Swin Cash has college championships, Olympic gold medals, and might very well end up in the Hall of Fame one day, so I’ll defer to her take on the Knicks’ bench:
“Youthfulness + closeness + vets with a like-minded approach”...that pretty much sums up the second unit that terrorized the Orlando Magic as the Knicks romped to a fairly comfortable (for the Knicks, anyway) 106-95 win. The super-big duo of Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez tore up the more ballyhooed Orlando frontcourt of Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic, Brandon Jennings dished the rock like a maestro (12 assists) and Mindaugas Kuzminskas did just about everything else the team needed as the Knicks pulled away in the second quarter and then again in the fourth.
It was that fourth-quarter run that really impressed, as the Garden was laid silent after Kristaps Porzingis came up hobbling. The Unicorn had banged knees with Vucevic and headed gingerly to the locker room. These were dark times, indeed. But O’Quinn quickly sparked the crowd back to life with a highlight-reel block, which turned into the always delightful big-man-running-the-fast-break, which turned into a sweet dish to Kuz for the drawn foul. Then it was Willy’s turn to go to work — the large Spaniard hit a few shots in a row, stretching the Knicks’ lead. Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose came back into the game in the final few minutes as the Magic crept a wee bit too close for comfort, but the game was generally over.
— So apparently Kyle O’Quinn is the new Dennis Rodman:
There are times when O’Quinn’s numbers don’t quite match his performance on the court, when he makes too many mistakes on D and stops the ball too often on O. This was not one of those games. Nikola Vucevic is a bona fide Knick-killer, and O’Quinn brutalized him on the defensive end while maintaining New York’s utter dominance on the boards. Oh, and he chipped in 14 points just for the hell of it.
— Look...the Kylie O’nangomez frontline pairing isn’t something I’d necessarily go to every night. O’Quinn and Willy still carry a -1.6 net rating on the court together, even after tonight. But against a Magic team that largely eschews small-ball, the duo worked to perfection. Willy was feeling particularly frisky with the jumper this evening, shooting three triples (including the second made three-pointer of his career). yet he remained a paragon of offensive efficiency at 7-11 from the field. Of course, every now and then it helps to take a shot from closer in...
— Like P&T’er TravSavage said, Brandon Jennings had the swag — the luminous swag that he was all too happy to share with his teammates. Jennings didn’t try to cheat the statisticians en route to his 12 assists — most of his dimes came on spectacular passes. It was a fantastic display of point guarding. You better watch out, Chris Duhon:
— How best to describe Mindaugas Kuzminskas’ game? Let’s call it “cheesy”. Cheesy is a bubbling fondue of savvy scampering, of being in the right place at the right time, making small-but-meaningful contributions all along the stat sheet (6 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, zero turnovers, 1 steal, 1 block) and yet playing better than those numbers.
— Mike Breen kept mentioning throughout the broadcast that Willy and Mindy joined Sasha Vujacic after Tuesday’s game in an hour-long shooting session. Sasha got exactly one minute of garbage-time burn, but he was making those veteran contributions. The Machine is for the children!
— It was an oddly passive night for Kristaps Porzingis, even before the terrifying knee incident. The Unicorn didn’t attempt a single shot in his first shift, and fruitlessly tried to take it to the rack a few times on Biyombo. It did not go well. He seemed uncomfortable with the idea of taking jumpers, yet he swished both of his three-point attempts.
Of course, he was still Kristaps, so he still did Kristaps things:
#Knicks had a 84.9 defensive rating with KP on the floor tonight, lowest DRating of the starters for the yr— Zach DiLuzio (@zjdiluzio) December 23, 2016
best defender on the team
— Carmelo Anthony had an off shooting night, though it didn’t matter much. He chipped in 8 rebounds and 3 assists. He’s starting to find some nice synergy with Joakim Noah on the pick-and-roll. (It helps that Noah is actually making some layups now).
— Derrick Rose picked up some of the scoring slack, leading the team with 19 points. It’s nice to have him and Jennings in their proper roles once again. I love ya, Brandon, but you belong with the second unit.
— The Knicks brutalized Orlando on the boards, 52-41. They also managed a pair of vintage Pablo sneaks on oblivious Magic inbounds passes. Somewhere up there (in Spain), Pablo is smiling.
— George Karl is boring.
Now the Knicks can take a few days off, wrap some presents, and prepare for the big Christmas Day showdown with the suddenly red-hot Boston Celtics. That would certainly be a nice game to win!