The Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee at Madison Square Garden between New York and Atlanta was an up-and-down affair that ended familiarly for the Knicks: down. A late comeback led to a five-point lead they couldn’t hold, and a last-minute Dennis Schroder three gave the Hawks the win.
Jeff Hornacek said he’d shake up the lineup and he did, with Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Ron Baker starting in place of Kristaps Porzingis (Achilles) and Courtney Lee (Amenable). What might Horny have been thinking? This.
Of the 30 most played lineups in the NBA this year by minutes, Knicks (Lee/KP/Melo/Noah/Rose) is 5th worst: -6.2 pts per 100 poss— Mike Vorkunov (@Mike_Vorkunov) January 16, 2017
Baker really seized the day, taking and missing three shots on the Knicks’ opening possession. Kuz did Kuz things in the flow, i.e. hitting threes and finishing a strong drive that included a nice ball fake. In the early going there appeared to be a lot of energy and ball movement, especially from Carmelo Anthony, who was flinging crisp hot potato passes like a guy very recently accused of killing the offense with selfishness.
Despite outshooting the Hawks 49% to 43% and enjoying an almost 2:1 edge on the boards, the Knicks were only up one at the half because the Hawks were pulling a 2013 Knicks and hitting threes while not turning the ball over. New York had 11 turnovers to Atlanta’s four; Rose alone had that many at the half. Point guard turnovers are the worst ‘cuz they often occur in or near the backcourt, often turned over to backcourt opponents who are often dangerous in transition.
The Hawks started pulling away late in the third but the Knicks stormed back to take the lead. Baker’s third three-pointer cut the deficit to 88-86, and on the next possession he stole the ball from Tim Hardaway Jr. (OAKAAKUYOAK) and found Brandon Jennings wide-open for a transition three. He missed, but Kuzminskas kept the ball alive with Paul Millsap and THJ there for the rebound, and a Justin Holiday putback tied the game. Joakim Noah soon found Holiday cutting free for a go-ahead dunk, then Baker hit a corner three. A 12-0 Knick run had them up 93-88.
While Holiday played well early in the fourth for New York, THJ was putting up buckets for Atlanta, with nine of his 20 in the quarter. Noah hit a pair of free throws late and Rose hit a bunch of tough driving lay-ups and floaters, but with the Knicks up two SO DON’T GIVE UP A THREE! Dennis Schroder was the business end of a wild five-pass possession that saw the Knick D scrambling and dashing and rotating every which way except close enough to close out the guy who’d end up hitting the game-winner. Watch enough games over enough time and patterns emerge, invisible and unmistakable. The invisible hand of Ball mandated Schroder’s shot go in. It had to.
- Kuz had 14 points and five boards. Hit all five of his shots inside the arc, a few after getting a bloody eye when Kent Bazemore’s left hand hit it finishing a back pass. Kuz came back with this, followed by a breakaway dunk and a tough and-one in the paint.
- Baker had 12 points and two steals in just 22 minutes. Interested in seeing if he gets more regular run, and if so how/if he adjusts when teams stop daring him to hit open threes.
- Eleven points and four rebounds, including eight points in the fourth, for Holiday, fresh off his 17-point game yesterday. The last of his baskets was a between-the-legs-behind-the-basket baseline pull-up. Straight Larry Bird shit.
- After talking about wanting the coach to push for more accountability, Rose was in on everything. Led the team in assists, turnovers and shots (tied with Carmelo). He was all up in the muck today.
- “Courtney Lee, corner three” has become one of my favorite Mike Breenisms. The rhyme lends a lyricism resonant of Clyde, and Breen says it with those little accents of hope his voice sometimes gives away.
- 17 rebounds for Noah. He’s had some solid games of late. Has he turned a corner?
- Malcolm Delaney really caught my eye today. I don’t actually know what a water bug is, but I get the impression it’s small and quick and all over the place, and that was Delaney: really in there when he was in there.
- No Dwight Howard today — he dressed but received a rest day. Has there ever been a star you feared as little as Dwight? I used to think Alonzo Mourning was the most overrated star I’d ever seen. Dwight dwarfs Zo’s dwarfness. THJ replaced D12 in the lineup.
- Kris Humphries got all the points and rebounds. Plus, he was hitting threes. Lots of threes. So really, Kris was Kristaps. Or Manute Bol.
- When Baker hit his third three, I began to imagine him emerging as a Knick hero, a guy I’ll tell my kids about watching break out, like a Matthew Dellavedova without the dickishness. Then I realized that would involve a cult following and invariable Linsanity-type backlash spawning a thousand piss-poor thinkpieces on the meaning of Baker’s whiteness and popularity.
- Jennings and Kuzminskas misunderstood one another on a pick-and-roll and both ran after the roller, Mike Scott. Delaney ended up hitting an open jumper. Jennings was visibly annoyed with Kuz; Kyle O’Quinn appeared to go over Kuz to address the mishap. Hey Brandon: you know what they say about people in glass houses.
- Melo got open off a Noah screen and was fouled by Sefalosha on an open three. A bemused Clyde remarked, “That’s the most asinine foul in the game: fouling guys from behind the arc.” As the three-ball becomes normalized, how many of our conventional beliefs grow out of touch? Is fouling someone like Anthony on a fairly-open three still the cardinal sin it once was?
- If the Knicks reach the playoffs, or are fighting for a playoff spot in March, there will come a critical moment where Rose or Jennings commit an eight-second violation. Book it. I have a strange obsession with the eight-second rule; literally every possession of every game I watch, I’m checking the shot clock to see if it hits 16. I’m telling you, Rose and Jennings get it down to 17 and change more than any backcourt I can recall.
- Adam Silver was at the game. If you’re into that sort of thing.
- Lee was looking good off the bench. Only 21 minutes of action for him. Any chance he’ll channel his inner Arron Afflalo and gripe? Pro’ly not, with 3+ years and nearly $40M left on his deal. Although...
Courtney Lee on what Hornacek told him today when informed him he'd be moved out of starting lineup. Doesn't sound happy pic.twitter.com/O2nFl96RK7— Yaron Weitzman (@YaronWeitzman) January 16, 2017
- Lee may not be the only one agitating about the lineup changes.
Brandon Jennings seems frustrated by the lineup/rotation changes: 'When you come in here you don't really know what's going to happen.'— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 16, 2017
- I’ve had a sore throat and stomach bug from hell all weekend and thus have been in a Vanilla-Sky-and-eight-bit-Nintendo hole. I didn’t realize the Knicks were playing the Hawks until pretty late on. When I did, I felt a mix of relief and chill. The Hawks play a pretty brand of ball and have for a number of years now. They’re fun to watch, a poor man’s Spurs: no matter who they lose or add, there’s a style of play that’s fun to watch. They’ve been pretty good for like almost a decade. If you could take your chances with James Dolan and Company the next ten years or sign up right now for what Atlanta’s done the past decade, which would you choose? Is it selling out to pick the latter?
- Tonight was Mike Dunleavy Jr’s third game as a Hawk. Shout out to the days he straight roasted the Knicks. He missed all five of his shots, including a couple from in-close and a wide-open three in the fourth that he always used to make against the Knicks. I thought him missing was a good omen. Now I realize he’s transcended the need for personal success and just dominates from a big-picture sense.
- Two certified Knick killers on the Hawks (Scott & Dunleavy) combined to miss nine of ten shots...and yet, still, the loss.
- Every time Porzingis does something, it’s probably the first time you’ve seen a human that big do it. Here’s the first time many of us ever saw someone 7’3” dressed like a teenage boy tryna look chill while mad nervous waiting for his date for the middle school dance to come to the front door.
- Don’t let Martin Luther King Jr.’s message get stripped and sanitized. Dr. King would recoil in horror at the persistence of people who settle for peace as the absence of tension rather than bleed for the presence of justice. Stay woke. Take risks. It’s just as easy to light a candle than curse the darkness, and it lasts longer. The darker the scene, the brighter the gleam of one lonely light.
Quoth HighFlyers28: “Knicks.” Yup. This was the Knicks Knicksing. Wednesday they’re in Boston. Let’s cut that Celtics lead down to seven games, boys!