Part of me was inclined to begin this recap by discussing the Knicks excellent ball movement this evening (61.1% of their FG were assisted, Melo had 5+ assists for the third time this season, and four others had 3+). Another wanted to point out how efficient the team was, hitting 10 of 20 from deep and 20 of 21 from the line – which would build upon the first point, as their extra passes generated open looks from the perimeter, and caused the Hornets defense to collapse. And I even thought about leading off with Kevin Seraphin putting together another gem off of the bench, as he had 10 points, 5 boards, 4 assists, and 2 blocks in 21 minutes.
All of that would feel a bit silly, though. Why? Because it’s time.
It’s Kristaps time!
Porzingis had the best offensive game of his short career, if not the best all-around game to date. It’s easy to see that by checking the box score, as the luscious Latvian scored 29 points, going 10 of 17 from the floor (2/2 from 3) and hitting all seven of his free throw attempts … but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Porzingis showed flashes of pure dominance on the floor, from the rim to beyond the arc. He bullied Zeller and Jefferson in the post (at one point breaking out a wonderful dream shake) and moved incredibly well without the ball to get open, and his beautiful, high arcing shot finally found its groove. Porzingis also bailed out his teammates a couple of times by corralling errant passes. For at least one night, we saw a glimpse of his offensive potential – and it was glorious.
Defensively, Porzingis held his own against the bullish Jefferson, and the elbow-y duo of Zeller and Hawes (and only fouling twice along the way). He was beat off of the dribble a couple of times by Walker and Lin, but that was an issue with the team as a whole, and Porzingis hustled his backside off to help out on the perimeter.
It was difficult to get a read on this Knicks defense, as the team was quite content to give the Hornets space to shoot anywhere from 15 feet out and beyond. It worked out in the end, as they clunked plenty of open jumpers and seemed more and more hesitant to cut to the basket as the game wore on. That being said, the Hornets are not the poor-shooting club that we’ve grown accustomed to (they’re league-average or better on all jump shots), and we saw them take advantage of the space in the second and third quarters. The Knicks countered a bit by closing out better, but they largely focused on holding onto the ball and creating better shots on offense, thereby mitigating the Hornets chances overall. And turning the ball over only once in the second-half helped, too.
Overall, the takeaways from the game are all but completely positive. Afflalo continues to look more comfortable and played well, Galloway’s still draining 3s, and the team made the most of their takeaways, scoring 12 points on 7 turnovers. I would have liked to see Grant play more minutes, but Calderon made some good passes and drained a couple of 3s, and the offense seems to flow better with him on the floor. Melo was 6 of 18 from the floor, but he shared the ball, bailed out the offense on a couple of possessions, and flew around the floor for loose balls (and at this point everyone has to have noticed how much happier he seems this year). Walker got wherever he wanted, running circles around everyone, but I can’t fault the team for challenging him to shoot – he’s a career 39.5% shooter from the field, and 31.8% from three, after all. The Knicks had some tremendous individual efforts, and (cliche alert) played solid team basketball.
Hell, I even dug the Knicks throwbacks jerseys – and I generally cannot stand third (or fourth or fifth) jerseys. It was just that kind of night.