Defeats like Tuesday's 128-122 overtime heartbreaker at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder can bring out a whole range of emotions. On one hand, it's incredibly frustrating to watch your guys play their hearts out against a far superior opponent -- a team chock full of superstars who can get whatever they want, whenever they want. Ultimately, however, it is important to feel at least a modicum of pride in witnessing a fantastic effort.
Kevin Durant (44 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists) and Russell Westbrook (30 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists) are simply, as Achilles 440 put it, different. They are physical freaks in the prime of their careers. They eventually took what they wanted from a Knicks team playing without its best player, Carmelo Anthony. At times, it appeared effortless.
It was not effortless. These Knicks made two of the NBA's best sweat it out for 53 minutes. In the end, however, they were done in by New York's traditional late-game bugaboo: stagnant offense. Arron Afflalo barely missed a tough fadeaway that would have handed them the win in regulation, and he followed it with a missed layup in overtime. It was depressing. It was gross. But it should not take away from effort put forth by the rest of the team. They needed to play a perfect game to stop Durant and Westbrook, and they damn near did just that.
- Yeah, I'm gonna make an excuse for Kristaps Porzingis. The Latvian Unicorn scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half. He failed to add much offensively in the second half, it's true, but he also spent most of the fourth quarter playing center, doing shit like this:
Look how fast Porzingis is able to go from straight up to getting his hand over and blocking Russ https://t.co/XwBiAA8AYs— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) January 27, 2016
Asking him to anchor the Knicks D in the face of one of the league's best offenses, then turn around and carry the offense, would have been asking a bit much.
- The same thing goes for Lance Thomas, who played 40:42 coming off his knee injury while constantly hounding Durant. I know KD got his points, but Lance made him work, while chipping in an efficient 16 points. Like Porzingis, Lance was particularly frisky offensively in the first half, straight up taking fools off the dribble and earning trips to the line. I bet Durant went into the locker room after this game and slapped his GM upside the head for including Lance as a throw-in in the deal for Dion Waiters.
- Sooooo, Afflalo. Yeah, too many shots. To the man's credit, he did have 5 rebounds ... but when this dude isn't hitting shots, he should not be out there. Even Melo at his iso-Meliest passes more than this guy. Also, there is this...
Fisher, on whether it was by design for Afflalo to take majority of shots late, or whether it just happened: "A little bit of both."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) January 27, 2016
Huh? Ah well, Just try to rein him in next time, Fish.
- Langston Galloway. Did. Not. Play. Scared. He matched Durant shot-for-shot for a time in the fourth, then added another absurd bail-out three to keep the game close in overtime. Yeah, he missed a free throw with the Knicks down three, and he passed to Afflalo, who never passed back. Don't care. I was delighted to see the return of Lang the fourth quarter assassin. He had been underwhelming for a while now; hopefully this kicks his season back into high gear.
- Another ho-hum 19-point, 10-rebound, 4-assist, zero-turnover game for Derrick Williams. All of his assists came in the fourth and OT. D-Will was particularly relishing his role as play-maker early in the fourth, hitting Kevin Seraphin with a gorgeous early post-entry feed on possession, then coming back down the court and finding a curling Afflalo at the baseline. These are just things he does now.
- This was Seraphin's best game in, what, two months?
- Jerian Grant played a nice, aggressive first half. He didn't do much in the second, outside of a few assists. Baby steps.
- Ages of the non-Afflalo players on the court at the end of the game: 27 (Thomas), 24 (Williams, Galloway), 20 (Porzingis). Some very un-Knicks-like youth out there.
- Kevin Durant: Still not coming to New York. I'm glad this is his final game in MSG before he signs wherever, and I'm hoping he stays out West. Two meetings per year is more than enough.
Moral victories aside, the Knicks realllllllly could have used this game. Next they travel to red-hot Toronto before returning home to face the Golden State Warriors. The short-term outlook is gloomy, but with the kids playing this well, there are clear skies on the far horizon.