And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her sky
Good riddance, Fiz. I think you won’t be missed round here.
At last! A hard-fought game. A brutal, excruciating loss on a failed free throw attempt, but nevertheless 48 minutes of eminently watchable basketball at MSG. A few well rounded performances. A rotation that made some sort of sense. It wasn’t too much to ask, and yet you couldn’t ask for more (a win would have been welcome, if only to wish Mike Miller well on his first step of the journey among the real pros, but you get my point). The game never looked out of hand, some of the young kids played well, and the vets mostly didn’t hamper whatever it was that the neophytes were trying to do.
Actually, the Knicks started well in a way that was kinda reminiscent of the opener against the Spurs. They were tighter, they were crisper, they were jumpier in a good way. At the end of the day, they lost because they can’t hit free throws, lost their man on some crucial defensive rotations and missed more than a couple bunnies during the game, but then again, for the umpteenth straight season we’re not gauging things in terms of wins and losses. I definitely can’t wait for that time to come (it won’t be soon; I doubt there’s a chance of playoff contention until 2021-22, but you know what they say about the journey being the fun part, and we all can stick around for a couple seasons of real development, can’t we?), but minor improvements are always welcome.
As I was saying, the Knicks started quite well (staying in front of the Pacers for the first nine minutes of the game), then bumbled their way a bit, going down five at the end of the first quarter. Mitch was featured on offense, Randle wasn’t horrible, RJ was balling, and the rock was being passed around like they actually knew you aren’t supposed to go lazy iso every time down the floor.
The second quarter was a matter of trading blows (five lead changes), with Payton orchestrating like a semi-competent PG should do during an NBA game and Marcus Morris warming up (scoreless in the first, 9 points in the second). Sure, the Pacers were still punishing some blatant defensive mistakes, but they never looked quite able to pull one of those killer punches the Knicks saw delivered straight in their faces in a lot of the latest Fizdale coached games. The first half ended with the Knicks down 6, and it seemed about right. The Pacers are a better team, they’re coached pretty well and they have a few good players. Getting Domantas Sabonis, who looks like he can’t miss a shot against us, and the now injured Oladipo for Paul George is looking better and better by the day.
The third quarter saw the Knicks putting up a solid fight again, going to take the lead behind an incineratingly inspired shooting performance from Mook (11 points in the quarter) with 4:39 to go and then surrendering too many easy shots to Indiana wings, namely ex-Knicks Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott. We finished the quarter down eight. But hope was never lost.
The fourth was a grand guignol of missed opportunities on both sides. The Pacers quickly went up eleven on another McDermott three, but then proceeded to score just 12 points in the remaining 11 minutes. I wish you could ascribe that to the Knicks defense, but if we’re going to be fair it was 40% defense and 60% luck. Anyway it was good to see that people weren’t just rolling over and dying, but were trying their best to make it work. It was simply refreshing to see the players in a spontaneous huddle in the middle of their comeback effort, giving all their collective shits to focus on the task at hand. They simply weren’t able to put the ball in the basket when it counted. During the last 5 minutes of the game, the Bockers scored just one bucket (a horrible, stunted and snuffed drive by Morris than in the end scored on an old-man move five feet away from the basket) and missed something like 10 other shots. With 3:57 to go, the sequence was as follows: Payton dribbles the ball down the court, Morris shoots (miss), Randle grabs the board and gives the ball back out to RJ, Barrett shoots from the left elbow (miss), Randle grabs the board, goes up and gets blocked (miss), he grabs again the board, passes to Morris who shoots from the right elbow (miss), Payton grabs the board, passed the ball to Randle who drives and misses and eventually Sabonis corrals the rebound and ends that pathetic offensive showcase. All the way, the MSG arena cheered like you would cheer the team your son plays for: it’s the effort that counts.
At the end of the day, the game came down to Randle going to the line to shoot two with 0.1 seconds to go after Turner was done snuffing a bad Antetokounmpo impression by Mitch (if it went down the Garden would have probably exploded) that was rebounded by Randle who was subsequently fouled. He made the first and, as he’s wont to do, missed the second. Game over, but it was good fun.
– Marcus Morris (25 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, +9 +/-) is hopefully showcasing his talents for the upcoming trade window where he can be featured as a new signing (so, by December 15th). He played good ball, he didn’t seem to clog the offense, and quite never shot a bad shot. This is what a veteran should do on a “rebuilding” team. It’s probably a trust issue. If he sees the ball being passed around and people taking mostly good shots, it’s likely he won’t hijack many possessions fearing that others would do worse than him. Now, I’m not defending the fact that he heroballed us out of a few games in November, but as human being it’s at least understandable. If your colleague is routinely making burger patties fall on the floor, you’re probably tempted to go and flip them yourself on the grill even if your skillset is better applied to the cashier role. It falls on the manager to remove the burger failure from the kitchen, but if he doesn’t someone should step up. Problem is, if you’re no more than a competent journeymen you’ll end up making some other mistake that, even not resulting in a burger than tastes like dust and foot fungi, will probably see the burger misaligned or with too much ketchup and not enough cheddar on it. Or maybe you’ll confuse marshmallow paste with Monterey Jack, who knows. Anyway, raise your glass hoping that the FO trades Morris as soon as they can for a bag of potatoes and a draft pick to be reused later.
– Elfrid Payton (9 pts, 3 rebs, 7 ast, +11 +/-) had a killer impact on the game, notching the game-high plus/minus and generally looking like he understands the basic tenets of point guarding out there. He’s a flawed player who can’t shoot to save his life and whose defensive effort looks like the Bitcoin price chart from the last five years, but if he’s not the starting point guard and/or plays at least 28mpg by the end of December it will mean one of these three things: we’ve traded him (ok), he’s hurt again (dammit), Mike Miller deserves a spot on the dumb Knicks coaches conga line. Since Miller doesn’t strike me as the in over his head type, I’m quite confident he’ll be handed the reins.
– Dennis Smith Jr. (1 pt, 3 rebs, 1 ast, -10 +/-) is soooo bad this season. He’s had a few goodish outings, but he looks outmatched 95% of the time and his shot is utterly broken. I really think he should be sent to the G-League for at least two weeks, if only to figure out himself a bit. On the other hand, we can at least live vicariously some of the Philly-famous Process through him: we have our own Markelle Fultz to pile upon! His advanced stats are the stuff of Lovecraftian tales: -0.097 WS/48, -7.5 BPM, -0.4 VORP, .392 TS%. I don’t know if Miller has his brand of dungeon (he looks more the kind to have an inflatable castle for his kids in the backyard), but DSJ should probably be sent into one for his own good.
– If you think the “improvements” we saw from the team are Miller’s merit, you’re going to be pretty deluded. I’m not saying he won’t be a better coach than Fiz (I’m willing to bet more than a thousand dollars on it), but this was just the players being given a modicum of responsibility and probably just a few generic instructions. I have moderate hopes for Miller, but this game can’t be proof of anything just like the first Dallas game wasn’t proof of Frank having turned the corner.
– I wish I knew what’s the secret to good Mitch games. This was quite good: 14 pts, 7 boards, 2 steals, 3 blocks and just 1 foul in 25 minutes. Oh wait, I probably know! Just run some fucking pick and rolls with him or drive into the paint and pass him the ball if his defender comes to help. If he’s active on offense, he’ll probably be making an all-around positive impact (even if some of his defensive possessions last night were butt-ugly. He desperately needs professional coaching, he won’t go far just by blocking things). Good job on not fouling guys in stupid ways, also.
– Randle was good in the first half because he got the ball at the top of the key with at least a half-full head of steam and just had to zero in to the cup in a straight line. If he gets the ball while he’s still and has to create entirely for himself he’s just a mess. I hope Miller will do something about that, which should be easy: Julius, if you get the ball standing around on the perimeter, just do one of this three things: pass the ball, shoot the ball only if wide open and there’s no one else to pass the rock, methodically back down your defender if you’re isolated but always look for the pass and don’t do weird dribbling stuff. If you don’t, you get benched. Easy peasy.
– Mike Miller looks like a hybrid between a mild-mannered Scott Skiles and a sedated Jack Nicholson. Basically you could cast him on Mindhunters and it’s equally likely to play the weary cop role as he is to be an unsuspected serial killer disguising as a tax accountant.
– You know what really irks me about this season, even more than whatever it was that Fizdale was doing trying to (ahem) coach? The “Knicks tackle kid cancer” initiative. I mean, how crazy cheap you have to be to donate the embarrassment of riches that is 50 dollars for every Knicks block? And have Mitchell Robinson dwarf that by donating 100 dollars of his own for every shot blocked by him? If this season went like last season, the Knicks would total 422 blocks as a team. It means that MSG (go check its net worth, please) would donate a miser 21.100 dollars to such a worthy cause (and Mitch would donate 16.200 dollars by himself, which is more than 1% of his full salary). If there is one thing that makes me ashamed of rooting for this god forsaken team, that’s it. Go fuck yourself, cheap-ass MSG honchos, for delivering such an half-assed idea of charity. Than go fuck yourself again, but harder, thinking about Jim Cavan, and pray that somehow the karma gods overlook your pathetic initiative while you’re guzzling down overpriced liquor in your penthouses.
Until next time, buddies. Let’s see what the new Melo vs. old Melo brings us in Portland next Tuesday.