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Hawks 116, Knicks 104: ‘Enes is our cornerstone, I guess’

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What a crappy game.

NBA: New York Knicks at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

I am pissed, y’all.

This humble blogger had to leave his parents’ house earlier than originally planned and drive three hours from Pennsylvania to Virginia so he could watch the Knicks take on the Atlanta Hawks and write about the experience. Fine. Whatever. Just go out there and beat one of the worst teams in the league, Knicks, and you’ll make the sacrifice worth it.

The was a sneaky crucial game for New York. They are facing an almost surefire loss Saturday at Houston. More importantly, however, was the opportunity was to test their questionable road mettle against a 3-15 cupcake. If they want to make (or even challenge) for the playoffs, the Knicks will have to win a few games away from the friendly confines of MSG.

Instead, the Knicks played like chumps for three quarters following a red-hot opening 12 minutes. Here’s the game in video form.

The Knicks scored 39 points in the first quarter...and still lost. They got a turn-back-the-clock-slightly performance from Kristaps Porzingis, who shot better than he had in a week or so (28 points on 9-18 shooting)...and still lost. They got a season-high 26 points from Courtney Lee...and still...well, you get the picture.

They lost because they turned the ball over far too often (20 times, in fact), because they played some lazy-ass defense, and because (I can’t believe I’m saying this) they missed Enes Kanter’s composure. Yes, the same dude who broke his hand punching a chair and fosters a longstanding beef with LeBron James was needed to keep the Knicks under control in the second half, particularly on offense, where he tends to make good decisions with the ball and helps cover up for a lot of mistakes with his offensive rebounding.

Alas, the duo of Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez wasn’t quite up to snuff when it came to replacing Big Enes—the Knicks’ cornerstone, as P&T’er foiegrastyle semi-sarcastically put it. O’Quinn has been a disaster for weeks now, and shouldn’t be playing at this point when Kanter is healthy. Hernangomez was terrible in this game, but I think much of that stems from lack of playing time, loss of confidence, and a bad matchup. Jeff Hornacek probably should have gone to a small lineup earlier, but even when he finally had the right guys in place, the Knicks players were too scatterbrained to make a real difference. Such a bad, bad game.

Notes:

—Kristaps missed some tough iso looks late in the game, which has often been a problem for him in close games. Hopefully that’ll change once Frank feels comfortable running the offense. Also, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee had gone cold by that point, and Kanter wasn’t around to get them dirty, grimy buckets.

Doug McDermott misses so many open looks when I’m watching him live. I was working when he dropped 16 the other day. On Friday he shot 2-10 and bricked some wide open looks. I still love you though, Doug E Bucks.

Jarrett Jack put up big numbers, scoring 10 while dropping 14 dimes. Still, he let Dennis Schroder cook him extra-crisply on many possessions.

Frank Ntilikina, on the other hand, struggled with the Hawks’ pressure D, turning the ball over thrice (against 3 assists), but he did shoot the ball a bit more comfortably in his 15 minutes of playing time. I’d like to see him get some big minutes against Houston in what will probably turn into a SEGABABA ass-whooping.