Tonight's game quote comes from thebasketballgods, whose optimism rings true. A game that ended with an ugly score and scare remained, through three and a half frames, a competitive matchup of two teams with jumbo-sized Portland imports and coaches searching for rotational cohesion between the new and the old. Although the Spurs took a lead in the second quarter, the Knicks would not relent. They showed resilience and hung with the varsity team until the Spurs, led by Kawhi Leonard's defensive omnipotence and offensive versatility, tightened the screws and fled the Garden with a double digit lead.
The most remarkable two takeaways from the game's first half are probably Kristaps Porzingis's ability to dominate stretches of basketball games, as well as the Knicks' ability to mesh quickly and effectively enough to notch a turnover-free first quarter. It would be wise to temper expectations for the Latvian hugeman, particularly if his recent neck injury proves bothersome, but it is also difficult to overstate how effectively Porzingis performed in the first half. His line included 5 points, 9 rebounds (4 offensive), an assist, and patient, tactical blocks against Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard.
The Knicks also coalesced offensively with immediacy, resulting in a turnover-free frame and a three point lead. Knicks bigs cut down on risk-taking and took care in setting picks, while guards made decisive cuts and smart passes. The game began to turn in the second quarter, when a Knicks bench unit matched up against the Spurs' expertly assembled collection of bench veterans began to justifiably crumble. It may have been a close matchup between the hot bench units, but Gregg Popovich decided to leave LaMarcus Aldridge in with the reserves to find his offensive groove, which proved the difference in the game. Kyle O'Quinn put up a valiant initial effort on both ends against the versatile big man, coming away with six points in their first few tangles, as well as winning some difficult rebound battles. However, Aldridge eventually found his offensive creativity and deft touch, showcasing the talent disparity and opening a dozen-point halftime lead. The second quarter was a huge step backwards from the first, led by Carmelo Anthony forcing frustratingly.
holding the ball for 5-7 seconds then trying to challenge Kawhi is basically the worst possible thing you can do— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) November 3, 2015
The second half gave way to continued inspired play from Kristaps Porzingis on both ends. When locked in, the mobile hugeman has the length, awareness, and anticipation to bother nearly any type of player. His play at that end resembles that of Jared Jeffries, who was more talented at drawing offensive fouls yet not near Porzingis's league as a shot-blocker. He harassed Aldridge into two turnovers on three possessions, and bothered Duncan, Leonard, and Danny Green alike. The Knicks trailed by five to 10 points throughout the quarter, but it never seemed hopeless for the home team, who battled in a manner ill-fitting of their recent years' legacy. Simply put, they just don't seem like the same team.
New York's fourth quarter mirrored its second, strewn with blunders and blown opportunities. Derek Fisher opted to go without Jose Calderon, Sasha Vujacic, and Derrick Williams down the stretch, which allowed Jerian Grant and Langston Galloway to illustrate their worth, the latter proving why he deserves the lion's share of minutes at guard. Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard quietly picked apart the Knicks, however, snuffing out second chances and surgically finding open shots. With several minutes remaining in the contest, Carmelo Anthony tripped over a fallen Porzingis, stretching his neck uncomfortably and ousting him from the game on medical leave. Porzingis's pain was apparent, and he took several minutes to make his way to the locker room. The Knicks released an update less than a half hour later:
Porzingis has a strained neck. A concussion has been ruled out. He will be re-evaluated tomorrow.— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) November 3, 2015
Despite playing a game marked by effort, the Knicks could not overcome their batches of blunders and fell to the Spurs by a score of 94 to 84. They continue to search for the season's first win at Madison Square Garden, as well as consistency from Carmelo Anthony, whose defensive focus could not make up for his reluctance to share the ball offensively. Incredibly, the Knicks did not record a single fast break point (paging: Derrick Williams). Jerian Grant, who showed flashes of decisive brilliance throughout his search for sea legs, was asked by MSG's Rebecca Haarlow during post-game inquisition to come up with the biggest takeaway from his battle with the Western titans. Summing up the difference in the game, Grant responded: "Every possession matters."