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New York 101, Orlando 90: 'Ghosts don’t feel'

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Knicks playing defense?

NBA: New York Knicks at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

In what looked at times and felt at all times like a preseason game, the Knicks beat the Orlando Magic 101-90. New York led most of the way, riding a hot-shooting first half and a balanced team effort throughout: five Knicks scored in double figures, five had 7+ rebounds and seven had multiple assists. Ball movement was all the rage, and while the Knick shooting fell significantly from the first half to the second, the Magic were the same not-good team both halves.

Carmelo Anthony hit consecutive threes early to key an early 8-0 run. Kristaps Porzingis, playing center in place of the injured Joakim Noah and Willy Hernangomez, looked like one, getting to the line (six first-half free throws) and rebounding (six in the first half). The ball was moving with purpose and awareness; it seemed every time the Knicks threw four or more passes, they got what they wanted. Conversely, only a third of Orlando’s baskets were assisted. The Knicks led comfortably throughout the second half. Walt Frazier summed it up pretty well after a Justin Holiday lay-up: “This is not a triangle they’re running. They’re just playing basketball. Pass the ball. Go away. Go to the open spot. And they’re thriving...” This game was easy on the eyes. At times too easy, if you get my drift. This win felt like being really hungry and stealing a sandwich from poor, sick kid. You take it ‘cuz you need it. But there’s really not much feeling good about it.

Notes:

  • The Knicks’ first basket came when Porzingis found Derrick Rose cutting from the corner to the hoop. This was entertaining, given Rose’s recent comments re: standing in the corner. Also, that KP-to-Rose assist was one more than Rose has delivered to Porzingis all season. You don’t need to look that up. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
  • If Rose could play this Magic team 82 games a year, he’d be worth a max deal. He was dribbling and driving and dishing.
  • Lance Thomas started in place of Hernangomez, who was out with an ankle injury. No word yet whether he’ll play Friday against Philadelphia. Willy out with an injury. The 76ers’ Joel Embiid out for the year with an injury. They say things happen in threes. The Knicks best get Porzingis a week-long pass to Disney and leave him behind when they fly home tonight. Let Sasha chaperone.
  • Jeff Hornacek brought Porzingis back in the game with two minutes left and the Knicks up nine. Then he pulled him in the final minute. Thanks for the sadism, Coach.
  • A “Cha-sson Ran-dle” chant sounded when he entered late. May the spirit of Chris Copeland shine upon thee.
  • I couldn’t get over how meaningless this game felt. It wasn’t boring, or a slog to watch — the Knicks won, and shared the ball, and had some hot stretches, and all that’s well and good and true. But March games between lottery-bound teams, particularly in the era of players = assets = rapid personnel turnover, sometimes lack even a sliver of intensity. But when Evan Fournier drove to the hoop and drew a foul and both Melo and KP went down to the ground, I imagined six weeks of this team without them, with nothing to play for, and I was reminded just how big a country “meaningless” is.
  • Some nice O’Quinn/Holiday two-man work tonight. Holiday was launching up shots at an Iversonian rate. Doing work off the dribble, too.
  • Mindaugas Kuzminskas was pretty active tonight. Some reports said Minnesota asked for Kuz in the failed Rose/Rubio deal. Maybe that scared him into some extra energy.
  • In the second quarter my daughter asked me to untie a knot for her. As I worked on it I was zooming in and out of focus on the game (this knot was a mother). When you tune out the word-for-word narration and just follow the broad brushstrokes of an NBA game, the ascent to power of the three-pointer is striking. 19 minutes of game time had passed when I gave up on the knot; the two teams had already combined for 22 three-point attempts. They ended up with 54. How far can this go? Where are we headed with this?
  • Is this the most KP has ever been posterized?
  • Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, but I try to be super Zen about draft lottery positioning. I see the wisdom of tanking, but I don’t get overly worked-up about the team ending up sixth versus eighth. After all, there are so many variables involved: where your team ends up drafting is out of their control; the decisions of the teams picking ahed of them are out of their control; trying to guess which prospects succeed and which don’t is out of anybody’s control. Que sera, sera seems the best approach. I thought of this watching Mario Hezonja play for Orlando. He was the fifth pick in the 2015 draft, just after Porzingis. If the Knicks had ended up with Hezonja instead of KP, would que sera, sera have gone the way of “serenity now”?

Quoth NeedforShved: “Ghosts don’t feel.” Maybe that explains the lack of intensity I was picking up. I dreamed this team might finish as high as 7th in the standings and die a noble playoff death. I dreamed they’d make moves at the deadline that cast a brighter light on the future. Those dreams are dead. All that’s left is the ghost of those hopes and Friday Night Knicks with the Embiid-less lottery-bound 76ers. Whoop-de-damn-do.