Full disclosure, I, along with P&Ter The Ghost of Kristaps Past are Michigan fans so I’m sure we were both hoping for a little Knicks tankin’ to help us get over the Wolverines' 69 (not nice this time!) - 68 loss to Oregon in the Sweet Sixteen.
If Knicks fans have learned anything it’s that the Knicks can always be counted on to cheer you up...provided you want them to lose, of course. Before the game even started, it already looked like they’d deliver the tanky goodness:
Tonight's injury report: Anthony (sore l. knee), Noah (l. knee surgery), Rose (sore r. foot) & Thomas (sore r. hip) are unavailable.— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) March 24, 2017
Though the Knicks were thoroughly destroyed by a subpar Portland team, this was still appointment television for New York fans. The starting lineup Thursday featured Ron Baker, Courtney Lee, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Willy Hernangomez, Kristaps Porzingis, and the bench featured plenty of Chasson Randle.
As we’ve reported before, allowing Willy and KP gel together without Rose and Melo is important for the development of New York’s front court as the longterm cornerstone of the roster. It’s nice to see P&T fave-rave Ron Baker get some run, too.
At the end of the first quarter, Breen mentioned that the Knicks did get some good looks, but just couldn’t make any shots. That trend persisted as New York finished a tanktastic 40% from the field and 21% from three-point range, compared to Portland’s 48% and 52% (!!!).
The Knicks didn’t necessarily play terrible basketball. Oh, they defended terribly at the outset, allowing 37 first-quarter points. But the defense actually adjusted in the second half, holding Portland to 43 points in the final two quarters. They just didn’t have the shot-making prowess to dig out of that kind of hold, even against a mediocre Portland team.
This contest was quite palatable...especially since I know that most of you were watching Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson on TBS. I read the game threads, I know wassup. I know that dreaming of the tank made this game much easier to digest. I know.
Let’s check out some game notes from this perfectly executed tankening:
— Kristaps Porzingis: he started the game 0-5, which will certainly be a topic of conversation for James Marceda in his “Unicorn Report” segment on the Frozen Envelope podcast. Kristaps started slow and never totally looked comfortable as the game went on. He finished with 18 points, 9 boards and 3 blocks.
Health isn’t an issue for him right now, he just looks checked out. He doesn’t look like he’s having fun, which would explain how hard it has been for him to get into any sort of a rhythm offensively. I’d love for the Knicks to rest him, but I also want him to build more chemistry with Hernangomez. Ugh.
— Damian Lillard: is good.
— Portland 3-pt shooting: was good.
— Sasha Vujacic: I love how one of the storylines from this season has been that we can tell how badly things are going based on the number of minutes Sasha plays. It’s fucking hilarious. Poor guy. Anyway, he got 9 points in 14 minutes and yeah that’s about all I’ve got to say about that.
— Ron Baker: 4 points and 4 assists in 24 minutes of action. He sucks on offense. I love him so much.
— NAME THIS PLAYER: he had 16 points, 4 rebounds and went 0-3 from deep. No, we got rid of Andrea Bargniani. This, my friends, would be the stat line of one Courtney Lee. Unusual numbers for him, I’ll admit. He didn’t have a good game, but he played 41 minutes and there’s something to be said about that. I wouldn’t mind to see him be a bench player for the Knicks next year. Wouldn’t mind at all.
— Kuzminskas: scored 14 points, grabbed 8 boards and dished 2 assists. I guess he played OK. It just didn’t really looked like he cared tonight and who can blame him. It was nice to see what he’d be able to do in extended minutes, though.
— The Benches: Despite huge games from Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu, New York’s bench was only outscored 34-33 by Portland’s. My point? Chasson Randle and Justin Holiday played a lot of minutes off the bench, and they have been great for the Knicks. As we have said, the bones of a wonderful bench are there, now we’ve got to work on that starting lineup.
Knicks, thank you for making me forget about Michigan’s elimination from the tournament. I’m dreaming of Josh Jackson playing with KP right now, and that looks pretty nice. In all seriousness, though, this game wasn’t all bad. The Blazers hit more than half their three-point attempts and, as we’ve mentioned, employ Dame Lillard. We stood no chance, but we still got to see some future Knicks get valuable minutes as their roles expand (hopefully).
Ok, it’s late. Check the Knicks out in San Antonio on Saturday night. 100% chance they win that game, at which point I promise to write a post taking a closer look at New York’s conspicuous success against the Spurs. G’night!