Dum-dum-dum, another win bites the dust.
A worthy last installment of the Suckitude trilogy, tonight’s game left us with the bittersweet aftertaste of victory among the uneven development of some of our youngsters. I can’t shake the feeling that every win that comes on the heels of playing Kanter, Hezonja or whoever else who’s not part of our future is ultimately slightly detrimental to us, but it’s not like you can ask your coach to throw games away just because.
This one was easily foreseeable, anyway (as I predicted two days ago), so we take it and move on.
– Enes Kanter (17 pts, 11 rebs, 2 blk, +3 +/-) looks to have regained a little of good body language after his last strong performances. Maybe he understood that starting from the bench is not that bad for him, as he keeps on posting double doubles with the same easiness I push the forward button to skip Rebecca Haarlow’s interludes. The Hawks, as of now, are a really terrible team, so I can’t say much about Enes defensive effort. He was a little more nimble on his feet, but a springy and hungry Miles Plumlee was able to jump over or around him as if the beefy Turk was an afterthought, and the oldest Plumlee brother is not exactly a worldbeater. By the way, did you know that Miles is already 30? I feel old. It seems yesterday that he was jumping around as the starting center of the only good Hornacek teams in Phoenix.
– Chuck Hardaway Jr. (34 pts, 1 reb, 3 ast, +20 +/-) was in full gunslinger mode, only his aim from the field was poor, rivaled only by his shot selection. Fortunately, he was able to go to the line a lot, like 20 times a lot. For what it’s worth, only one other Knicks shot as many in a single game since 2006: Chauncey Billups in 2011 (Knicks record is 26). You already know I don’t like Timmy’s game that much, and we were playing the derelict Atlanta team, but his contribution to this offensively inept squad can’t be overlooked. Our offensive sets are so bad you almost need someone willing to shoot from anywhere just because. 34 points on 22 shots are also good. It also looks like his back isn’t troubling him anymore.
– Allonzo Trier (16 pts, 4 rebs, 1 ast, -7 +/-) is spoiling us a bit. As an undrafted rookie with a 2-way contract – due to an upgrade as soon as it’s mandatory – he’s providing a much needed scoring punch from the bench with upper echelon efficiency (81st percentile of qualifying players in TS%). Tonight, 16 points on 7 shots and a naaaaaasty move on Kent Bazemore with 2:34 to go in the last quarter. Too bad Zo didn’t pull a Harden and glare-shamed Baze’s broken ankles for a second or two before calmly sinking the shot. Kid’s not ready to shoulder a bigger load, but as a tertiary scoring menace he’s already an NBA player. His ceiling is definitely lower, but it’s the second consecutive game between Knicks and Hawks where he looks better than Trae Young.
– Fizdale ATOs deserve a mention here. Remember how in my sushi-fueled rave of a recap of the Bulls game I made a little fun of Fiz’s playcalling during timeouts. Well, tonight we witnessed the nadir of it: with 10:08 to go in the second quarter, Fiz called a timeout after a bad defensive rotation that ended in a wide open Lin three. He inserted Frank back in the game, yanking Mudiay out of the game and (presumably) drawing a play for the ensuing possession. Guess what? We weren’t even able to inbound the ball. On our half of the court. Yeah, it’s really that bad.
– Damyean Dotson (3 pts, 3 rebs, 2 ast, +6 +/-) gave us his first dud of the season. Foul trouble plagued him from the first quarter, and he was never able to get into a rhythm. He finished with just 18 minutes played. Nothing to worry about, just a bad game that ends his streak of games in double figures. I’m pretty sure Dot will bounce back very easily from this poor performance.
– Kevin Knox (0 pts, 1 ast, -14 +/-) did his best Lance Thomas impression tonight. With Lance sidelined with “Injury/Illness” (are the doctors not sure if his suckiness is derived from a virus or a contusion?), Knox was perfect in substituting him missing all of his 6 shots and doing almost nothing else, notching a team-low -14 plus minus. I get that he’s being eased into the rotation and that he’s a rookie, so I don’t read much into it, but I’d certainly like to see him a little more engaged. We’ll live with our recently injured rookie stinking for a bit.
– Frank Ntilikina had an encouraging offensive outing (14 points on 10 shots), but even while starting as PG his game screams “Andre Roberson with slightly better handle and above-average passing instincts”. Who knows if by the end of the year we’ll know what we have on our hands with him. Also, he fouled out on a lot of early-KP frustrating dumb fouls. I will never understand why he fouls so much bigs right under the basket.
– I fear that Noah Vonleh reads my recaps and took for serious my off-brand Draymond Green remark about him. Tonight he shot 5 threes (hitting 2, which is not the worst outcome), after attempting just 10 in the previous 11 games. I like him better when he plays around the paint, I’m a bit worried that he’ll cut himself some slack trying to avoid some banging inside. 40 minutes of play for him, another double double and a +16 plus/minus, anyway, so good for him.
– 23 minutes of playing time for Mudiay, who alternated between horrendous and tolerable. The stat line is not bad (11 pts, 5 rebs, 3 ast), but I guess it won’t be soon he’ll hit again 3-for-3 from the three point line. Every single one of his attempts near the rim were of the Circus of Horrors variety, in a very vintage Mudiay fashion. And Trey Burke lost his spot to this guy!
– Mitch keeps on being a monster offensive rebounder and a weak defensive one, and he keeps on swatting guys on three points attempts (I’m pretty sure there’s nobody keeping track of those stats, but I’ll go out on a limb and say if there was such a stat Mitch would set the record by a landslide as soon as we reach game 20). He even uncorked a nice looking fadeaway step back from 12 feet in the third quarter. I can’t wait to see him get consistenly used to NBA level competition and unleash his fully developed repertoire. His numbers for now (and rookie ranking among qualifying players): .202 WS/48 (1st), 4.4 BPM (1st), 141 ORtg (1st), 0.3 VORP (3rd), 13.5 Reb% (5th). Oh and also: 107 DRtg (21st – welp) and 12.3 DReb% (15th). The defensive part needs a bit of smoothening, but he’s good. I wish he played a little more tonight, only 16 minutes for him.
– I like Omari Spellman. I think he’ll have a nice career in the NBA. Trae Young is still a bit of a mess (as young PGs are wont to do), but his passing ability is undeniable. I’ll never understand why Atlanta traded away Doncic, but Young is way better than I expected him to be, even at this chrysalis stage.
We’re at 1/7th of the season and have won exactly 33.3% of our games, perfectly on pace for 27-55, which was my initial prediction. I’ll take it, even if probably won’t be good enough for 4th-worst in the league.
This will be my last recap until the Orlando game on Nov, 18th, because at last me and lady Farfa will take a little vacation (the first this year, we had a lot of work to do), going to Santo Domingo for a little more than a week. Have fun in the meantime!