Maybe next game, the Knicks won't spend the whole night trailing.
A night after as bipolar a performance as possible, New York narrowed the extremes but still dug a hole they couldn't escape, losing 91-85 to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Missing Carmelo Anthony (left knee soreness) and Lance Thomas (concussion symptoms), they opened with three-guard lineup of Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway, and Arron Afflalo paired alongside Kristaps Porzingis and Robin Lopez. These days it doesn't matter who starts; the results are the same: the Grizzlies were up 10-0 three minutes in and for half the first quarter no Knick could score besides Calderon. After the opening quadrant, Jose had four baskets and 10 points; the rest of the team had 4 and 8, and Memphis led by six.
Sasha Vujacic got in a nice brief rhythm from downtown in the second, but the Memphis balance was remarkable: halfway through the quarter nine Grizzlies had scored, each making either one or two field goals. They turned it on late in the half, hitting eight in a row at one point and dominating New York 22-6 in the paint in opening a 10-point lead. No Carmelo, no Lance, 10 Knicks played, and yet the only one to take fewer shots than Porzingis (2) was Jerian Grant (1). My kingdom for a point guard.
For a while this looked like just a gradual, inexorable loss. On one possession the Knicks played five-on-four for about 10 seconds yet never got a shot off and committed a violation. They made a run to tie things late in the third, then gave up nine straight, including a touchdown pass to Vince Carter resulting in a last-second lay-in. The Knicks are getting pretty good at giving up last second points of late!
The Knicks FINALLY started going to Porzingis late and -- spoiler alert -- that was a good idea! But down eight in the final minutes, Porzingis passed up an open three and had his pass picked off by Jeff Green, who went in alone for the breakaway dunk. Memphis up 10. Game over, right? Wrong!
The Knicks kept coming, and cut the deficit to two in the last 10 seconds. Afflalo drove up court and missed the first shot he got. Time was short, so there wasn't all day to deliberate...but at this point, the last guy you feel like watching take and miss the first look he gets in a big spot is Arron Afflalo. Especially when he was shooting 28% for the night before that miss. Game/set/match, Grizz.
- A truly superlative performance by Calderon. He was dishing, he was swishing, he was penetrating off the dribble and off cuts. Kept New York in it for a while as the only Knick in double-figures entering the fourth. Fine ham abounded tonight.
- 17th double-double for Porzingis this year. Yyyyyeah, arbitrary fixation with a base ten system!
- Mario Chalmers received a flagrant 2 and was ejected for elbowing Vujacic in the jaw. Mos def Sasha's overrated as a shooter, and I don't know how far one can quantify his mentoring. But drawing elbows to the chops is clearly Vujacic's most enduring (endearing?) NBA skill.
- Did Mike Conley save the Knicks some summer cap room tonight? Just eight points on 2-9 shooting. Nine assists to one turnover, though.
- Waaaay too early to judge. Just curious: if Jerian Grant turns out to be Greg Anthony 2.0 - can't shoot; OK on defense; capable of the occasionally competent entry pass - how are we with that?
- Lopez and Porzingis intimidating and devastating on the interior D. Looked like they had a real advanced understanding of how to work together. That's a lot of human flesh there, that is.
- Afflalo versus Jeff Green is the ultimate matchup of streaky players who've only ever been labeled as "underrated" or "overrated." Apparently they just don't rate.
- Green finished with 16 tonight and maintained his history of only ever seeming to score backbreaking buckets. Every time Jeff Green has ever scored against the Knicks, for years now, it's hurt.
- So at one point in the first half Lopez calmly and totally intentionally hit a face-up 20-foot jumper and I wondered, "Maybe that's a thing he can do." Later he bricked a few and I wondered why it took so long in life for me to embrace chocolate-covered pretzels.
- Early on Sasha Vujacic was guarding Vince Carter, and it was just the ultimate metaphor for being in your mid-to-late 30s.
Quoth TheTrailBlazer: "Why. Why. Why. Why. Why." There were a lot of whys tonight. Why did it take so long to go to Porzingis? Why does Afflalo confuse himself with late-stage Kobe Bryant? Why do the Knicks seem to fall behind 10-0 every night? Why does Thansis Antetokounmpo exist if he can't get any run in a game where two small forwards are out injured? Why should you maintain hope?
That last one I can answer: the Knicks lost four in a row a little over a week ago, then won, then (now) lost another four in a row. Therefore, they're destined to win Sunday at home against Denver. Just ask this scientician. See y'all then.