Washington Wizards 110 – New York Knicks 113 – Game Recap

“What can change the nature of a game?”

Some of you might have recognized the origin of the broad strokes of this question. You know I’m a gamer, and in 1999 (already 20 years ago! Damn I feel really old) a revolutionary RPG came out for PC thanks to Interplay, trying to exploit the success of Baldur’s Gate in 1998. The name of the game was Planescape: Torment, and while it was kind of a commercial blunder at first (becoming profitable in subsequent years thanks to its cult following and an Enhanced Edition that came out in 2017 at the hands of remastering wizards Beamdog) it quickly became a mainstay in every Top 10 list of games, especially RPGs because of its philosophical depth and extreme care in character arcs. To this day, it’s without a doubt the most literary (in a good sense) game I ever played and it’s responsibile for 33% of the fact that I love the english language.

I won’t spoil it for you if you ever decide to give it a go (and I remember some of you already played it; the others, well I definitely recommend it), but essentially the game goes like this: you die, but you never really die. Everytime you died before the game you lost your memory, and it probably happened a thousand times. The main goal is then to understand who you are (were?), why you ended up like this, and how do you become normal again.

Moving forward on you quest, you discover that some of your previous incarnations left behind some memories, even journals, while others have done everything they could to erase their traces.

At some point, you learn that there were three of these previous incarnations that are important in the game: the Good Incarnation, the Practical Incarnation, the Paranoid Incarnation. More on them later*.

Since I won’t spoil the game for you (even though, well, 20 years…), I’ll just say that the question “What can change the nature of a man?” lingers throughout the whole game and stayed with me for a long, long time. To this day, if you asked me that question, I don’t know what I’d answer.

But, back to us: What can change the nature of a game? 

Answer this question, well, I can: having clinched the worst record in the NBA while your opponent might still benefit from losing one here and there.

If you watched this game (and I bet you didn’t, you sane person), you saw how the Wizards did what they could to basically throw the game. Not the players, but well… the coaching staff didn’t exactly send its best units out there again and again. Jeff Green scored 19 in the first half (18 in the second quarter) and never saw any second-half action. Bradley Beal “acted” his way out ot the floor falling around here and there. OAKAAK Chasson Randle shot 11 times at the basket. I mean, Washington competed, but didn’t really… uhm… try its best, you know? And that’s all good and well, especially considering the fact they’re tied for wins with the Mavericks, and the fewer chances for the Mavs to jump in the top five the better for us in the long run.

So, yes, we’re facing a good win. An interesting game culminated in a win, at a time when winning is gladly accepted around here. I don’t think we could have asked for more.

*Writing about those incarnations I couldn’t shake the thought that there’s a bit of them in every savvy, modern Knick fan.
The Good incarnation: hey, we should win every game we can and we’ll be better rooting for every young guy that dons our jersey, even if it’s a sucky French guy who can’t stay on the floor and can’t hit shots (let it be known that I’m still team Frank, even if it makes zero sense).
The Practical incarnation: wait, we’re better off tanking and ditching young guys at their peak trade value. So, yeah, let’s play Knox a lot and then let’s trade him as soon as possible!

A few notes about the game:

– Is it a coincidence that Fiz pretty much nailed rotations in the first game in the whole season where a win wouldn’t have mattered at all? Probably so (also, see again: Wizards tanking), but give me all the silver linings you got. It was bizarre: we only went eight deep but everyone contributed and nobody really sucked.

– Is this the end of the Mudiay era? Let’s hope so. The thought hit me in the second quarter, and it immediately lightened me up. I have nothing against Mud as a human being (in fact, I think he probably is a good guy), but I can’t stand watching players in Mud’s mold playing as if team ball isn’t a thing.

– If you paid a bit of attention to how Mario played the point, you knew why Mudiay is a horrible playmaker. Hez tried a lot of times to pass the ball very near the rim, and even if he didn’t record a lot of assists (just 5 tonight), sometimes people didn’t convert the looks, some other times they got fouled, sometimes they passed the ball again outside for an easy look from the perimeter. Hezonja is not a good point guard (how could he be?), but he’s miles better than Mudiay and Ntilikina at this point, and I fear he might continue to be. Good for him that he’s pretty much guaranteeing himself another shot in the NBA with these last games: in the last three, he’s going for 25/10/7 on 53.7 FG%. Hez has long been the meister of the garbage time, but this is just another level. Hope he sticks around for the worst team in the NBA every year. He’s also posting for the first time in the season a positive WS/48! Good things all over.

– DSJ was able to play again, even with a sore back. His game was pretty bad, but every minute he spends on the court it’s a minute that serves as a reminder that we don’t need Mudiay at all. 15 points on 12 shots, 5 assists, 5 turnovers. Very very mediocre.

– Kornet had a great game! 17 points on 11 shots, 4 threes, 4 blocks, 7 boards and a team-high +9 plus/minus. It’s only the 102th time in the history of the NBA that a guy who connects on 4 threes also swats 4 blocks.

– Mitch was his usual self: 11 points, 11 boards, 3 blocks. The streak goes on! The third block especially was beastly, he met a dunk/layup attempt from Randle with fierce authority and corralled the board like it was nothing.

Two to go, and a pretty much guaranteed win against Chicago. Let’s hang tight, guys!



New York Knicks 100 – Washington Wizards 101 – Game Recap

Picture this: a grown up man jumping up and down in joy, all by himself, because the team he roots for just lost a game thanks to a buzzer-beating goaltending call. If that’s not a perfect representation of tanking in less than 30 words, I dare you to to better. I was prepared to write about a sad win (even if I would have stressed how the winning bucket would have come from Vonleh and not Mudiay – I’m sorry, I’m so scared by Mudiay’s future right now), instead I was, like, bursting from joy because of a loss in an ugly game in a foreign country!

The game in itself was nothing special. In the first half we got to a comfortable lead thanks to some hot shooting from Kornet and solid all-around play from a few other guys (Vonleh, a quite revamped Trier, Dotson, a slashing Mudiay), but in the third the action ground to a halt, and all of a sudden it looked like the game transformed itself in a glorified YMCA scrimmage. Then, the Wizards made a late push to get ahead, we made a mini push of ourselves to counter that, and in the end Trier came to the rescue with a goaltend on Thomas Bryant who, with 1 second to play, was pretty much alone at 3 feet from the rim. Defenses were simply horrible in this game, from Mudiay looking like Bode Miller sliding around slalom poles to Otto Porter Jr. going to the cup in straight lines as if he planted landmines under the feet of every Knick defender on his way. I can comfortably say that if you went to watch a game on a Bologna playground during lunch break you’d see a lot more effort in defending.

In the end, nothing that happened in this game will be remember in a week. The only thing that counts is the unitary increase in the losses column and the fact that THJ is getting worse by the minutes, which again brings forward the questions about personnel management, even on a day when rotations were as close to the optimum as they’ve been in a while (thanks to the return of Mitch). Carry on then, keeping an eye on the trade market for additional disappointment.

The good:

– If you need more evidence that we don’t have a capable starting point guard on our roster, look no further than Luke Kornet (16 pts, 3 rebs, 2 ast, -2+/-) in the boxscore. You’d think his line is rock solid – even before I add 5 steals and a block -, but what you’d be caught ignoring is the fact that Kornet didn’t attempt a single three pointer in the second half, and shot just two times total in the same span. Now, for a guy whose offense is totally predicated in other people finding him open on the perimeter after he creates a bit of separation moving or simply being taller than his defender, this lack of offensive contribution in the second half only means that nobody was able to involve him significantly in around 16 minutes in the second half. We can all praise the scoring effort of Emmanuel Mudiay (25 pts, 7 rebs, 2 ast, a game-low -12 +/-), but what is he good for if for all his driving he jacks up 18 shots and never passes the ball to the open guy(s) on the perimeter? It’s 2019 NBA, you need to find the open man sooner or later. Also, I’m ok with Kornet not being a tenacious rebounder, but 3 boards in 34 minutes is Bargnani-bad level. I don’t complain too much because I know Luke is not going to be our starting center for much (but I’d certainly keep him around as our 4th big), but his lack of rebounding is a bit scary. I mean, our centers gobbled down just 5 boards in 44 minutes of play. That’s a recipe for disaster as soon as we’ll want to really win games. His 5 steals, though, tie the record for a Knick seven footer (the others: Ewing and KP. Good company, Luke!)

– Noah Vonleh (13 pts, 10 rebs, 1 ast, +6 +/-) played a good game, all in all. I know there’s some trade buzz around him (probably only in this blog, since I seriously doubt there are a lot of guys watching Knicks games this season), and I think that if you can exploit his presence on the roster in anyway, even a low second rounder, you have to do it. I’d be a bit sad to watch him go, I like his play and his demeanor, but what gives? We don’t have Bird rights, so we can’t sign him for anything more than 120% the minimum without biting into the cap. We need a guy like him next to KP, but who’s to say we don’t find one in the scrap heap or the second round (so maybe we can control his future for a few years)? As for tonight, he didn’t do anything that made you jump out of your couch, but like your favorite comfort food he was always there when you needed it the most. He even hit the go-ahead old-schoot goofy hook to put the Knicks ahead 100-99 before the legendary Thomas Bryant game-winning… attempt?

The bad:

– Ok let’s check this out. We have a guy who’s battling with minor injuries since early December. We’re tanking like hell (thanks to a depleted, putrid roster). We travel to London, which means at the very least a six hour flight, to play a mostly meaningless game in front of people who mayyyybe would recognize Bradley Beal if you showed them his picture (I, for one, don’t think they would. It’s just that Beal was the marquee name for this game, and that says everything you need to know about the game itself). But no, let’s bring Tim Hardaway JR (8 pts, 2 rebs, 1 ast, -7 +/-) around for no reason, just to make him play 24 minutes and watch him shoot 28.6% from the field while doing nothing else if not depressing him already low trade value and jacking up shots from the dribble like it’s a federal crime to pass the ball. Which is ironic, since at the moment, all of his advanced stats save for AST% are down from last year. Some of them marginally, some of them sharply (his BPM went down from -0.1 to -1.9). While this is an effect of having a worse team around him, it also speaks about the type of complementary player THJ is, so if he’s just another guy to send on the court, why the hell is Fiz playing him injury after injury? Time to sit him down for at least 10 games, if you ask me.

– Ah, how I missed Mario Hezonja (0 pts, 6 rebs, 1 ast, -6 +/-) in this column. I can’t even tell if he was lethargic (don’t think so) or just completely off-center (think so), but his game gave nothing to the Knicks. I can’t even remember a single one of his 6 boards. As you know, I started rooting for him because in desperate times it’s fun to root for tragedies, but somehow he found a way to disappoint me again, serving us the most quietly discomforting performance of his season. Anyway, he’s good for the tank, so ok, give him 15-20 minutes per night if that’s your wish. I’d prefer to try out some G-League guys, but I don’t feel particularly incensed about any of this. Only Knick reserve with a negative plus/minus, which I think is pretty indicting of his play and of the Wizards’ bench.

– Finally, Kevin Knox (5 pts, 4 rebs, 1 ast, -7 +/-) gets a quick mention here. Nothing was falling for him today and I didn’t particularly like his shot selection. A little step backward in his development, but I’m not too concerned, he shot like shit even before this game. I’m much more concerned about the zero effort he gave on defense. That’s a bit troubling, because if Kevin is a problem on defense it’s not going to be long before teams will start targeting him consistently. I hope he’ll be more focused next time.

Fish and chips:

– Can we please trade Mudiay? Everytime he scores 20+ pts my anxiety worsens. And I’m already a pretty anxious guy. Hey, Perry, my health is important!

– What do we make of Frank? On one hand, some players play better when he’s on the court, since they know he’s not gonna eat their possesions and are more relaxed (and he posted a game-high +11 plus/minus, in open contrast to our other point guard). On the other hand, he shoots terribly and definitely thinks too much. That was extremely apparent in the early fourth quarter when he got the ball roughly 30 feet from the basket with the clock going down fast. He made an half-assed pump fake, then half-lunged as if to throw a push three point shot, and in the middle of his movement tried to pass the ball into the corner with the speed of a slow badminton demi-volèe, resulting in a super-easy Otto Porter Jr. steal. It was like watching a Rube Goldberg device made entirely by brainfarts.

– Mitch is back, and I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am. He played only 10 minutes tonight, but to this starving basketball lover they looked like 100. His first offensive rebound was a thing of beauty: he jumped, jumped, disrupted, jumped again, jumped for the last time, got the board while diving to the floor, gave the ball to a teammate and fell down exhausted. As soon as he was down he started slapping the floor like an earnestly enthusiastic car dealer, riveting with palpable euphoria for the snatched bound. I love Mitch. Also, a wonderful alley-oop in his first minute and a mosquito-swatting block in the third. He shows terrific potential.

– Dotson and Trier were kinda good tonight. Loved seeing Trier getting a bit of his mojo back. We’ll see if it’s a one-game only thing of if he’s healing/not thinking about the signed contract.

All is well that ends well, and with a loss this ended magnificently. See you against the Thunder, where there will be a mini-in-game for the worst looking three point shot in the NBA between Russ and Mudiay.


Washington Wizards 110 – New York Knicks 107 – Game Recap

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris. Nescio, sed fieri sentio, et excrucior. 

Ah, the immortal words of the Latin poet Catullus. “I hate and love [you]. Why I do that, perhaps you might ask. I don’t know, but I feel it has to be, and I suffer”.

Setting aside the fact that it’s one of my favorite piece of poetry of all time (so concise, so full of meaning and deep layers – if you didn’t know Catullus by now I strongly advise you to read something by him, the man did write a lot of all-time love poems, and a few of the most lecherous lyrics ever carved into stone before pulp literature was really a thing), has anything ever been written that can be best applied to our Knicks?

I mean, we keep watching and hoping, sometimes hoping for losses, sometimes for wins. Sometimes we find ourselves deeply entrenched in the meanders of dubious present and future contracts, sometimes we’d like to burn it all to the ground.

Other times we end up losing a game and feel ourselves a bit empty, not knowing if we would have liked to lose or win. This game was one of them. Would I have been happier winning this game? I honestly don’t know. I guess that’s what happens when you’re not exactly sure about the direction of the franchise, and when shots don’t fall like they did against Milwaukee.

The good:

– One can only hope that when Frank will emerge from the dungeon, he will play with the same confidence and consistency that has characterized Damyean Dotson (17 pts, 9 rebs, 1 ast, – 3+/-). Dot’s numbers after stepping again on the court are really noteworthy: 17.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 1.5 spg on 62.5% from the field and 65% from three, all in just 26 mpg. Of course the shooting numbers are bound to go down, but let’s say he shoots just 45 from the field and 38 from three. That would still be good for around 12 ppg. If other numbers stay the same (and maybe he improves his passing a bit, 0.5 apg is a really meager tally) you have a picture perfect 3-and-D wing on your hand. I already suggested that, but I guess the best course of action for this season is to engage in a little play pretend where we selected Dotson with the 8th pick last season while drafting a promising French kid in the second round with the 44th pick. Dot’s activity on the boards is really good, and it’s hard to ever see him in the wrong place on the court. Still one of the great mystery of the season why Mario is starting in his place (not that Dot’s game suffers from playing with the second unit).

– As written in the game thread, this was one of the rare games I got to catch live thanks to a bout of insomnia. I finally got to fall asleep at halftime, with all of these blunders by Emmanuel Mudiay (16 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast, +4 +/-). I can distinctly remember at least 5 shots of his that were blocked and a pair of ugly turnovers. Mudiay’s fourth quarter, though, was a sight to behold. Suddenly he was penetrating with purpose and shielding the ball from those vicious Wizards defenders. He hit one of his patented legs-on-the-elliptical-machine threes. He pushed the pace, a thing he has become above average this season, roughly in the 60th percentile among players who made an appearance in at least half the game for at least 10mpg, and second among Knicks with the same parameters (take a wild guess about who’s first – the answer will be in the continuation of the recap). I didn’t like particularly his overall game, as he was too distracted and unattentive on defense, allowing cuts after cuts after cuts, but without him there wouldn’t have been the final effort that made this game so much more palatable. If we’re honest, in the good column I’d have to put just Mudiay’s fourth quarter.

The bad:

– Allonzo Trier (2 pts, 1 ast, 50% FT, -12 +/-) is doing everything he can to help our front office in contract negotiations. After exploding for a monster performance against Detroit, he’s posting 6.3 ppg on 26.1 FG%, 3 rpg, 2.3 apg and an average plus/minus of -12. Sign him now! Seriously, it’s normal he’s gonna have some nights off. He’s a rookie, and he’s not a point guard by any means. As soon as defenses start doubling him he’s lost and muffled, like putting a pillow in front of a megaphone. He’s not ready to be the designated primary ballhandler of a unit on a regular basis, and that’s ok. He shouldn’t be unless the situation is favorable and demands it, just like it is and was for Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford. Tonight he just didn’t have any solution for the second half extra-tight Wizards defense. He even missed two free throws. Who knows what happens to the rotation when Trey Burke comes back now that Courtney Lee is healthy. If there was a time to sign Zo to a team-friendly deal, it is now.

– Mario Hezonja (9 pts, 2 rebs, 1 ast, +1 +/-) is a real aficionado of this column. I still don’t understand why we’re supposed to have at least a bad starter in all of our iterations. With Lance down, Mario’s stepped up big time for that role. What’s borderline unbelievable is that he has played much worse as a starter than he did when he came from the bench. Bear with me. Mario as a starter: 5.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.0 apg on 33% from the field an 22% from three in 18 mpg. Mario as a bench player: 9.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.2 apg on 40% from the field and 28% from three in 20 mpg. And this numbers don’t even paint the whole picture, as it’s defense where he’s really been otherworldly terrible. We’ve played 25 games and I think there’s no question about who’s the Knicks worst player this year. So, sure, make him the starter and put Frank in the dungeon (I hope at least Ntilikina is not in the Butcher’s room from the original Diablo). As for tonight: Mario came out a bit aggressive, then chucked his way out of the game. To me, the most notable sequence of his game was in the first quarter with 5:25 to go. He was tasked with guarding Satoransky, and after a simple action by the Wizards, Wall threw the ball to Sato in the left corner, wide open (Mario got sucked a bit into the paint by a strange defensive rotation). Hez was still the closest guy to Satoransky, but no! He yelled and pointed at Mudiay, who was much closer to his man (Beal), to go and contest the Czech’s shot, while he was running towards the center court, and maybe Beal. It was something else, really. It was the basketball equivalent of faking an incoming phone call so you don’t have to speak with the guy you spotted 30 feet away, only for him to greet you anyway because your phone isn’t lit up and it’s pretty evident you’re looking for an excuse.

Fun-sized bits:

– Enes Kanter with a double-double, again (13 and 16 in 25 minutes of action). His effort was critical in the first half in keeping the Wiz down. I won’t talk about his defense again, but Fiz threw a very sneak-tank move in the fourth, putting Enes as the lone big in a lineup with Knox, Dotson, THJ/Trier and Mudiay. He entered the game as the score was 93-84. When Vonleh was subbed in for him just four minutes later, the score was 105-89. He never saw the floor again and the game ended 110-107. I think you get the idea.

– Vonleh had a good game (11 pts, 8 boards, +9 +/-) but I can’t put him in the good section if he misses that many bunnies and loses the ball four times due to sheer carelessness.

– Mitch with 3 blocks and a monster alley-oop (Knox had the nice idea to throw him a lob in the first, but missed the spot by about 2 feet. Mitch was able to capture the ball and stuff it anyway), and some good defense in space. It stands to no reason that he only played 14 minutes (at least he’s leading the league – the whole league! – in BLK%).

– Chuck Hardaway Jr.’s new recipe to get over the hump: if you’re shooting badly, take your first shot from 30+ feet! An uninspired 20 points outing for Timmy, who’s regressing to his former habits: bad shot selection, not going to the line that much, not doing a lot on the court (2 assists and nothing else).

– Kevin Knox is putting a lot more effort in his game lately. He shot badly (again), hitting just 3 of his 11 attempts, but got 9 boards, some of them contested, and handed out 4 assists. I liked what I saw from him tonight. Nothing to write home about, but his heart was in the right place.

– Kevin is the answer to the former question! He’s the Knicks with the highest pace on the team (good of the 77th percentile in the whole league). He’s attempting wretched layups, but he’s wasting no time in doing that!

– I like Courtney Lee. He stabilizes whatever lineup he’s in. I’m happy he’s playing again. I hope he’s somewhere else by January.

– The botched uncontested layup by Lee with two minutes to go was hilarious: Lee went for the layup with swag and landed ready to treat those two points like it was nothing (in a very convincing fake way). The layup bounced off the rim. Lee’s face transformed in a second in an expression that suits the awkward kid from high school who has the talent to always say the wrong thing at the wrong time. It was the layup version of the Nick Young missed three GIF.

– David Fizdale said, an hour before the game, he wasn’t sure if Burke’s minutes would go to Trier of Frank. Hahahahahah. Of course. Why not.

I’ll wait for you at the dungeon’s entrance on Thursday against a Celtics team that’s playing much better than it did the last time we faced it. Let’s see who comes out!

New York Knicks 95 – Washington Wizards 108 – Game Recap

It seems like late fourth quarter meltdowns are becoming a thing for this team. In what was probably the worst game played by the Knicks this season, we’ve witnessed the team stumble and bumble again in the last 8 minutes, reinforcing the Fizdale quote from before the last Nets game: “We’re playing college basketball right now; good for 40 minutes but not for 48”.

This game was not very fun to watch, even when the team was on its patented good third quarter/fake comeback (the score was tied with just 9:13 to go in the fourth quarter). Lots of putrid offensive sets by the Knicks, coupled with some inspired defense by Washington, were the main culprit in making this game the least watchable so far. That, and the fact that I watched it after waking up at 5 am because today is a loooooong day of work. But mostly the futility of our offense.

The good:

– Enes Kanter (18 pts, 12 rebs, 57% FG, +2 +/-) had a nice bounce back game, and the Knicks needed all of it to stay in the game. His defense was the same mish mash of botched rotations, slow feet and weak hops, but at least his energy level was high. A vintage Kanter game, with some dervish-like reverse layups and hands like magnets for boards. Only one turnover (even if I counted more, must have been some early wake dizziness) and a sense of focus throughout his entire playing time. I can’t say I was of Fiz’s advice when he benched him to bring back Mitch into the fold with the game getting out of our hands. I’m totally on board with Mitch closing games, but Enes was playing well and deserved to stay on the court. He even forced a John Wall turnover in the fourth!

– Mario Hezonja (11 pts, 8 rebs, 3 ast, +11 +/-) at last played a sound game, where he looked more like a fully formed human being occupying physical space and less a poltergeist haunting the nights of us poor souls who root for the orange and blue guys. This time his impact was tangible, he didn’t just compile an empty set of stats, and plus/minus is there to testify (not that I would rely too much on it, but in a game like this it tells you something for sure). His quick trigger from three was a godsend in the third quarter, while in the fourth he was blocked a couple times on weak attempts, and his defense on Markieff Morris was at times very lackadaisical. Apart from that, though, he was solid and jumped into passing lines with unusual resolution, tallying 3 steals in the process. My guess is that tomorrow he’ll be ghost-like again, but it was to nice to know you, corporeal Mario.

– Trey Burke (13 pts, 3 rebs, 2 ast, -2 +/-) was the spark plug that helped tie the game, with some spring 2018 forays into the paint. It’s no coincidence that in our worst game of the season our best three guys were Enes, Mario and Trey, aka the frustrating bench mob from the last 6 games; it meant that our actual core (is that right? Do we already have a young core in place?) was completely out of sorts, even if there were different reasons for the youngsters. Anyway, Trey had his chance to leave a mark in 20 minutes tonight, and he did. I hope Fiz sees him as a “break in case of emergency” cog, and is not convinced to reinsert him back into the rotation with a more prominent role.

The bad:

– When Noah Vonleh (2 pts. 4 rebs, 50% FG, -13 +/-) sucks, he sucks really hard. Apart from the fact the he committed again too many useless fouls that limited his playing time, he was able to post a -13 plus/minus in only 10 minutes of play, and this in a game when we desperately needed his ability on the glass. In the first half the Wizards mauled our guys on the offensive glass, and without Vonleh we had just Kanter to fight them – Mitch is not ready to get a substantial amount of defensive caroms. Through all the game Noah was listless, maybe remembering that his first name is the last name of a certain center we ended up buying out a few weeks ago? Let’s hope third time is the charm and that he’ll get his mojo back tomorrow against a bad Chicago team.

– Frank Ntilikina (6 pts, 1 reb, 4 ast, -13 +/-) was abysmal as a point guard tonight. Don’t let the team-high 4 assists fool you, even if the one for the Mitch alley oop was sweet as pure honey. He failed repeatedly to initiate the action and turned the ball 4 times in the first half alone. His defense is still pretty good, but without a credible offensive threat from the dribble alongside him the other team is too free to swarm him and get him to make the most basic mistakes, such as picking up his dribble too soon and generally think too much about was has to be done. As much as defense comes to him naturally (his 2 blocks were nice), watching him run the offense is a similar experience to watch me cook some BBQ ribs: I definitely don’t look at ease, the flavor is a bit off and I move awkwardly for most of the time (I cook a mean lasagna, though).

Fun-sized bits:

– Mitchell Robinson posted his third double figures game in five starts, grabbed 4 offensive boards and was 4 for 4 from the stripe; what impressed me most, though, was how he moves well on the perimeter on defense and how he stopped jumping in the air after most fakes. I can’t wait to see our defense with him, KP and Frank on the court at the same time. For what it’s worth, Mitch features with Dotson in the second best 2-man lineup for DRtg with more than 100 minutes played together (103.7 and a healthy +6.3 NetRtg). Wanna know the best 2-man DRtg with more than 100 minutes? Mario Hezonja and Alonzo Trier (93.9 in 125 minutes). Cats and dogs living together, y’all.

– Tim Hardaway Jr. had an atrocious game but I don’t fault him that much. He got hurt but the coach elected to let him play. He was suffering and it showed. He still found a way to net the game worst plus/minus at -21. He has the third worst NetRtg of the whole team at -9.1 (behind end of the bench guys Kornet and Baker). Something’s gotta give.

– Damyean Dotson had a huge run at the end of the second quarter to keep the game from spiraling out of control early. I’m impressed at the poise and maturity he shows, as he brings a lot to the table and essentially takes away nothing. Another game with 10+ points, his 8th straight.

– Emmanuel Mudiay has been better than we hoped, for now. Yeah, our expectations were really low, but he’s playing a much better brand of basketball than what we were used to see. He’s another guy who suffers from playing too much half-court basketball, but in the last two games he doesn’t look completely lost. 23 minutes for him tonight, 4 points, 3 boards, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and a plus/minus of +2.

– Allonzo Trier was a bit intermittent tonight, alternating vigorous plays to lethargic action in a span of seconds. Liked his aggressiveness on defense, even yapping in the face of John Wall once.

– Lance Thomas yadda yadda yadda nothing yawn. Just 8 minutes of playing time for him and that’s ok.

– Bradley Beal has 4 blocks (one on Mitch, ouch). John Wall had 5 steals. We turned the ball over 20 times. That’s your entire game.

– I didn’t remember John Wall being so douchey. I guess it’s an effect of Scott Brooks as a coach, to turn your franchise point guards into unsufferable pricks.

Ok, I’ll go sip another cup of espresso before falling asleep on the keyboard. See you tomorrow after the Bulls game and the Clone War (THJ vs. LaVine)!

Knicks 107, Wizards 85 – Duhon Sits

Chris Duhon sat for the second half of the Knicks 107-85 win last night against the Wizards. I went back & checked all the games where Duhon played less than 24 minutes, and couldn’t find any where the Knicks point guard failed to appear in the second half. In other words, for the first time in the D’Antoni era, he benched Duhon.

The move is something I’ve advocated here for some time. Duhon has been under performing for the entire season, with a harmful/feeble combo of 8.7 pts/36 and 48.2% TS%. The Knicks coach went with Robinson, Hughes, and the seldom used Marcus Landry in the guard position.

What’s is most interesting to watch is how D’Antoni handles this going forward. As I mentioned previously, there’s little space between being in the Knicks rotation and racking up DNP-CDs. For the last year and a half, the point guard spot has been dominated by Chris Duhon. Obviously this is going to change how the lineup looks going forward. I guess the big question is who will emerge as the Knicks point guard? Can the diminutive Robinson pull a 180 on his 2010 season, and end up in D’Antoni’s favor? Will Larry Hughes, the Ghandi of NBA-bench related facial hair, revive his descending career? Can Toney Douglas emerge as the PG of the future? Or will Duhon take this benching to heart and solve what’s been vexing him?

2010 Game Thread: Knicks @ TimberWolves

New York Knicks-Offense 93.9 106.3 50.4 15.2 23.7 19.5
Minnesota Timberwolves-Defense 96.1 110.4 52.1 15.2 25.9 22.2
New York Knicks-Defense 93.9 108.6 51 15.8 27.4 21.6
Minnesota Timberwolves-Offense 96.1 100.4 46.6 16.7 27.9 20.3

New York had a laugher in their last meeting, and given their recent slide they could use another breather. The Wolves are bad at just about everything, save for rebounding. New York is a substandard rebounding team, ranking 23rd on defense and 27th on offense. Last night the Knicks allowed the Wizards to grab 24 offensive boards, so this could be an area that Minnesota tries to exploit. Meanwhile the orange & blue need to beat up on the soft Timberwolves defense, as Minny is the league’s worst team with regards to opponents eFG (allowed 52.1%). A good shooting night for New York and limiting Minnesota’s second chances seem like the keys to victory tonight.

2010 Poll: Who Will Win the East?

Cleveland Cavaliers (Vegas odds to win title: 3:1)
Despite failing to reach the Finals last year, the Cavs remain the favorite to win the East. Over the summer, Cleveland swapped Ben Wallace for Shaq, and while the Big Diesel is merely a fraction of his former dominant self, he’s miles ahead in productivity over Wallace. But the Cavs didn’t stop there, they also augmented their defense with Jamario Moon and Leon Powe. Last year Cleveland was unable to stop Howard in the middle, or preventing both Lewis and Turkoglu from torching them from the perimeter. This year they should be better equipped against those types of matchups.

Orlando Magic (5:1)
After shocking many with their playoff victory last year over Cleveland, Orlando made one major change this off season. The Magic lost Hedo Turkoglu in free agency, but managed to replace him with Vince Carter. This certainly is an upgrade by talent, but it remains to be seen how Carter fits in with Howard and co. Additionally Orlando managed to keep productive backup center Marcin Gortat and netted Brandon Bass in a double whammy free agency scuffle with the Mavericks. Howard was miffed last year at his lack of touches down the stretch late in games, and this year any late game heroics will likely begin with the ball in Carter’s hands. If Stan Van Gundy isn’t his team’s own worst enemy, Orlando will have enough firepower on both ends of the court to vie for a championship.

Boston Celtics (9:2)
Just two years ago the Boston Celtics dominated the league with 66 regular season victories and a title run. But last year injuries to Garnett and Powe thwarted any playoff hopes. Like the other two Eastern powerhouses, the Celtics didn’t stay put in the off season. Boston replaced Powe with Rasheed Wallace, and ‘Sheed will help the team cope defensively against Shaq and Howard while spacing the floor on offense. The line on the Celtics opened at 9:1, but enough money has come in to propel them above the Magic. Given the choice, I would put the Celtics third back given the team’s age and lack of depth. If the ancient core of Garnett, Allen, Pierce, and Wallace all aren’t upright for May & June, Boston won’t make it past the second round this year.

Everyone else (starting at 20:1)
The field consists of a few minor players that are hoping for Cinderella seasons. Atlanta has scratched at the cusp of the upper Eastern teams, but always seem to fall short and Jamal Crawford isn’t the person to put them over the edge. Miami is hoping that youngsters Beasley and Chalmers combined with oldster Jermaine O’Neal provide enough of a supporting cast for Dwyane Wade. Meanwhile the Wizards are hoping that a core of Arenas, Butler, Jamison, and Miller will put enough points on the boards to offset their team’s lack of defense. Last year Philly was the talk of the off season with their abduction of Elton Brand in free agency. Perhaps Eddie Jordan can find a way to make a most of their talent.