonistic, with the mind-set that “my life sucks.” Think The Office on TV or the Dilbert comic strip.

STAGE 3—focused primarily on individual achievement and driven by the motto “I’m great (and you’re not).” According to the authors, people in organizations at this stage “have to win, and for them winning is personal. They’ll outwork and outthink their competitors on an individual basis. The mood that results is a collection of ‘lone warriors.’”

STAGE 4—dedicated to tribal pride and the overriding conviction that “we’re great (and they’re not).” This kind of team requires a strong adversary, and the bigger the foe, the more powerful the tribe.

STAGE 5—a rare stage characterized by a sense of innocent wonder and the strong belief that “life is great.” (See Bulls, Chicago, 1995–98.)

All things being equal, contend Logan and his colleagues, a stage 5 culture will outperform a stage 4 culture, which will outperform a 3, and so on. In addition, the rules change when you move from one culture to another. That’s why the so-called universal principles that appear in most leadership textbooks rarely hold up. In order to shift a culture from one stage to the next, you need to find the levers that are appropriate for that particular stage in the group’s development.

The Woodson Knicks, apparently, had devolved into a Stage 2 type of team. Players actively sniped at each other on the court, and sometimes in the press. Whatever was happening on and off the court, life sucked pretty clearly. The body language was always terrible. (I’m looking at you Raymond Felton.) The current Knicks fluctuate between a Stage 3 and Stage 4 team. They’re much more positive and seem to have bonded well together. Melo’s Puerto Rico summer gatherings are evidence of it, and their pre-training camp connections on Melo’s private court demonstrated that commitment as well. The problem emerges when the team gets off to a slow start, or the opposition makes a powerful run that results in a big deficit. Melo’s always been susceptible to the “I’m great, and you’re not” mindset when adversity rears it’s head. Again, in fairness, both Jordan and Kobe thought that way until they evolved. Melo isn’t the transcendent talent that those players were, but he’s good enough to fall prey to hero ball thinking when the chips are down. He’s been much better this season trusting his teammates and fighting with his own psyche to keep the ball moving.

Just to avoid this being about Melo, the Cavaliers game was very similar. The Knicks played wonderful team basketball for four quarters. Porzingis was excellent. The aftermath of the game, a bad loss, was al about the team not getting Porzingis the ball at all in the fourth, but I was more concerned with what Afflalo did than Porzingis. The problem wasn’t freezing Porzingis out so much as it was Afflalo taking on the “I’m great, and you’re not” mentality. He posted up and iso-ed over and over and over. The ball rarely moved as he tried to hero ball the fourth quarter. It wasn’t the way the Knicks had taken a late lead in that game, and it wasn’t the way they were going to win it. Afflalo is a veteran. He’s a scorer and a guy with a big heart. He came to NY to win. No one should doubt that. With Melo out, he undoubtedly thought that he had to fill those “go to guy” shoes, and he tried to earn his paycheck in crunch time by taking the tough shots. It’s a mentality that gets a lot of love in sports…..when it works. “He’s never afraid to take the big shot.” “He shies away from big moments, so he’ll never be great.” That thinking can be a prison. It has its time and place. The Knicks will be a better team when they push past that mode of thought as the default and embrace the idea that they’re better as a team than they are individually. I think the Hawks have really embraced that philosophy. Part of their success in transitioning to that frame of mind is probably the absence of a singular talent like Carmelo Anthony. As good as their star players are, Melo is really a special player. He’s on another level, but he has to figure out how to channel his energies into the team on a consistent basis.

***

Off Topic Porzingis-related Note: Only two players have managed a season in which they averaged one three pointer and two blocks per game. Porzingis has a very good shot to join those players with a strong push through the rest of the year, including the prospect of a bump in playing time and more confidence in his role.

Raef Lafrentz (2001-02) – 13.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .7 spg, 2.7 bpg, 1.3 threes in 31.5 mpg

Serge Ibaka (2014-15) – 14.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, .5 spg, 2.4 bpg, 1.2 threes in 33.1 mpg

Kristaps Porzingis (2015-16) – 13.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, .7 spg, 2.0 bpg, .9 threes in 27.4 mpg

The first two players accomplished the feat in their 25-year old season. No one needs to be reminded, but Kristaps is only 20. Ibaka is only taking half the attempts he took last season or he’d be doing it again this year. He’s still shooting .390 from three point range, but he’s only attempting 1.7 shots from there. For quick context here, we are smack in the heart of the three point shooting revolution, and more bigs are shooting threes as part of their game than ever before. We heard talk of Anthony Davis shooting more threes, but he’s been unable to muster anything over 30% from distance, making .5 threes per game. He does produce elite steals at his position, with 1.3 per game. Horford clearly shoots the three more than ever, and so does Pau Gasol, but neither are prolific. DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 1.1 threes per game on questionable shooting (just under 31%), not to mention 1.2 steals, but he only blocks 1.4 per game. The skill set that includes threes and elite rim protection is just as rare as ever, although it’s emerging as a possibility in a way most people never considered. The one three/two blocks numbers are really arbitrary in the end, as are most counting number combinations. 20 points and 10 rebounds is only symbolically important, but no one wants to average 19.9 and 9.9 a game. It’s impressive nonetheless.

Players who can contribute at elite levels across multiple counting categories are redefining the game. Draymond Green is averaging 1.6 threes, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks. Kevin Durant is averaging 2.3 threes and 1.4 blocks. The combination of defensive versatility and three point shooting is where it’s at in the 21st century, and we’re blessed to have a special unicorn of our very own.

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198 thoughts to “Game Thread: Knicks vs. Hawks”

  1. Jose Calderon is playing pretty much how he could best be expected to, maybe not worth $7+ Million per, but not an overpaid scrub either. I’m not feeling nearly as bad about his contract now, he’s definitely helping this year and having shot-blockers behind him is a mitigating factor.

  2. I agree. I don’t *want* him to play on the Knicks, but in fairness he’s been pretty good most of the time. He’s bad on defense, but he’s playing exactly as he always has in his career.

  3. I hate these relatively late games. I get up at 4, and staying up for the entire game is going to be rough. On the bright side, I expect I may be turning it off around halftime. The worst thing that the Knicks could do to me is stay in the game and lose in an almost predictably heart breaking fashion at the end. If we’re going to lose, I hope it’s early.

    But really, the only thing I care about is KP. KP having a good to great game>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>everything else.

  4. he’s playing exactly as he always has in his career.

    …and at his age, that’s all we can rightfully ask for. As Frank pointed out on the last thread, he’s playing roughly as well as Pablo Prigioni did for us, but is showing a much more versatile offensive game as of late.

  5. Vis-a-vis Green. There’s never been anyone quite like Curry, but what Green. He might be the best defensive player in the league, and is producing 15/9.5/7.5 with outstanding efficiency (570 TS, 2.5:1 AST/TO).

    Pippen is the only comp. for me, but wasn’t quite as versatile defensively (though was probably better against wings), efficient offensively, or as prodigious a passer.

    He’s really not all that far from Lebron at this point. He could be the all-time NBA steal (2nd round).

  6. Also, saw/watched almost every game of Raef’s Denver career. He was really, really good before knee injuries, but I’m not sure how much higher his ceiling was…

  7. I still can’t believe that Draymond is for real. I mean, wtf?! It’s not like he was some obscure guy from Europe. He played 4 years at Michigan State! How did he last until the 2nd round?! AND IT WAS A WEAK DRAFT!

    Picked well before him:
    Fab Melo
    Royce White

  8. We’re only inches apart on this one, so let’s count it as a victory.

    Royce White

    Only a bad choice because of his anxiety disorder. No way to tell if he would be a great player if he could defeat that ugly condition. Fab Melo? Pretty sure that he got drafted where he did because of his name and college pedigree. Yes, I think NBA people are that stupid.

  9. I like that Jose wears orange sneakers

    I have been informed that we are not to discuss fashion in game threads. Please and thank you.

  10. Every time I see Korver miss a shot, I feel reasonably confident that the apocalypse is just a little bit closer.

  11. Fab Melo didn’t even have much of a college pedigree. He played one partial season at Syracuse and was mostly very mediocre.

    Wait, now that I think about it, he did play there for two seasons. Still, he wasn’t real good.

  12. Was Schroeder hit by lightning?

    I’m pretty sure it’s dye. He’s got the #17 (his jersey #) on the back of his head too. I just noticed that for the first time when he was taking those FT’s.

  13. I think Schroeder had that bride of Frankenstein going last year too

    I LOL’ed at that reference

  14. Really, it’s giving Korver all those technical free throws that’s going to set him off.

  15. I’m a high school hoops referee, and in 10 years I’ve never given a tech for failure to break the huddle in time. Ridiculous.

  16. I still can’t believe the Thunder gave up a 1st for Dion Waiters. That move made me rethink Presti as a genious.

  17. hope it is not the last last game where we are good in 1st half only to be massacred in the second. Hope it will be like the last where we played better in the second

  18. Every time Korver misses a shot I feel like those times when I was young and I knew my mom was going to tell me to do the dishes but I’d leave for the night before she got the chance.

  19. If Melo was passing like this in 2013, we’d have beat the Pacers. It sucks that he chose to expand his game in his age 31 season.

  20. Also Melo’s strip block is the most idiosyncratic of unicorns

    Bazemore’s shot went like 2 stories up in the air

  21. Formidable strong side block. SWATZINGIS

    And then a quick Melo/Rolo PNR, easy dunk

    This is pretty cool

  22. Friends, we’ve been waiting for years for that Paul Pierce light to turn on in Melo’s head.

    What if this is it

  23. oxygen to all the cells in your body! And you are giving yourself the best gift ever, the gift of exercise!
    I miss rasheed. we need someone who will only gets playing time if we are winning. maybe serafin can have that role and he will get some love from us.
    Is thanasis dont have chance to be a part of the line up? maybe just for a game or two. it will help his resume.

  24. When KP has that mid range going like this he’s unguardable. Paul Millsap is very angry.

  25. KP doing the “one dribble and shoot” on the perimeter is excellent.
    KP offensive rebounding is even better.
    KP being the youngest guy on the floor is the best.

    The development of KP makes this a good time to be a Knick fan.

  26. It’s suddenly looking awesome that they play the Hawks this much in a short period of time! :)

  27. Breen’s right KP could just hold on and he’d win any jump ball

    Just imagine when KP has completed his Jedi training.

    And just like that, KP makes one of the prettiest passes of the night to Lopez.

  28. Just got home from work and am pleasantly surprised to see how well the Knicks are playing in the rematch.

    Also, fantastic read, Mike. Really enjoyed your precap.

  29. It sucks that he chose to expand his game in his age 31 season.

    I will take 6-17 for 17 pts & 7 assists Melo every day of the week over 6-17 for 17 points and 2 assists Melo. I mean, I get what you’re saying big picture, but at least he’s doing it now.

  30. @92 it’s like the old proverb. the best time to start sharing the ball was 10 years ago

    The second best time is now

  31. Can someone GIF what Porzingis just did? Put the ball on the floor at the top of the key, drive to make a left-handed bank shot, get fouled and make the conventional 3 point play. I am in love.

  32. My comment @ post #5:

    I hate these relatively late games. I get up at 4, and staying up for the entire game is going to be rough. On the bright side, I expect I may be turning it off around halftime. The worst thing that the Knicks could do to me is stay in the game and lose in an almost predictably heart breaking fashion at the end. If we’re going to lose, I hope it’s early.

    Sometimes (most of the time), I hate being a Knick fan.

  33. Its incredible, the only thing that can cost the Knicks this game is the Hawks hitting 3pters and the Knicks continue to allow WIDE-OPEN 3pters.

  34. I swear to God, if we lose this game because the WORST offensive rebounding team got some offensive rebounds…

  35. Win or lose, I love that Carmelo had KP’s back in that confrontation. I also love that KP was not backing down from anyone.

  36. Melo really has been coming to the defense of every Knick player in situations like this for the whole year.

  37. What’s significant about that 4 me is he’s protecting the future of the franchise. One of the biggest criticisms of Melo has always been selfishness. I really like this new side of Melo

  38. @125 I agree totally

    Wish he’d think a little more about protecting the future of this lead

  39. Schroeder is destroying Calderon, maybe just maybe Gallo should be in the game for Calderon.

  40. Lopez looks like he’s going to put someone in a deep hole and make them put lotion on their skin.

  41. Shouldnt have called that timeout, not when the possibility of it being overturned was so high…

  42. Right when I was about to post ” please put Galloway in for Calderon”, he makes a clutch lay up. I love it.

  43. Small ball defense works for the Knicks. Of course, if Millsap does not dribble off his leg, it would have been a layup.

  44. Knicks win!
    KP rocks.
    Melo rolls.
    Calderon and Lopez give and go.
    Derrick Williams and Afflalo provide offense.
    The Knicks already have as many wins as all of last year.
    This is a good time to be a Knicks fan.

  45. I hate this team. Good win tonight, maybe; not sure about those last few minutes. Seriously though, fuck this team. I can’t believe we won a home-and-home against Atlanta .Good game boys, but go to hell. I need an antacid.

  46. 8-22 and 0-4 from 3, yet i’ll take this melo 82 games a year. 40 minutes of hustle and heart.

  47. The only objection I have to tonight’s play is that Fish rode his starters too hard, especially since it’s the 1st of a back to back. He should (in general) find more minutes for Galloway and O’Quinn. Maybe it was just the particular matchup, and obviously the result was good, but Jose shouldn’t be out there for 36 minutes.

  48. Man it sucks that the east is so great but the teams ahead of them have been losing lately. Everyone is so close that a 3 game winning/losing streak really changes things.

  49. Back to backs actually do suck for players. They’ve done studies on it. The body can’t recovery from the night before due to poor sleep and accommodations. Back to backs should be eliminated from the schedule.

  50. Good to know that by the time Korver gets his shot back, we won’t play the Hawks any more

    Ha! Seriously.

    What a great win. Back to back wins against a good team. Awesome. And now they get the Heat sans Whiteside? This could be an awesome three-game stretch here.

  51. This team is reminding me of the Amare sans Melo Knicks…flawed but gritty and lovable.

    Nice coaching job by Fisher as well, especially the tightening of the rotation. The defensive effort was great, even though there were some lapses in covering 3-pt shooters.

    That unforced error by Millsap sure helped, this would have been a very tough loss.

  52. The Knicks are a different team when they pass the ball effectively and run pick and rolls. That’s a good team we just beat back to back. KP, Afflalo, and Melo looked like a great offensive core group tonight, but I doubt we can expect the efforts we got from them for the rest of the season. We need to go 26-20 in order to get to 43-39. I think it’s possible, but this looks like a 38 win team.

  53. The Knicks are a different team when they pass the ball effectively and run pick and rolls. That’s a good team we just beat back to back. KP, Afflalo, and Melo looked like a great offensive core group tonight, but I doubt we can expect the efforts we got from them for the rest of the season. We need to go 26-20 in order to get to 43-39. I think it’s possible, but this looks like a 38 win team.

    Well, after tomorrow we’re done with Miami, Atlanta and Cleveland, 3 of the best teams in the East, and we have 3 more games with Brooklyn, so there’s that.

  54. Melo will start making shots eventually. That will be a sight. The combination of Phil and the triangle is bringing out his full game on a consistent, sustained basis.

  55. This team is reminding me of the Amare sans Melo Knicks…flawed but gritty and lovable.

    Agreed. What sucks, though, is while that team likely would have made the playoffs, it is tough to see this team making it. The Eastern Conference is annoyingly good this year. The Knicks are tied for eleventh. And their point differential is still in the negatives. And the team they’re tied with, Washington, you have to think will eventually turn things around, throwing one more team to worry about into the equation. Blech.

    But it’s still fun to watch the development of Porzingis and be thrilled about the future he represents.

  56. Well, after tomorrow we’re done with Miami, Atlanta and Cleveland, 3 of the best teams in the East, and we have 3 more games with Brooklyn, so there’s that.

    There is one more cleveland game on March 26th and one Heat game on Feb 28th……but yes.

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