32 assists, 5 turnovers.
That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? The New York Knicks went into Chicago for an emotional clash with the Bulls and put together a virtuoso performance on offense en route to a 117-104 win. I did a little checking on the Basketball-Reference game finder: prior to Friday, the most assists ever recorded by a Knicks team in a game with 5 or fewer turnovers was 24.
For one shining evening, the starting five fulfilled every hope and desire fostered by Knicks fans over the summer. Every last one of them chipped in at least 15 points, and they scored 100 points as a unit. The bench is still a major cause for concern, but this is clearly what Phil Jackson had in mind.
- Derrick Rose in his first four games: 10 assists
Derrick Rose in this game: 11 assists
Five of those assists came in the fourth quarter, when Rose put on the finest display of point-guarding Knicks fans have seen in years. Rose excelled late in the Knicks’ first win of the season, over Memphis, but that performance was more of the “put your head down and take it to the rack” variety. It wasn’t terribly impressive, in my opinion — Rose doesn’t shoot threes or get to the free-throw line, so he has to shoot an incredibly high percentage from the field to make a real difference.
Friday night saw a whole different Rose. His shot wasn’t consistently falling, but he ran the offense with verve and precision, hitting open shooters off drives, finding Joakim Noah in the pick-and-roll, making sure that the team didn’t fall back into the bad offensive habits that have cost them in so many fourth quarters past. Rose finished with 15 points, 11 dimes and 7 rebounds. It’s been a while.
Tonight Derrick Rose had at least 15 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds in one game for the first time since 2011-12 season— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) November 5, 2016
- Joakim Noah in his first four games: 8 points
Joakim Noah in this game: 16 points
The kid from Hell’s Kitchen had essentially the exact opposite problem as Rose at the start of the season: He passed, but he didn’t get buckets. It was turning into a real problem, as defenders basically ignored him.
Noah turned that around against Chicago thanks to some pick-and-roll magic with his old buddy Derrick, as well as some strong cuts to the basket. By the end of the night he was feeling frisky enough to back down Bobby Portis for a nifty post bucket. Credit Noah for showing more confidence in his scoring ability, and credit Rose (and Jeff Hornacek) for putting him in a position to thrive.
- In both of New York’s wins, the team made Kristaps Porzingis the focus of their offense. Coincidence? The Unicorn had it all working on Friday, two nights after his worst game as a Knick. Wednesday’s 0-4 shooting performance turned into 10-15 (4-7 from three) for 27 points. That is quite good. The only blemishes on his night were a few careless late-game fouls and a rough night boxing out Taj Gibson on the defensive glass. Jeff Hornacek said the team needed to look for him more often — they did, and it was awesome. He started off hot from distance, and later found some comfy spots down low against smaller defenders. He even elicited a hearty “THHHHHHHHHERE YOU GO” from Hubie Brown after cooking Jimmy Butler on the block.
- Carmelo Anthony had 17 points in the second half, including a pair of critical late threes. Yet he wasn’t even close to the most important Knick in this game. It was an odd yet refreshing change of pace. We saw Melo as a decoy to throw the defense out of wack, and we saw Melo spotting up behind the arc waiting for his chance to bury the Bulls with catch-and-shoot treys. For one shining moment, we saw Olympic Melo wearing the orange-and-blue. Hopefully we can see it again.
- Courtney Lee had 17 points. He’s averaging 13.4 points this season on 53.3% shooting, including 42.9% from beyond the arc. That’ll do.
- Brandon Jennings played most of the fourth quarter in a two-PG lineup with Rose, and it was the first time this season I’ve seen him play with the discipline of an NBA player instead of a Saturday afternoon pickup-baller. His all-around line was sterling: 6 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds. Both he and Rose provided a critical boost on the glass, as New York’s bigs had their hands full with Chicago’s beefy front line. This isn’t a one-time thing, either: Jennings ranks third among rotation players with a 14.9 DRB% this season.
- Maurice Ndour picked up 5 fouls in 6:45 of playing time in place of an injured Lance Thomas (ankle). Whatever, man. It was fun while it lasted.
- I was forced to eat some crow. Watching the Bulls last weekend, I honestly believed the Knicks were going to get throttled, and I said so on Twitter. Even 5-6 days later, Twitter does not forget.
- As P&T’er Rice2012 astutely observed, Dwyane Wade is bullshit. Total goddamn bullshit. The Knicks would have won this game in a walk if it wasn’t for Wade suddenly morphing into the bastard son of Ray Allen and Steve Novak, knocking down 5 of 7 shots from beyond the arc. Most of those threes were contested, off-the-dribble looks ... in other words, they were bullshit threes. Everything Wade does is bullshit.
- Boy, am I glad Rajon Rondo doesn’t play for the Knicks.
New York will face a far stiffer defensive challenge on Sunday as they take on the Utah Jazz in a matinee at the Garden. If Rose, Melo, Noah, Lee and Kristaps execute on offense like they did Friday, then there ain’t a damn thing that can be done to stop them.