I guess we were due for this kind of game.
The Knicks played some of the worst basketball of this young season throughout the first three quarters. They had no business being in this game at all. The incompetence was remarkably pervasive, affecting every single facet of this beautiful game for 36 minutes straight. The silver lining of that performance (coal lining, in retrospect) was that Phoenix was also infected by the general idiocy, and it was incredibly obvious throughout the game. Any competent team turns THAT showing into a 30-point blowout. So the Knicks, despite literally dozens of mistakes that insult the very game they play, were able to hang around until the fourth quarter.
From there, it was actually pretty fun for a while. Marquese Chriss made a colossal error by throwing Kristaps Porzingis to the ground after a scuffle in transition, which simultaneously gifted us another look at PISSED OFF PORZINGIS (Kent Bazemore has never been the same) to go with a flagrant 1. From that point forward, KP reminded Chriss that he’s easily one of the least intelligent defenders in the league — our heavenly savior outscored him 20-0 after that little scuffle.
Justin Holiday gave some excellent glue guy minutes after an ineffective first half, culminating in a massive ally-oop for Porzingis. Kyle O’Quinn had his best stretch of the game, which almost made up for his mostly awful defensive performance (more on that later). The cherry on top? Actual NBA minutes for Ron Baker! And he kinda had an actual impact (he finished with a +8, second highest on the team); the single glimpse of consistently competent basketball in this game came from a lineup of Baker/Holiday/Lance Thomas/KP/KOQ. Of course, that run was egged on by Phoenix’ ineptness, and Ron didn’t make a shot, but I think we’ll all gladly take it.
Ultimately, though, KP missed a pretty good look on what would have been his first game winning shot. Then he fouled out in overtime, which was inevitable in this one. With the way the rest of the team (outside of Courtney Lee) shot the ball, that was pretty much game over.
Despite nearly stealing this game, there’s really not much of a silver lining outside of Porzingis and Lee. Here’s a list of guys who, by my eye, provided almost literally nothing positive, in any way, at any point in this game:
Joakim Noah — Started strong with 6 straight points, and actually hit 2 free throws in a row! From that point forward, he missed 4 free throws in a row, and his overall game took on the pallor of his hideous jump shot. He got destroyed on the glass, turned the ball over, and constantly fouled dudes at the rim. I’ll give him a pass for the turnovers because the entire offense was about as smooth as a wood chipper, but this was bad Jo, which...not looking great.
Derrick Rose — He got hurt (back spasms again; “PANIC” levels currently raised to 4), so he only played ten minutes, but he was 0-6 from the field in that span and making some really questionable decisions. The Knicks actually missed him a lot considering the performance from the next guy on our list, but all I can work with is his short stint, and he was awful.
Brandon Jennings — Good lord, the dribbling. It’s not just limited to that, though; over-dribbling would be theoretically OK if Jennings actually did anything while he pounded the air out of the ball. Jennings tends to dribble with no objective in the halfcourt, which is manageable when he’s coming off the bench, against the second best PG on the opposing team. When he has to consistently create in the halfcourt, against starting caliber players, it’s a disaster, and we saw that tonight. Jennings doesn’t generally play with poise; he’ll get a pick, dribble past it at his own pace, and dribble back to the top of the arc. But tonight, Jennings took his halfcourt passivity to a new level. 3 points, 5 assists, 2 turnovers in 28 minutes. That’s it. 6 shots, 5 assists, 2 turnovers. He just didn’t do anything.
Carmelo Anthony — Slow as hell. Bad shooting. Questionable shot selection. We’ve heard it all before, and it was one of those games for him. This felt worse than the others, though, as Melo didn’t have a notable impact at any point in this game until one OT isolation bucket that gave us our last fleeing glimpse at hope. Recently, he’s been playing hard even when his shot wasn’t falling. Not so much in this one. Dude had the quietest 5-assist games of his New York career. Oh, and he got obliterated by a Devin Booker block during a 4 on 2 fast break for the Knicks. That was pretty bad. As P&T’er TarikW pointed out, it was as if he had been drained of his powers by the Monstars. His fourth quarter entrance also coincided with the Knicks a falling apart, which isn’t entirely his fault, but I’m sure he’ll get blamed regardless.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas — Probably his worst game as a Knick, but I’m not exactly keeping track. One of our usual plus-minus All-Stars was a -9 today in 4 minutes, and it wasn’t just a coincidence. Kuz couldn’t get going from the field, which is OK in a vacuum, especially when they were mostly good looks for him. Unfortunately, his defense was alarmingly bad to boot; missing shots is unforgivable when the opponent is going at you for 3 straight possessions for instant offense. Kuz got embarrassed trying to hedge high pick and rolls, which left Hornacek with no choice but to yank him. It wasn’t Bledsoe, either; it was Brandon Knight, who is having one of the worst seasons in basketball history according to certain niche metrics. You could argue that the Knicks win this game if Kuz doesn’t play.
You’re just not going to win with so many rotation players actively destroying your attempts to win a game.
On a macro scale, it was just as bad, which seems like hyperbole. It’s not. The Knicks were out-rebounded 61-43, with Tyson Chandler and Marquese Chriss grabbing more offensive rebounds than the entire team (Chandler had 23 rebounds. 9 offensive). Considering the Knicks played with two bigs for the vast majority of this game...that’s pretty embarrassing.
The offense was completely disjointed, with the entire starting lineup appearing to have suffered a massive bout of collective amnesia concerning their offensive chemistry for the first 24 games. They managed to shoot 39% from the field and 35% from 3 despite playing one of the worst defensive teams in the league. But that’s not all, of course, because that’s generally not how this team works. The Knicks let their stumbling offense drag them down on the other end as well, which isn’t a surprise at all. Once again, Phoenix is terrible, and they shot badly to boot, so don’t look at the shooting numbers — look at the fast break points, where the Knicks were -25 (33 to 8). That’s reflective of the overarching vibe this game had, which was one of laziness and one-sided competitiveness (until the 4th quarter). The Knicks held Phoenix to 13 points off turnovers, and still managed to give up 33 fast break points. That’s 20 points thanks to long rebounds and leisurely jogs to the other end of the court. I really can’t even comprehend that. So I’m gonna stop trying.
The sole positives were the individual play of KP, Courtney Lee, and (to a degree) Kyle O’Quinn. Lee just did his usual thing, hitting 2 of 3 from behind the arc plus his usual array of midrangers for 14 points on 8 shots (paired with his impressively consistent defense). Porzingis was a monster, breaking the 30-point barrier once again and hitting on all 4 of his 3’s. I just don’t even know what to say about him anymore. I have run out of superlatives. At this point, I just describe the crazy shit he does and point out that he’s seven foot three.
Like this: in the 4th quarter, Porzingis took a handoff from Kyle O’Quinn 18 feet from a rim, on a play typically reserved for shooting guards or wings, and dribbled inside for an easy dunk. Later, he jumped into the sky and grabbed an ally-oop pass that was like 25 feet above the ground and slammed it home with one hand. Then he hit a bunch of 3’s. He’s seven foot three. He’s now averaging about 21/8 with a steal and 2 blocks per game, on 50% from the field and 40% from 3. Our Unicorn continues to grow and mature.
Kyle O’Quinn also put up some massive box score numbers (22 and 14 on 9/16 shooting), but his numbers make his impact look a little bigger than it was. He feasted on the offensive glass and turned a lot of his opportunities into makes, but most of the damage was a symptom of the Suns bigs helping on drives to the rim. To his credit, he was easily the Knicks best defensive rebounder to boot. On the other hand, he looked a little too similar to early season Kyle on defense tonight (particularly defending the pick and roll), and that’s a bit worrying considering the strides he had made in the past couple of weeks. Overall, I’ll certainly take this kind of game from Kyle, but his stat line is definitely deceiving.
Really tough loss here — this isn’t doesn’t even cover all my notes, it was really that bad — but there’s nothing to do but forget it and move on. Golden State is next, and I would like to see the Knicks rest Carmelo and Rose at a minimum, because the Warriors are going to absolutely annihilate this team.