It’s comforting to know that even on a day as abnormal as Wednesday (for P&T, at least), the Knicks are the same as they ever were. This was a standard game for the 2016-17 ‘Bockers: competent offense, embarrassing defense, and a late-game collapse. If I were to describe this game to you a month from now, removing any qualifying information about New York’s opponent, I’m quite confident you’d have trouble pinpointing exactly the game to which I was referring. But I’ll break it down anyway, because that’s what I’m here for. The Knicks play shitty basketball, the writers at this fine website write about that shitty basketball. I guess that’s some comforting consistency too.
About 5 minutes into this contest, I was already wondering how ridiculously large the final deficit would be. But who could blame me? On 5 of their first 7 possessions, the Knicks turned the ball over. The average turnover rate across the NBA this season is 14.2%, which is almost exactly 1 turnover for every 7 possessions. Yeah, yeah, small sample size and all that, but when you’re watching your favorite team play terrible basketball 3 or 4 times a week, these are the things you get to thinking about. Fortunately (unfortunately?), the Knicks couldn’t keep up that pace, and finished the game with only 15 turnovers.
Anyway, those early miscues put the Knicks in an 11-2 hole, but shockingly, they climbed their way out of it quite quickly. Thanks to some good passing from Carmelo Anthony and Kyle O’Quinn late in the quarter, New York headed into the second period down only two.
That good passing turned out to be contagious, and the Knicks spent the entire second quarter seeking open shooters and making the extra pass. Willy Hernangomez, especially, benefited from the generosity; by halftime, he’d poured in a very efficient 13 points. And wouldn’t you know it, the Knicks’ solid execution on offense allowed them to take the lead with about 3 minutes remaining in the half. They would enter the locker room up by 1.
The party didn’t stop after halftime, at least not immediately. More unselfish play on offense, led by Derrick Rose(!), along with a few good defensive possessions from Willy and Kristaps Porzingis allowed the Knicks to extend their lead to as much as 12 points midway through the third quarter. But then Jeff Hornacek decided to send Melo back into the game, and he may have literally driven a tank onto the court (with a lot of help from O’Quinn), as Milwaukee somehow erased that lead in less than 5 minutes and even took a 3 point lead into the fourth.
The fourth quarter went as fourth quarters do. The Knicks offense stagnated, their defense stayed awful, Giannis Antetokounmpo yammed on some fools, and the rest of the Bucks contributed just enough to supplement Giannis. Rose tried his damndest to keep New York in the game (on offense), but this tank slows down for no one. Except, as our pal Melo’s Bucket Hat Collection noted in the game thread, apparently Orlando.
Let’s hit some notes:
- I’m not going to waste my time talking about how bad each individual Knick’s defense was tonight, because we all know how defensively-challenged this team is, so I’ll get it all out of the way in this first note and then ignore it in the rest of them. Yeah, this team’s defense is terrible. Derrick Rose did play a legitimately impressive offensive game (and I’ll get to that in a bit), but he just has NO interest in deterring opponents from scoring. His closeouts are lazy, he switches with abandon and often for no apparent reason, and he lets guards and big men alike drive past him like he’s not even there. Rose is probably the most egregious offender (ha!), but it really is a team-wide issue. I mentioned Willy having played a few good defensive possessions above, but apart from that, he let Antetokounmpo get whatever he wanted around the rim. And Kristaps wasn’t much help either. I remain confident that Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas are capable defenders, and that KP will eventually grow into one, but it’s hard for them to accomplish much when the other players on the court are uninterested in defending/unable to defend/unable to comprehend that trying to stop the other team from scoring helps you win games.
- Okay, I lied. One individual note about defense. Late in the third quarter, Rose made a totally unnecessary switch (told you!) with Lance Thomas. But then, something amazing happened: Lance forced Rose to switch back! This seems like a very simple fix for a misguided switch, but the Knicks NEVER do it, for whatever reason. Seeing Lance recognize Rose’s mistake and correct it was heartening.
- As bad as Derrick Rose was on defense, he was a real bright spot on offense. This was his best game in a long time. The final line: 26 points on 13/16 from the field with 6 assists. Rose looked to pass when he was trapped, ran the pick and roll impressively, and just generally let the offense come to him rather than forcing the issue. And of course he threw in some spectacular finishes at the rim for good measure. Not a single three pointer or free throw attempted, which is pretty solid evidence that this isn’t an easily repeatable performance, but I have to give credit where credit’s due: Rose was pretty much the only Knick who consistently got what he wanted on offense after halftime. Good job, Derrick!
- Willy Hernangomez proves more and more that he needs to be a big part of this team’s long-term plans with each passing game. 13 points and 12 rebounds on 6/10 shooting for Guillermo. He was often on the receiving end of those P&R passes and took full advantage, as his stat line indicates. It’d be nice if he could extend his range a bit, but regardless, Willy’s a ton of fun to watch (especially with that lingering black eye).
- Kristaps Porzingis could never seem to get fully untracked and had a fairly pedestrian game. Still <3 u, Kristaps.
- Carmelo Anthony was TERRIBLE tonight. Look, I’m fully on board with the tank, and am satisfied with how the loss aids in that effort, but I can’t deny that I root for the Knicks to win while I’m watching the games even as I outwardly say I hope they’ll lose. So watching Melo be so freakin’ awful against a team he normally dominates was rough. The box score line (16 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) isn’t too repulsive at a glance, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Other than that short period in the first quarter when he was acting as a good facilitator, Melo didn’t do much passing or taking of smart shots or really anything resembling helpful basketball. No big deal, ultimately, but hoooo boy was that bad.
- The Bucks are a much more talented team than the Knicks, but Jason Kidd (as much as I love him for 2012-13) is a damn pest, and he threw some funky lineups out there in what seemed like an attempt to assist Milwaukee in their personal tankathon. That was probably part of why New York’s offense looked so good for 2 and a half quarters. But the Knicks’ shittiness outshone Kidd’s sneakiness in the end.
- I just noticed that in my recap of the game’s events up above, I wrote “Willy and Kristaps Porzingis,” which makes it seem like I’m saying Willy is Kristaps’s brother. I’m gonna leave there in the hopes that Kristaps’s parents read this and adopt Willy. Because you know what’s better than one Porzingis on the Knicks? Two Porzingises on the Knicks.
- “Porzingises” looks kinda like “penises,” but also not really. It’s only because they both start with “p” and end in “ises.” That’s not much to go on. It’s not like I look at “Porzingis” and think that looks kinda like “penis.”
Okay, that’s quite obviously my cue to end this. Like I said, the Knicks remain bad. They’ll probably continue to remain bad when they hit the court again on Saturday in Detroit. See y’all then, nimrods!