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Knicks 95, Nets 90: ‘Willstaps Porgomez’

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The Nets stepped to the European Union and got rolled.

NBA: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As the Knicks descend ever further from dreams of a postseason berth, it sometimes difficult to remember that these games are meant to be enjoyed. What fun is there in a nigh unwatchable 95-90 win over the worst team in the league, the Brooklyn Nets? After all, doesn’t this game hurt New York’s chances while solidifying Boston’s (by virtue of owning Brooklyn’s pick) hammerlock at the best odds of winning the draft lottery? That kinda sucks, yo.

But let us not venture so far into Tank Country that we no longer enjoy a performance from either of the Knicks’ young guns, Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez — “Willstaps Porgomez”, pronounced “Billstaps Porgomez”, as Muruju put it. The Knicks were crappy enough to need a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat Brooklyn, but it was their young Euro stallions who stepped up and carried them to victory. It was pretty damn fun, and I hope to see more of it in the future!

The story of Wednesday’s win is in many ways the story of the fourth-quarter box score (courtesy of NBA Stats):

No you’re not tripping on shrooms (or maybe you are; I’m not here to judge) — the backcourt trio of Brandon Jennings, Justin Holiday and freakin’ Sasha Vujacic played all 12 minutes in the fourth, while starters Carmelo Anthony, Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah combined for precisely one second of playing time. Melo (6-22 shooting) and Lee weren’t getting the job done, and Noah is Noah. The Knicks needed scoring and rebounding in the fourth, and they got that from the Unicorn (12 points, 4 rebounds) and Big Willy (8 points, 5 rebounds). Hell yeah.

Notes:

— This game has to go on the shortlist of Kristaps’ finest fourth-quarter performances. Where do we begin? The young Latvian has been struggling mightily for a month, hasn’t made many clutch shots this season, and was still recovering from the illness which kept him out of yesterday’s game. He started off woefully, and removed early in the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul. I doubted Kristaps would come back, given that he looked even more gaunt than usual.

Well come back he did. Kristaps got going thanks to a couple of tidy foul-line jumpers off passes from Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who was operating out of the post. Yeah, it took Kuz post-ups to finally unlock the Knicks’ offense...this game was weird. Kristaps’ buckets weren’t always pretty — he shot 3-6 from the free-throw line, and his lone-three-pointer needed a couple of friendly bounces, but he did what needed to be done. His totals: 19 points, 12 rebounds. A man’s game.

— Speaking of men...

Willy Hernangomez stomped all over Brooklyn to the tune of 16 points and 16 rebounds, his first double-double since the day before. It’s weird how he keeps doing this when he gets playing time, don’t you think? The Nets may be garbage, but Brook Lopez and Trevor Booker are extremely competent bigs. Or at least they usually are. The Knicks did indeed have some trouble running offense without Melo and Derrick Rose, so they came up with an interesting solution — throw the ball literally anywhere near the rim and wait for Willy to power his way through 3-4 Nets to tap in the rebound. Hey, if it works...

— Justin Holiday played a typical Justin Holiday game: 7 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, 3 steals, 1 block, +26 on/off. Like he does with Willy, Jeff Hornacek sometimes forgets Holiday exists. It’s frustrating as hell. He’s very good, and the Knicks should be prepared to lock him up for a few more years.

— That feeling when your team gets two four-point plays for the first time in history and both of them come from Sasha Vujacic:

That freakin’ guy, man. I wish I could quit him.

— Jennings melded his usual batshit-crazy shot selection with just enough savvy passing to get the job done. He managed to shoot 1-11 and drop 10 assists, which is about the best you can hope for with him. Five steals as well.

The Knicks have a few days to rest before they face the Cavaliers on Saturday. The Cavs are quite a bit better than the Nets, according to my research. Bring ‘em on, I say! Just please don’t forget to invite Willy to the party.