Recap: Knicks 108, Nets 91

I often find that a night to sleep on a game is a wonderful thing. The Quick Recap is a way to download fast impressions of things that have just transpired, but the perspective of a good night’s sleep is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to writing this sort of thing.

I’m going to start with Melo, since he continually gets buried in the Porzingis mania. He was great last night. I wrote that it didn’t feel as though he was as sharp as he’s capable of being, which I still believe is true, but it’s more an acknowledgment of how good he can be when he’s really rolling than the quality of play he demonstrated last night. He was just excellent. His best games this young season have been played within the flow of the offense. Mike Breen and Hubie Brown called it “deferring” to teammates during the telecast last night, but I don’t particularly care for that word. He will never defer. He picks and chooses his spots better within this offense, and with greater trust in better teammates. It seems as though he can finally play the kind of chess he wants to play. Melo is always going to go iso on some poor soul, way out on the wing. He’s going to burn clock and take a poorly conceived, contested jumper or two every game. For Melo, those are heat checks. They’re the way he knows whether or not he’s going to erupt for 40, 50, or 60 points. I won’t begrudge him those awful attempts because, frankly, I love it when he goes nuclear hot and puts on a show. The key is to limit those attempts and to move way from the hero ball in favor of getting the whole team involved. Woodson never really reined Melo in during his tenure. Jason Kidd was the only character in our Knicks story, who has kept him from trying to do it all at the expense of flow. Melo’s like a lot of prime time scorers in that the bar to trust his less gifted teammates is pretty high. The key to Melo’s success is to play the way he did yesterday, within the offense, and to avoid going 2015-16 Kobe Bryant on us. So far this season he’s done an amazing job. If he really gets it going the Knicks can be something special.

It’s getting to be a broken record, but what can’t Kristaps Porzingis do? He’s already playing at star level in the NBA and he’s barely 20-years old in his 20th game of the year. Several people were tweeting Kristaps’ “first 10/last 10″ splits after the game. In the 2nd ten games of his young career, he’s averaging 16.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.4 threes, and 2.9 blocks per game on .472/.500/.846 shooting. His NetRtg is something like +12 or 13. He’s doing that in 31 minutes a game, which is a very nice range for him at this point. Without digging too deeply this morning, my prior look into those sort of numbers tells me that no one has ever averaged anything like that for a season. It’s not to say Porzingis is going to average those numbers in his rookie season, but he’s trending up at this point and it’s magnificent. Despite constant reminders from incredulous broadcasters, it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that he’s 1) barely 20, and 2) 7’3″ tall. The dunks and Dream Shakes are impressive and mind-blowing, but the play that makes me question everything I know about reality is the shot he hit yesterday from the corner with the shot clock winding down. He faded away over a defender, just inside the three point line, with the pressure of an expiring clock. Swish. He’s 20. He’s 7’3”. That sort of thing makes Patrick Ewing look like an amateur. No one expected Ewing to be such a good shooter when he burst on the scene in 1985, and he continued to hit baseline turnaround jumpers his entire career. It became his signature. Porzingis can do things from further out, with more fluidity and grace and he’s still wiping his nose like a toddler. It’s absurd. The early putback dunks put him on the map, but to me the amazing thing to watch is the looks on the opposing team’s faces when he does all of this. They stare blankly as if their mental operating systems have crashed. The Nets looked like that before the game started, to be fair, but whatever they thought Porzingis was going to be, they quickly realized it was far greater and existentially challenging. It’s like walking up to the edge of the Grand Canyon for the first time and having your mind begun to unravel as you process the depth and breadth of nature. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, it’s just like watching Kristaps Porzingis play and having it dawn on you that he’s 20 and 7’3″ tall.

I warned in the game thread that we weren’t likely to learn anything about either team in this game and I hold that to be true a morning later. The Knicks should be demolishing bad teams. They’re good enough at this point together that their approach and talent should be enough to feast on the lower part of the league. In post-game interviews the idea frequently emerges that these games are good for confidence building, but I’m a bit skeptical about how much truth lies behind those statements. Confidence is only a 20 point loss away from evaporating. I think the real value to these games is the trust that players learn to have in one another, and the bonding that comes from joy. It feels good to play basketball on nights like that, and it helps to remind you about why you love to do what you do. The season is a grind and you need some laughers to break the tedium. The Knicks don’t have much time to revel in the glory of their NYC bragging rights with a game against a tough-ish Milwaukee Bucks team tonight. The Bucks are the kind of team these Knicks have to beat every time out. They have a collection of talent, but it’s not quite coherent and it probably won’t be any time this season. It’s an amorphous sort of experiment in Milwaukee and they have some work to do before it takes shape. The Knicks have a couple of stars now and a budding team identity. They ought to be more coherent and they ought to take care of business. Winning a game like the game tonight, on the 2nd half of a back-to-back is important….way more important than devouring the Sixers and Nets like Galactus.

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22 thoughts to “Recap: Knicks 108, Nets 91”

  1. I missed the game last night and watched this morning on League Pass.
    First, Mike, for me the jumper from the corner with time running out on the shot clock was very good. But more profound for me, when watching a 20-year-old man at 7’3, was his running floater in the paint. Point guards take that shot, not big men typically, certainly not someone standing 7’3 with hands that can wrap an average skull.
    It was a freelanced, deftly-touched shot. It was like suddenly a giraffe could fly, and gracefully.

    You are dead right about Melo. Certainly, he’s not having his best shooting year so far, but he is playing some of his smartest basketball I recall seeing. I suggest that because there is no one on this team reining him in, no grizzled, old future Hall of Fame point guard there to suggest he cut it out.
    He’s making his own decisions. The crystalline moment for me was when he had the ball on the perimeter, had beat his man by a step and had a free look at the net, and instead he threw a bullet to Lopez…Lopez…in the paint. It was a first time I can recall thinking as the ball left his hands, “ah, Melo, you need to take that shot.” That’s when I realized Melo was playing with his teammates, not just alongside them.
    Yes, there were the typical heat-check three pointers; the attempted 5th 3-pointer in a row that would have exploded the place, however ill-conceived. But when he plays inside the scheme, I don’t care that he did that a couple times.

    A thought on Grant: he’ll be fine. Someone needs to help him with his shot. Even when he hits a jumper, it’s just luck. But the thing that bothers me is when the drive isn’t there, he picks up the dribble. He needs to watch Calderon, who never seems to give up his dribble.
    Jose is playing really well. He’s becoming a Prigs-like pest on D, he’s hitting his open shots, and he’s running the offense. A good, if not great point guard.
    Fun game

  2. The play that really stood out for me was when he blocked Jarrett Jack’s attempted floater from about 15 feet. I don’t know if he knew from film study or other scouting that Jack likes to shoot that, but that was some kind of anticipation and (relatively) quick twitch athleticism – I mean, that’s why the floater exists in this league, to take shot blockers by surprise and get it over them. That block, and the block at the end of the Rockets game (that we won) on Harden were WOW moments for me.

  3. More Knicknames:
    Kris Crossover
    Kris Stops
    Stops P
    Gis

    This is perhaps the most excited I’ve been about a Knick since Pat Ewing. We are finding our way out of the jungle. Love how Fisher is keeping his minutes low. Coach of the year? Jackson: executive of the year?

    Seems like Phil went contrarian on present assumptions. Everyone goes small, we go big. Too many mid range shots in the triangle? Nope. Veterans not showing improvement? Nope. See: Thomas, Lance. How about those post moves? Seems like management didn’t drink the drive and kick, p and r, shoot all threes or get fouled, kool aid. Yes, undrafted FA’s may have more upside but vets can actually keep their shit together at crunch time. A Michael Powell piece in the times today shows the stark contrast between the leaderless PHI roster and what we’ve assembled.

    Plus we got the steal of the draft.

    I’ve been posting on this blog since like forever (much to the consternation of many I’m sure. How long has KB been around?) and I’ve never been this happy about the team. 10-10 just seems like heaven at this point, LOL.

    PS. Mike K don’t be mad at me. I was just cranky yesterday and I don’t get Pokemon references. You’re my idol, Man (right behind Kristaps, but ahead of Melo :-)

  4. Childs punching Kobe and Dudley throwing a basketball at Shaq. Those were good times lol.

  5. In 9 minutes, Mo Speights has ended 7 of 9 possessions with either a turnover or a missed shot.

    Seriously, how does this guy see the floor for the best basketball team on the planet?

  6. if steph curry didn’t exist kyle lowry would be right at the top of the early mvp conversation

  7. I’m actually really curious to see the irresistible force that is this Warriors offense meet the immovable object that is Porzingis. Odds are, we will get creamed, but I could at least see KP’s height, range, and overall skillset causing all sorts of problems for their smallball lineup.

  8. Tallball isn’t going to be matched up on Steph, but I am looking forward to seeing Draymond play Kristaps

  9. Well, if Kristaps stepped out to guard Curry at the 3 point line, Steph would just step back and drain 35 footers.

    There is no defense for the cheat code

  10. Yeah. Lowry and Joseph are probably the leagues best PG tandem on defense and he went 9-15 from downtown against them. Maybe Kawhi can bother him? Otherwise I think he’s really unstoppable

  11. Curry really does remind me of the player I made in NBA Live ’96 with whom I could nail 38-foot jumpers on the way down, except I’m white so I made the player look like Porzingis and put my name on it

  12. In 9 minutes, Mo Speights has ended 7 of 9 possessions with either a turnover or a missed shot.

    Seriously, how does this guy see the floor for the best basketball team on the planet?

    Last year he averaged 24 and 10 per 36, had a WS48 over .150, and a 30% usage anchoring the 2nd unit. Aren’t you the resident Sample Size crank here?

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