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Warriors 128, Knicks 100: ‘Fiz what are you doing?’

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Kevin Durant gets liquid hot and Fizdale loses his damn mind.

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at New York Knicks
These guys probably shouldn’t have played a similar amount of minutes
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

I forgot that I was writing this recap until this afternoon. When I realized I was, I didn’t care. I didn’t have anything going on tonight (which is totally rare for me on a Friday, trust me.......) and we were playing the Golden State Warriors, an automatic L if there ever was one.

To add some intrigue to what promised to be a rather straightforward affair, David Fizdale shook up the starting lineup, as he promised to do, and in drastic fashion. Frank Ntilikina made his first regular season start at point guard in his young career as expected and Tim Hardaway Jr. retained his berth as the starting two-guard, but the rest of the lineup was shuffled. Out went Trey Burke, Lance Thomas, and Enes Kanter and in came Damyean Dotson, Mitchell Robinson, and Noah Vonleh.

Buoyed by the changes, the Knicks got out to a hot start with Ntilikina and Hardaway Jr. providing some early fireworks; however, any early hope for an upset was quickly extinguished as Stephen Curry went off as he is wont to do. The two-time MVP carried over his scorching hot form from his 54 point outburst in the Warriors’ previous game and turned an early deficit into a 23–16 lead.

Game, set, match.

Right? Wrong. The Knicks put their own twist on the tale. Rather than fold under the seeming inevitable onslaught on deck, they fought and clawed their way back into the game, tying it at 25 after the first quarter.

When the Warriors pushed out to 49–36 lead with 3:14 left in the second quarter it seemed the was near. Our French son would hear none of it. A spinning turnaround jumper over Klay Thompson off the bounce was followed by a drive which earned him a trip to the free throw line.

A pull up three off the dribble with 52 seconds from Frank left in the first half cut the Warriors lead to five before Hardaway closed with a pull-up three and a skillful drive to the rim to knot it up at 53 entering the half.

While the Knicks were certainly aided by a certain air of “we don’t give a fuck” emanating from the Warriors, they took advantage and made their own luck, hitting the Warriors with a one-two combo of pesky defense and timely shot making. Somehow, through a combination of luck and pluckiness, the Knicks, one of the worst teams in the NBA, was tied with the Warriors, a modern dynasty, at the half.

Surely normal service would resume after the break, right? Nope. Fizdale’s inspired changes to the starting lineup paid early dividends as they traded blows early in the half before pouncing on a Warriors squad simply going through the motions to charge out to a lead early in the second half.

Frank, again, cut Thompson up to add to his own personal highlight reel, Hardaway chipped in with multiple fruitful forays to the rim, and Damyean Dotson found the range after a brutal shooting first half. Strangely, Fizdale subbed in Trey Burke for Frank with 7:03 left in the third — the Frenchman exiting after having tied his career-high 17 points in just 20 minutes.

Surely Burke would just see out the quarter before Frank returned early in the fourth quarter to play out the string and try to help the Knicks secure an unlikely victory, right? Wrong. Fizdale decided recently banished starters, Burke, Kanter and Lance, should get extended run.

While they initially helped to push the lead out to as much as 10, that was short-lived, with Golden State storming back to cut the deficit to three entering the fourth. The onslaught would continue unabated until the end as Kevin Durant transformed into the Slim Reaper and eviscerated the Knicks — aided and abetted by Fizdale’s negligent and curious decision making — in a virtuoso 25 point fourth quarter explosion.

Durant hit from every angle and distance. He delivered a sonning of epic proportions, which simultaneously horrified and delighted the Garden crowd. Frank and Dotson returned to the game with the Knicks down eight with 5:32 remaining, but the game was over. Fizdale had let go of the rope and Durant firmly had it in his grasp at this point continuing to spit hot fire.

A tight game entering the fourth with the Knicks clinging to a three-point lead ended 12 minutes later with the Warriors winning by 28. Durant was the star of the night, but Fizdale provided a healthy assist. Quoth Chris Hansen’s Datline, “Fiz what are you doing?”

Notes:

  • Frank’s performance was highly encouraging. His three-point shot looks so much nicer this year. Instead of his makes rattling through the net, they’re splashing through soaking wet. He showed off his improved handle, creating multiple shots off the dribble. He ran the show well without doing anything extravagant. As always, the defense was real at various points, giving Curry, Durant and Klay problems, as much as one can give players of that ilk problems. If you’ve been clamoring for Frank to get extended run at point, this performance certainly strengthened your argument.
  • Dotson is a gamer. He wasn’t bad in the first half, but just couldn’t hit anything. That changed in the second half as in one impressive sequence he drained a triple, stole the ball on the Warriors next possession, and then dribbled up into a foot-on-the-line two-point pull-up which he canned. He nearly killed himself on a wild contest at the rim early in the game, but that type of defensive effort, along with his rebounding prowess (another seven carrom collections tonight) and perimeter shooting touch are going to keep him in the rotation.
  • Burke struggled early on, but it was nice to see the diminutive guard recover some of his mojo in the second half, even if the dribble-the-air-out-of-the-ball possessions get old real quick. Enough with the unnecessary lefty push shots in the lane though, guy!
  • Kanter, man. Sure, I pile on him, even excessively at times, but tonight is not that. His play in the fourth quarter was embarrassingly bad. In a successive string of plays which saw the Warriors even it up after being down five, he bricked an 18-foot jumper early in the shot clock, softly fouled Durant on the Warriors’ ensuing possession for an easy and-one, got called for a moving screen, and, finally, got cooked by Draymond Green off the dribble from the top of the key. Brutal. Single game plus/minus is noisy, but his team worst -17 did him justice.
  • Mario Hezonja played. He did some stuff, both good and bad, but getting his shit packed in transition by groundbound Andre Iguodala stood out as noteworthy.
  • Lance Thomas also played. He hit a jumper early and committed a really stupid foul early in the fourth. That’s about it. Par for the course. It’ll all be over in April, guys. We’ll get through this together.
  • Allonzo Trier had a super rough outing. Onwards and upwards.
  • Mitchell Robinson had some really nice moments tonight. He’s raw and he fumbled a couple of passes around the rim early, but he really is a monster on the offensive glass (four in 22 minutes tonight). He needs to get better about getting out of the lane when guys are driving and generally understanding where to be and how to execute on both ends, but the raw ingredients really are spectacular.
  • Draymond Green came into tonight shooting 2–9 from downtown this season, so of course he went 2–3 tonight. Knicks.
  • Fizdale, man, that was just awful coaching from him down the stretch. He coached without any feel for time, situation or player performance. He seemed to walk back the bold choice he made with his starting lineup by keeping faith in Burke, Kanter and Lance far too long even as they blew the lead. In garbage time, out of a timeout he ran a high pick-and-roll with Trier as the ball handler and Frank spotted up in the corner. The whole thing was weird. There was a clip of him chewing out the team, dead on its feet, after the Warriors had ripped their hearts out. Some of them may have had to bite their tongue so as not to respond in kind for his similarly comatose fourth quarter effort.
  • Nobody cares that the Knicks lost to the Warriors. Even when the Knicks were up it always felt the Warriors just needed to turn it on for five minutes and they’d leave with the W. What’s frustrating is they didn’t even put their best foot forward and so much of it is because of Fizdale’s weird ass choices when the momentum tilted back in Golden State’s favor. He’s a young coach, with a young team, and we’re six games into the season. It’s going to get better, but it’s okay to shit on him a little bit for this. Shit away P&Ters, shit away.

For three quarters this was fun. There’s alot of positives to take away from the performance of some of the key members of the team’s young core moving forward, but bizarre fourth-quarter coaching in a game the Knicks were surprisingly very much in leaves me with an unexpected sense of disappointment and annoyance.

Oh well, 76–5 is still on the cards and, remember, Frank sonned Klay.