I would say that was a fun win (and it was!) but DAMMIT KRISTAPS SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF ME. Just after halftime, at 8:56 PM last night, Kristaps Porzingis left the game with a mysterious non-contact leg injury. And for 16 excruciating minutes, we all had to watch the game not knowing what had happened, distracted by thoughts of firing up the Luka Doncic tank. But then, mercifully, at 9:12 PM, word came down:
Kristaps Porzingis (sore left knee) will not return.— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) December 15, 2017
Sore knee! Miracle! And thus, I could breathe again. With KP in the locker room, New York blew what had been a 13-point lead at half time by about halfway through the third quarter, even falling behind for a bit. But thanks to some truly excellent performances by Courtney Lee and Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks held a small but steady lead throughout the final quarter and ultimately put the game away with a clutch 3 from Lance Thomas with about a minute remaining. As I said, fun win!
Now let’s rewind to a time PKI (Pre-Kristaps Injury). The game was very back-and-forth early in the first quarter — until, that is, New York went on a 10-0 run in the middle of the quarter. From there, they’d slowly build their lead throughout the remainder of the first and most of the second thanks to some great passing from Frank and KP(!). At one point, the lead ballooned to 18, and it looked like a dominating road win was in the cards. Everyone was contributing on offense, and the defense was aggressive (if not always successful). But nothing’s ever easy with the Knicks, and they of course had to win this game without their best player. But win, they did. Let’s go through some notes.
- Only 7 points for Ntilikina, but I think we can all agree that it doesn’t matter since Frank contributes in so many other ways. 27 minutes, 5 rebounds, 8 beautiful assists, 2 steals, the usual suffocating defense, and a sterling +14. As WillyGOAT said in the game thread, “Frank is growing up before our eyes.” I legitimately do appreciate what Jarrett Jack has done for the team, but it’s time for Frank to start. Jeff Hornacek is willing — as he should be — to play Frank with the starters at the end of close games, but because he’s part of the second unit, this often leads to him playing for essentially the entire fourth quarter. If Frank were starting, his minutes could be more evenly staggered. Get it done, Jeff!
- Kristaps, before his injury, was on his way to one of the most well-rounded games of his career. 13 points in 17 minutes on 5/10 from the field and of course some good interior defense. The best part, though, was his 4 assists, including this one:
The evolution of KP.— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) December 15, 2017
Has scored five straight points, draws the double in the post, looks over the top of the defense and skips the ball to an open 3-point shooter. Porzingis has 4 assists thru 12 minutes tonight. pic.twitter.com/T4e3qUZOc6
If he can find a way to consistently make passes like that, it’ll open up his game to an unfathomable point. Let’s hope he’s able to play on Saturday so he can make passes like this over Carmelo Anthony’s head (still <3 u, Me7o).
- Courtney Lee really tends to step up when he’s needed. 27 points on 9/17 FGA, 3/4 from beyond the arc, 6/6 FTA, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals. I was very much on the trade Lee train this off-season, but he’s been a huge boon to this squad. I don’t think anyone else on the team can make the transition from fourth option among the starters to lead scorer so easily while keeping up his defensive intensity.
- Speaking of defensive intensity, Ron Baker needs to be getting minutes even after Tim Hardaway, Jr. returns, especially next to Frank. New York’s defense is legitimately stupendous when those two are on the court together.
- I’ve noticed that Kristaps’s jersey gets yanked out of his pants during every single game. Apparently they need to start making unicorn-sized jerseys.
- During a lull in the action, Clyde mentioned that Mike Breen is a Mets fan (after first calling them the Knicks by accident), then immediately asked him what he thought of the Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton. Breen didn’t want to talk about it. As a Mets fan myself, I don’t blame him. The Yankees, simply by making smart decisions, consistently lay bare the Mets’ (numerous) deficiencies.
Welp, that’s all I got. As I’m writing this, we haven’t gotten any horrible news on Kristaps, so let’s keep holding out hope that he’s fine. Meanwhile, Melo and the reeling Thunder are visiting MSG on Saturday. Time to pay them back for opening night.