The Jazz beat the Knicks 114-109 Sunday afternoon. Sometimes matinees = fun, because neither team’s really awake. This one was fun ‘cuz both teams were in it from the start. The Jazz are really, really good at defense but the Knicks’ offense came out mad gooder, taking a 30-20 lead after the opening quarter. Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony were hitting everything from everywhere. Derrick Rose was assisting. Courtney Lee was rebounding. Joakim Noah was...well, he was sweating. Even when Porzingis exited early due to foul trouble, the Knicks sprinkled in some bench and expanded the lead. Remember that detail: bench + sprinkling = good. It’ll come up later.
Through the first half New York was getting in the paint and keeping Utah out of theirs. The guards were helping on the boards. The bigs kept ducking under screens and getting burned for it, but hey! Pobody’s nerfect. Slowly but steadily, though, Utah kept fighting back and fighting back. Gordon Hayward, making his season debut, set an NBA record for most free throws attempted by a player named Gordon making his season debut in a month that has the letter “V” in it, nearly single-handedly matching the Knicks’ team total. A Rudy Gobert dunk early in the third gave the Jazz their first lead since 2-0. The Knicks retook the lead. Then Utah reretook it. Then New York. Back. Forth. Tick. Tock.
Jeff Hornacek opened the fourth with an all-bench unit of Brandon Jennings, Justin Holiday, Lance Thomas, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and Kyle O’Quinn. You’ll recall:
bench + sprinkling = good
bench + alllllll the bench = bye bye, lead
A 9-0 Utah run gave them the lead for good. Rose, playing alongside Jennings again, missed a tough lay-up on a possession where both guards passed up open looks or open lanes, and Porzingis went over the back for his fourth foul. On the next possession, Jennings missed a tough lay-up and Porzingis was lucky not to get called for his fifth after again going over the back. Joe Johnson hit a three that bounced off the top of the backboard before falling in. Throughout the fourth, the Jazz were hot and the Knicks were not. George Freaking Hill had 23 points on 12 shots, nine assists and no turnovers, looking like the kind of point guard the Knicks never have. A Rudy Gobert lefty Statue of Liberty dunk over Porzingis was the killing blow, until thirty seconds later when Gobert stuffed a Porzingis dunk attempt. Then that was the killing blow.
- The Knicks, still in striking range in the final minute, pressed and forced the Jazz to eat 7 of the 8 seconds for advancing the ball past midcourt. Drama was in the air. Fans like drama! But Utah was like “Timeout!” and just advanced the ball out of bounds, past midcourt. Letting teams call timeout and advance the ball past midcourt is one of those rules that makes my skin crawl. It comes from the same dumb place as not letting teams foul guys who can’t shoot free throws. Why not ban defenders from pressing players who can’t dribble? Maybe install fixed footstools in the paint so guys who can’t dunk get a boost. Instead of one team winning the Larry O’Brien trophy in June, have random champs all season long. Every night, one of the teams who won is surprised with a trophy presentation. That way everyone’s a success. Get your baby boomer commissioner and millennial players off my lawn.
- Clyde Frazier calling Kuzminskas “Kuz” is a righteous bit of Celtic-hate appropriation.
- I’m not a coach, so I’m wondering: If late in a close game, all the Knick switching on defense results in open looks for Heyward...should you not switch?
- Mike Breen and apparently the fans kept getting on Melo for being a ball-stopper. I kept seeing possessions where the shot clock was low and no other Knick could create for themselves against the Jazz D. Am I wrong?
- This started last year with Marcus Smart and it’s happening more and more — Porzingis having small dudes like George Hill on his back, 15-20 feet from the basket, unable to take advantage posting up. Later on, he started getting deeper position and drawing fouls.
- Porzingis has still never had a 30-point game.
- KP was getting open threes off early pick-and-rolls with Rose early on. In the second half, the Jazz closed out on him, so he put the ball on the floor and hit a pull-up high off glass. The writing’s on the wall, Association.
- Melo had himself a true Bernard King game. Lotta points. Great shooting. No threes.
- Rose smacked Hill on the hand after being stripped on a jumper, forcing him out of the game. Clyde: “That might be the best foul the Knicks have given.”
- There’s a specific tone of terror that is only ever audible to the human ear when Breen thinks the officials missed a call. You could hear it when the Johnson three bounced off the top of the backboard. Breen was worried it hit the shot clock and shouldn’t count. Not “worried.” More “existentially scandalized.”
- Breen told an amazing marathon story about his rivalry with a dude in a Scooby Doo costume that deserves its own 30 For 30.
- Ode to bluecheese999: Friday against Chicago, all five Knick starters scored 15+ points. That was the first time all Knick starters did so in a road game since Patrick Ewing, Gerald Wilkins, Mark Jackson, Charles Oakley, and Johnny Newman on this day in 1989. Newman was once my first Knick ‘cuz he had the record for most consecutive field goals made. My 10-year-old brain was all “So run the offense through Newman. Duh.”
- Merry born day, inventor of basketball James Naismith! In a sense, you’re the reason no one here really likes the Knicks.
- Naismith’s first rules of the game were published in the Springfield College newspaper. The name of that newspaper? The Triangle. STAY WOKE.
- It turns out Naismith invented a stretching machine you’d stick five-month-old babies in. He claimed it’d help them grow a few extra inches. You’d like to think the inventor of basketball would have a posthumous public relations team getting ahead of these kinds of stories.
Quoth anthony1968: “When did George Hill become Michael Jordan?” Today, that’s when. Wednesday, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson gets the chance to be MJ when the Knicks host Brooklyn. Be there or be potentially more satisfied doing something else.