The Knicks got downright philosophical in the wake of their 91-84 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The topic of choice: How the hell did Kristaps Porzingis not get a field goal attempt down the stretch?
Kristaps -- the rookie superstar who had zero 4th-quarter shots until a meaningless attempt at the final buzzer -- blamed his lack of touches on a passive attitude stemming from inexperience:
Porzingis said Afflalo got hot for a while and tried to take a leadership role toward the end, when the Knicks needed key baskets— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 24, 2015
KP acknowledged he still needs to develop more of a comfort level in the clutch. Being aggressive in those spots isn't natural for him yet— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 24, 2015
Porzingis said as he gets more experience in the NBA, he'll feel better abt taking a bigger role in 4Qs/demanding the ball in such moments— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 24, 2015
Derek Fisher, on the other hand, laid most of the responsibility at the feet of his teammates:
Fisher says he wants the team to start utilizing Porzingis's offense more, even once Melo is back.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 24, 2015
Fish suggests some of KP not getting 4Q shots was on NY players not looking for him. But also says CLE defense was good/didn't allow looks.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 24, 2015
As for Arron Afflalo -- he of the 4-10 fourth-quarter shooting performance -- he delved into his theories on late-game iso-ball as some kind of natural weakness of the human condition played out on the NBA court:
Afflalo, on the Knicks' late-game ISO offense, and KP needing to develop into more of a late-game option over time pic.twitter.com/KPIRJNG5X4— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 24, 2015
If you want to look at this optimistically, I suppose you can take comfort in the fact that both players and coach agree that the Afflalo iso-ball approach wasn't a good idea -- that's a step up from the old "that nasty late-game offense was all part of the plan" pressers of the Mike Woodson Era.
The real problem here is that Kristaps's finest offensive attribute -- he scores 1.08 points per possession as a roll man -- is simply not utilized in crunch time. Fisher often puts him in good position on the perimeter, and Kristaps sets screens and usually find a good, open position, and then ... nothing. Which leads us to the most important quote of the night:
I asked Fish about that. He said its on guards to find ways to get bigs the ball. https://t.co/iT1alLtmew— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 24, 2015
You can blame Derek Fisher for, I dunno, not calling a timeout every time a point guard misses an open Kristaps on the pick-and-roll and throwing a fit, I guess. You can blame Afflalo for not passing -- though he never passes, so it would be odd to suddenly expect him to change in the final minutes. You can even blame Kristaps for not being a better post player, for not being able to set up directly in front of the guard with his back to the basket, thereby presenting the most obvious possible target.
But these guards, man. Maybe the Triangle isn't the best offensive system for the modern game; still, the openings are there. It's just easier to dump the ball off to the Carmelo Anthony's and Arron Afflalo's of the world -- pass the responsibility off to the iso-ballers. The Knicks could fire their coach and install a new offense tomorrow, and it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference until they find a decent floor general.