The New York Knicks have become fairly adept in recent weeks at blowing leads late and failing to score at the buzzer in increasingly unique ways. P&T’er Walt Clyde Phraser described it eloquently by calling to mind ancient Chinese torture techniques.
Saturday’s 107-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns was yet another sterling example. Phoenix, the worst team in the Western Conference, finished the game on a 6-0 run. They took the lead when Devin Booker — who took approximately all of their shots down the stretch — was left completely uncovered beyond the three-point arc. Carmelo Anthony nearly won the game with a three of his own, but, well...
Just another day in the life of the New York Knicks. pic.twitter.com/cBxgi0eQUl— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) January 22, 2017
Hey, cheers to the kid who offered a hearty, “Good shot, Melo.” It was indeed a good shot!
"Melo, good shot!" Melo sick. pic.twitter.com/RZLWpudgwd— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) January 22, 2017
Alas, they don’t give you points for that. Melo finished with 31 points on 9-17 shooting — the second straight game in which he has scored at least 30, and the third straight home game. The Knicks lost all three of those games. There is absolutely no correlation between those two facts; it simply shows how even tremendous offensive games from the Knicks’ top scorer go for naught these days. Melo also dropped a team-high 6 assists.
That isn’t to say he was completely blameless here. Melo returned to small forward as Jeff Hornacek re-instituted the Knicks’ bigger starting lineup with the return of Joakim Noah, and he defended the 3 spot as well as he has all season...in other words, he didn’t defend at all. All offense, no defense, catastrophe in the final minutes — this seems to be Melo’s lot in life as long as he stays in New York. I’m a prime member of the “Melo isn’t going to waive his no-trade clause” club, but when that final shot spun out, even I wondered if the universe was telling Melo it’s time to move on.
- Joakim Noah’s return from a ankle injury went about how you’d expect. He was surprisingly frisky on the boards (15 rebounds) and couldn’t drop a basketball into a basketball hoop to save his life (0-4). It was a decent effort. The real problem at the center position was Kyle O’Quinn, who gave New York nothing in five first-half minutes.
- The Saga of Willy Hernangomez’s Playing Time took yet another unexpected turn. Big Willy Style received an unduly harsh “DNP-CD” in New York’s Thursday loss to Washington despite going off for 17 points and 11 rebounds during their previous game in Boston. Through the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s game it appeared Jeff Hornacek was ready to keep his rookie center on the bench indefinitely. But with O’Quinn all but useless, the coach suddenly sprung Willy from the bench midway through the third quarter. And it was glorious. The Suns are surprisingly rough and goonish — at least when they play the Knicks — and Willy was the only New York big who was willing (or able) to give as good as he got. All told he ended up with 6 points and 8 rebounds in 14 minutes, most of which he was matched up with former Knicks All-Star Tyson Chandler.
- Willy was removed for the final few minutes of the game by Hornacek, which was...less than awesome. I get that he had played 14 straight minutes by that point, but, uh, it was working. And it wasn’t like the kid hadn’t been well rested up to that point.
- For one glorious quarter — the third — The Unicorn was back. Kristaps Porzingis spent the first half trying to post smaller Suns defenders, which hasn’t really worked all season but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop trying, dammit!!! Then, suddenly, he decided to face up his tiny opponents and bury a deluge of mid-range jumpers and their faces. And his teammates kept finding him in his spots. Amazing! Kristaps scored 10 points in that period to go along with a steal and a block. Of course, he took only one shot in the fourth, and was ineffective on the boards all game (1 rebound!), but we’re looking for baby steps here.
WARNING: I’M GOING TO SAY BAD THINGS ABOUT DERRICK ROSE
- Derrick Rose is a bad defender. Fans will focus on his utter inability to acknowledge the existence of Booker on the game-winning three, but the most annoying thing about Rose’s defense is how he doesn't pick up his man again when the opposing team gets an offensive rebound. He just stands there, moping: "Y'all expect me to defend TWICE?"
- Yes, Rose was probably fouled on what could have been the game-tying layup in the final minute. The Knicks have had bad luck with the refs at the end of each of their last two games. Doesn’t mean they necessarily should have won either game, though. Whining about fouls — justified or not — instead of locking down on D has long been a Knicks’ staple.
- Should Ron Baker have been in there at the end of the game? Probably not. I would have preferred Justin Holiday, who is more of a threat to hit a jumper. But he did an excellent job defensively on Eric Bledsoe in the fourth quarter. The Suns’ other top scorer managed a paltry two points on 0-4 shooting over his final 12 minutes. Now if only he could have guarded Booker as well.
- Five minutes of playing time for Holliday is unacceptable. He’s one of New York’s better players. The dude who should be on the bench right now is Brandon Jennings, who isn’t doing a damn thing as a playmaker these days. Between Baker, Holliday and Lee the Knicks have enough backup PG skills to make up for Jennings, who is costing them every time he’s on the court. Another suggestion: bring Noah off the bench and run the offense through him...Triangle-style, baby!
- I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on with Devin Booker’s eyes for the past two years, and the answer recently came to me: he’s infected with the alien black oil from “The X-Files”!
The truth is out there...