The night got going on the right foot. Kristaps Porzingis canned some cabbages and beets. The Knicks got out to a 15-point lead. Chicago was flummoxed, there were no open shots. Then they brought in Nikola Mirotic! Alas, no shots to be fired because Lance Thomas suffocated the Montenegrin-Spaniard. As King Henry the 2nd decried in the game thread, it was Paul Zipser you were waiting for. He unlocked the arc for the Bulls and Chicago rampaged back, swiftly closing the gap in the final few minutes before half time.
In the back and forth of the second half each team tripped and their bricks spilled everywhere. New York narrowly held on to the lead until (twice a Bull, always a Knick) Justin Holiday tied the game with a corner three and eventually the Bulls would take the lead and win for the ninth time in their last eleven games.
Uninventive play calling and a lack of urgency were the Knicks’ undoing in the final stages. It’s nice to see them have a puncher’s chance in a game where Porzingis couldn’t buy a bucket late (9-22 overall, 1-6 from three). It’s just too bad the team couldn’t successfully force the issue. Clearly that's where Tim Hardaway Jr. has come in handy. Sometimes you just need someone who can spring loose and get a shot away with quickness.
Let’s start with something good.
- It was O° in Chicago and Clyde Frazier didn’t bring a coat. The man is too immaculate to be weighed down by such insensible bulk. He uses the quick jolt of fresh, frozen air to invigorate his aura as he briskly dashes from any variety of chauffeured or piloted vehicle. The man’s not hot.
- Doug McDermott got his first start and he caught the yips. Let’s hope it doesn’t carry over. Doug came up short on everything all night. Made a few grim defensive blunders including not grabbing a rebound that was inches away from his hands. He did level some unsuspecting Bull with a free throw line back pick to uncork Michael Beasley for an easy lay up. That was awesome but that was about it.
- Is there something slightly Mike Bibby-ish about Doug McDermott? I’m sure if we google image search “Doug McDermott nape” we’ll get a Mike Bibby picture in there somewhere. I’ll get my analytics team on this and let you know what we uncover.
- Speaking of lookalikes: the role of Lauri Markkanen is being played by Dominic West. Or maybe Dominic West is doing some field work for the upcoming Mike Dunleavy biopic.
- Not always a Knick, really only a Knick for one season, Robin Lopez managed to shimmy and bop Enes Kanter off the offensive glass. He also gave Kanter a rough go getting into the lane for post ups and roll man opportunities. Enes still snagged 11 boards, but ten were defensive and at least a few of those were stolen from Porzingis and friends. He learned from watching Russell Westbrook close up, I imagine. Four points (2-7) and a seppuku three pointer to end the game.
- Not all was bad. The real reason for McDermott’s start was to get Lance Thomas out there refusing Mirotic a touch. He did his best all game and it was positively sublime. Shadowing him full court. Stunting his help instincts and just completely shutting Nikola out of the game. Mirotic finished with four lousy points in 25 minutes on a pair of extremely difficult shots. Then on offense Lance was sneaking behind, away from and around David Nwaba, Denzel Valentine and all brands of defensive hiders and over-players. Excellent game from Lance despite not much in the numbers department.
- Frank Ntilikina did his usually doling of defensive punishment on the herky-jerky array of Chicago lead guards. He also jumped up a peg on offense getting out in transition a little more hastily, and keeping is dribble alive more willingly in the half court. Frank is getting accustomed to the pace of the NBA game. He’s not always going 55 in a 45 zone, but we’re starting to see him stretch his legs a little bit. It’s clearly a point of emphasis with the coaching staff for the guards to attack earlier and oftener, as was readily evident when Kyle O’Quinn psychotically shrieked at Ntilikina to come use his screen for a side pick and roll out of pistol. Frank was surveying too much and the Bulls defenders were able to square up and turn the Knicks over. On the very next sequence:
He’ll need to get his fouling in check sooner than later as he tallied his sixth in the closing minute. He’s too frivolous stopping fast breaks sometimes. It’s strange because he picks up the ball and steers it out of the middle, but then as his teammates get set, he takes the foul. It’s as if he would rather take the heat than let one of his teammates get beat or make a mistake. Ah to be young and foolish again! Now I’m no longer young and just foolish. Nevertheless Ntilikina got almost all the fourth quarter minutes and looked poised enough to lead the way, but too nice enough to just apprehend the ball and bark orders.
- Good and bad game for Courtney Lee. He never looked fully comfortable yet he still managed his staple of good defense and some timely shot making. He tried to make some stuff happen with irrational confidence but let’s face it, he’s no Tim Hardaway Jr.
- And then there was Kristaps. Early on he just lasered in some 18-foot pull ups and got behind the defense in transition for some dunks. He speared a 30-footer. He made some fantastically patient defensive stances, knocking away, altering and just evaporating the thought of some shots.
Kristaps moved the ball reasonably a little bit but he also relied on his isolation touches too much when he was being defended well by Markkanen.
More of that please. Less getting packed by a Fin’s fin.
- Michael Beasley cannot punish every single switch he gets, every single night. It’s just nonsense. Yet there I was watching horrendous swaths of the game with Beasley turning and facing to slam into three defenders and cough up the ball.
- Before the game Jeff Hornacek said he wanted the team to want to go and fight for a win when they could. Looking back it seemed like that was a built in excuse for a lack of preparation. There were multiple episodes of non-plays run after time outs and from sideline out of bounds plays. One in particular, was after Porzingis hit the deck to recover a loose ball, Hornacek stormed the court and hollered for a time out. With basically a full shot clock the Knicks ran a play that got them a long pull up two from Courtney Lee under duress. Something tells me they could have swung the ball and gotten some type of flare for Lee to catch and shoot if thats the shot they really wanted. It just seemed so careless at times. Not a great showing from Horndog.
Tomorrow night they’ll face the ever-frightening San Antonio Spurs. Good luck, New York basketball friends. May the road rise up to greet your wins.