Wednesday night’s contest against the Orlando Magic felt like a near-certain loss even before the opening tip for a number of reasons—road venue, decent opponent, second night of a back-to-back, and most importantly the absence of LEGITIMATE NBA SUPERSTAR Kristaps Porzingis. The other Knicks deserve credit for keeping the outcome in doubt for the better part of three quarters, but in the end it was the Magic prevailing in relative comfort, 112-99.
The Knicks kept things close in the first quarter thanks to the hot shooting of Tim Hardaway Jr., and even took the lead throughout most of the second quarter thanks to the continuing strong play of the bench, but the starting lineup had no answer for Orlando at the end of the second and start of the third quarters, as you’d expect from a Kristaps-less bunch. Game, Set, Magic.
—Seriously, this bench unit just keeps on gettin’ it done. Jeff Hornacek made the somewhat controversial decision of starting Michael Beasley—who shouldn’t play, let alone start—in place of Kristaps. Was it wrong? Maybe. But I see the logic in wanting to keep intact the trio of Doug McDermott (plus-8 in 30 minutes), Lance Thomas (plus-6 in 19 minutes) and Kyle O’Quinn (plus-5 in 22 minutes).
—If anything, the one criticism I can level at McBuckets (13 points on 5-9 shooting) is that he should have shot more. Or at least the Knicks should have tried some more set plays to get him open looks. Don’t be shy, my dude. You’re killing it this year!
—The best thing you can say about Frank Ntilikina is that, on a night when the Knicks couldn’t stop turning it over (23 TOs as a team), the rook dished 9 assists while only coughing the ball up twice. He had a few excellent dimes to O’Quinn, who seems to be developing a nice rapport with the rook. You gotta hand it to O’Quinn: Getting in good early with The Frenchise is smart career management.
—Frank seems to be getting more and more criticism for his passivity in attacking the basket. If anything, he’s playing similarly to the way he did at Strasbourg, overly deferential to the vets, even when he might be better served taking it strong to the rim. Quite a few times in this game he either pulled up for a jumper or passed when he might have had a layup. Is this a terrible development? Not really. It’d be terrible if he couldn’t get to the rim. Nothing I’ve seen from his thus far has indicated this. I’m sure he will get over this and realize that he is a physical freak of nature who can roll over dudes like a tank.
—Tim Hardaway’s numbers were excellent: 26 points on 11-21 shooting, 11 rebounds. Was his play excellent? Not really. Was it bad? Not really. He clearly felt a bit of pressure as the No. 1 option, and he made some dumb mistakes (as he often does), but I’m not going to chastise the dude for shooting efficiently and grabbing 11 boards when all I really want for him is the shoot efficiently and do something else (like, say, grabbing rebounds!)
Let’s just put this game in our rearview and focus on praying for Kristaps’ good health, shall we?