Derek Fisher knows Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic constitute a horrid defensive backcourt. He has to, because he owns courtside seats to Knicks games and watches film of them at his job. The question, then, is what he expects otherwise -- enough frontcourt help to cover that gaping hole? Enough scoring to outpace the defensive leakage, even against an elite offense? Enough bench excellence to undo the starters' misdeeds?
It's unclear what Fisher has in mind, even when you ask him, but I think the Knicks lost because they exposed a weakness by design and called upon reinforcements that didn't arrive like they had against a much weaker opponent 24 hours prior.
Jeff Teague met no friction en route to the paint. He either glided directly to the rim or folded New York's defense to help Kyle Korver and Al Horford find their favorite looks (which apparently includes threes for Horford now. My word.) And of those things I listed above: Nope on the frontcourt help, because it would take a sixth player to help at the rate the Hawks were attacking; Nope on the counter-scoring from the first unit, which shot plenty, but missed plenty and gave the ball away plenty; Nope on the bench, which had one nice first-half stretch and one again in the second half, but not nearly the record-setting brilliance from Wednesday. With few misses and turnovers to fuel the pace, it was tough for that bouncy second unit to generate its favorite kind of offense, like our friend The Ghost of Kristaps said.
And so they lost. We have seen hundreds of losses worse than this one. The Knicks lapsed all over the place, but stayed within reach of a better, more established team on a very hot night. That's resilience! And grouchy as I may be about the rotation, I'll note that Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant combined for 54 minutes to the starting guards' 43. (But also that Lance Thomas played 22 while Cleanthony Early remained in the garbage bin, which is a separate early-season quirk that irks me even more. Irksome quirk.)
Pretty ready to move on from this one, but a few more notes:
- Carmelo Anthony is frosty cold from range, and perhaps tentative. He roasted several dudes and #bullyseason'd around the rim, but he didn't *always* use his first step when given the opportunity. Melo's fluid excellence in preseason is heartening here, and I reckon it'll just take him some more games to find his legs. He didn't do quite as much distributing tonight to make up for the misses, in part because Atlanta didn't send him as many double teams as Milwaukee did. Quietly, Melo defended the post pretty well and chased after rebounds.
- A day will come when Kristaps Porzingis doesn't play the first quarter with noodles for arms, but today -- in front of a real, in-season Garden crowd for the first time -- was not that day. Once again, though, Kristaps grew comfortable and showed us a few more of his tricks -- nice touch finishing the pick-and-roll, active hands in the carom district, and the sense, if not the strength nor coordination just yet, to puncture defenses on the move. Part of appreciating rookie is smiling patiently when he throws a smart but inaccurate entry pass or plows into a set defender off the dribble, and there's been plenty of that with Porzingis. There will be. Still this, though. Always that.
- Okay, so there's the thing Kyle O'Quinn's bad at. There had to be something. O'Quinn does a marvelous job snaggling offensive rebounds, but the ball seems to get heavier each time he fetches it off the rim. He catches the ball, holds it down by his waist, then just crouches forever while people slap him, like a big, sad dragon with useless little wings. O'Quinn might not be able to dunk without a running start. So, there's that. He's still wonderful, and he grabbed another double-double with defense and passing on the side.
O'Quinn seems pretty nervous tonight probably because they had a moment of silence in the arena for his late-dad & his whole family is here— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) October 30, 2015
- Langston Galloway, who is good, hit his jump shots and may have been the only Knick guard to fight over a pick and get a hand up even once.
- I feel like it's better for all our brains that Derrick Williams finally had a game in which he didn't play like a star. Right? We needed that. We were gonna start trying to jump on the backs of moving cars and shit like that if he didn't have a mediocre game.
That's all. The Knicks are probably fine. See you later!