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Knicks 93, Mavericks 77: ‘Well, this game will help the Knicks’ defensive rating’

Defense! Small ball! Justin Holiday!

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks scored 36 points in the first half. That’s bad. Then they scored 31 points in the third quarter. That’s good. Add it all up, stir in a bunch of fourth-quarter garbage time, and you get a wild, possibly illuminating 93-77 victory over an admittedly short-handed Dallas Mavericks club.

As P&T’er StraightOutofComptonandSelfEsteem noted, the win did wonders for New York’s league-worst defensive rating. It’s still worst in the league, though ... sigh.

Let’s begin with the standard Dumb Knicks Controversy™ — yes, Jeff Hornacek sat Joakim Noah for the entire second half; yes, it succeeded brilliantly. In the context of this game, the Hornacek’s decision to replace Noah with Justin Holiday made all the sense in the world. Dallas played a wing, Harrison Barnes, at the power forward spot — funny how everyone seems to be doing that these days — and Kristaps Porzingis struggled to stay with him. Porzingis wasn’t bad, per se — it’s just a damn near impossible task for a 7’3” person to check a true shooting guard on a consistent basis. The Knicks started to turn things around when Holiday checked into the game and shut down Barnes. So Hornacek just stayed with what was working, and it continued to work. New York broke the game open with a 31-12 third quarter, and that was all she wrote.

What does this mean for the future? Hell if I know. How about we just enjoy the present for a moment. To the notes!

  • Single-game plus/minus rarely paints a complete picture of what happened on a given night, but Justin Holiday’s +30 is certainly an exception. The dude was making it all happen on Monday night: 16 points on 6-7 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block. Harrison Barnes went into halftime with 16 points; he added a paltry 4 points in the second half thanks to Holiday’s efforts. His work was reminiscent of what Lance Thomas provided the team last season when he was at his best; it was a welcome relief that we got this kind of game on the same night we learned that Thomas’s injuries are far more serious than we originally thought. If Holiday wants to be that shut-down dude who also buries triples, well that’s fine by me.
  • OK, so Kristaps Porzingis broke off a vintage Dirk Nowitzki fadeaway and then stared at the German legend on his way back down the court. Read all about it here. You know what else really impressed me about Kristaps’s performance? He didn’t seem in peak form offensively. He was just a bit off for much of the game. Oh, but he ended up with 24 points on an efficient 8-16 from the field while also chipping in a team-high 11 rebounds. Last season Kristaps would only crack 20 points if he was really feeling it; right now he can reach that number without breaking much of a sweat. That’s the mark of a star.
  • Even before he switched to center, Kristaps did a much better job of controlling the urge to jump out at shooters. In fact, the whole damn team played a far more disciplined brand of D — the Mavs shot a mere 11 free throws.
  • Carmelo Anthony played one of the worst stretches of basketball I’ve ever seen from him in the first half. Not only was he holding the ball for too long on offense, he wasn’t even paying attention to the weak-side defenders sneaking in to strip him naked. His defense was absolutely pathetic. Again, credit goes to Hornacek for sitting him down a significant chunk of the second quarter. He didn’t deserve to play, so he didn’t play. Melo emerged a new man in the third, dropping 17 points in the period and playing a superior brand of D. And yes, he was playing at power forward.
  • Joakim Noah said all the right things about sitting in the second half:

He’s a team guy.

  • Derrick Rose struggled on offense — 3 points on 1-6 shooting, 5 assists, 5 turnovers — but played one of his better games of the season on defense.
  • Once again, Willy Hernangomez took most of the minutes at center, with Kyle O’Quinn not seeing the court until garbage time. WillyBilly chipped in 4 points and 6 rebounds.
  • Maurice Ndour miiiiight just be finding his niche in the rotation as one of the guys who comes in when the starters are dragging ass. He and Holiday provided much-needed energy in the second quarter.
  • Sounds good to me:

Again, this shouldn’t be a big deal. The Knicks have generally played much better with Noah on the court this season. That being said, they’ve got the Pistons on Wednesday, and they really struggled to match up with Detroit’s small ball lineups a few weeks ago. Hopefully Hornacek does whatever works, and that whatever works works well, and the Knicks win another basketball game. That would be splendid.