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Knicks 112, Hawks 107 'This game is making me hate basketball'

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The Knicks close out an ugly one in Atlanta that nearly turned our basketball-loving hearts into stone.

NBA: New York Knicks at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not feeling too well today. Woke up with my throat irritated and a fever. I’ve sucked down about 15 cups of green tea and I’m not really a green tea kinda guy. I was, however, looking forward to watching this game, because I like basketball and, unlike most of P&T, I also like the Knicks. I’m sorry for this betrayal.

Very quickly after tip-off this game had me questioning my love for basketball.

The first quarter started with the Knicks completely outplaying the Hawks and, despite foul trouble for Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson, they jumped out to a sizeable lead. They also were getting to the line at an surprisingly high rate.

This is fucking great, right? The Knicks never get to the line at a high rate! For as long as I can remember the Knicks have been complete and utter shit at drawing fouls. What a delightful and unexpected plot twist.

Well, it would have been except the Knicks, like all the Knicks, decided that they were going to not make free throws. Despite getting to the line approximately 246202348 times in the first two quarters for a variety of Hawks’ transgressions, the Knicks finally converted on a pair midway through the second quarter courtesy of Enes Kanter (more on him later).

The Knicks’ generosity allowed a Hawks team that looked ready to roll over hang around, finally connect on a few triples, and eventually take the lead. They pushed the lead out to as many as 7 in the second quarter before the Knicks closed the gap and headed into halftime down just 3.

The Knicks finally stopped tripping over themselves in the third and bullied the Hawks on both ends of the floor. They executed offensively, swinging the ball around nicely for treys, in-rhythm post-ups and drives to the rim, putting up 35 points in the frame while they suffocated Atlanta defensively in holding them to just 18 points.

Entering the fourth quarter up 14, the Knicks extended the lead out to 16 and seemed well on their way to an easy victory before spending what seemed like half the quarter farting away possessions and capitulating easy bucket after easy bucket on the other end. Just when it seemed the Knicks were going to collapse entirely, Ntilikina hit a clutch three off of an Emmanuel Mudiay offensive rebound to push the lead out to 7 and give the Knicks some much needed breathing room.

Although the Hawks were able to cut the lead to 4 on several occasions down the stretch, they never were quite able to make it a one possession game. A steady stream of Tim Hardaway Jr. free throws down the stretch helped ease the nerves as the Knicks ultimately closed out their fourth win of the season.

Notes:

  • David Fizdale ran a designed post-up early in the game for Frank. He was able to easily back down Trae Young and shoot over him. That’s part of his game he worked on quite a bit over the summer and it was nice to see Fiz get him a good look early in the game as he had been struggling with his confidence the previous couple of games, including Monday’s epic stinker.

It seemed to have the desired effect as Frank had one of his better scoring halves of the season. He hit a three to end a streak of 14 straight misses from beyond the arc, forayed to the rim on more than one occasion for easy points, something he needs to do more of, and even hit a pull-up jumper out of pick-and-roll, something Fizdale needs to call more of for him.

  • As nice as it was to see Ntilikina’s offensive game return, it was his lockdown defense against Trae Young in the first half that was most impactful. The young Frenchman held Young scoreless in the first half and made his life so miserable that Young got pulled for Jeremy Lin to close out the last few minutes of the half.
  • Final Frank note, I promise. This dude gets a truly awful whistle. While somebody like Marcus Smart is allowed to dry hump guys up and down the floor with impunity, Frank routinely gets whistled for fouls for just playing good defense. On two occasions tonight he was whistled for having the temerity to cut off the baseline for Young and forcing him to dribble out of bounds. If I’m Fizdale I’m going to bat for my guy either by getting T’d up in game or bitching about it to the press and taking the fine.
  • Mudiay had his second consecutive solid game off the bench. He bounced back from a truly awful first half, showing to help the Knicks charge out to a lead in the third. While his 11 points (on just 8 shots), 5 rebounds and 3 assists were nice, it’s his newfound energy and effort on defense that’s been most pleasant. His strip on a DeAndre’ Bembry drive that forced a turnover during the Knicks’ strong third quarter run was particularly pleasing. He did get blocked three separate times and had one of the worst turnovers you’ll see in the third, but this type of performance is why Trey Burke was nailed to the bench tonight.
  • Hardaway was chucking in the first half and seemed to be trying to chuck his way into rhythm. If the Knicks were comfortably ahead this would have been somewhat acceptable, but with the Hawks leading for much of the half it was hugely irritating. Luckily, in the second half Hardaway was able to hit some jumpers and started to drive to the rim more, earning himself 20 free throw attempts. He finished with 34 points on 8/22 shooting.
  • The fourth quarter of this game was so fucking bad. The Knicks’ offense ground down to a halt and they seemed to lose all semblance of structure and purpose for the majority of it. This seems to be a recurring theme and it’s something Fizdale needs to get ironed out.
  • Also in the fourth the Knicks, specifically Kanter, failed to box out and the extra possessions helped Atlanta in their fake comeback. On three separate occasions Enes’ failure to box out Miles Plumlee led to offensive rebounds which ended in two monster putback jams for the 67th Plumlee and another in which the ball was kicked out for a Bembry triple.

Vonleh was also guilty of failing to box out on several occasions. Considering how they lost to the Pacers because of this sin, it’s something that you would hope improves over the course of the season, but so far it doesn’t seem they’ve learned their lesson. As Pat Riley once said, “No rebounds, no rings.”

  • Allonzo Trier is an undrafted rookie free agent. Lmaooooooooooooo (shoutout Malta Papi). This will never stop being funny to me. He’s already a quality bucket-getter.
  • Vonleh is pretty good for a big on switches, but he seems to switch a little too easily at times and this hurt the Knicks defensively down the stretch. Keep shooting threes!
  • Kevin Knox was cold. Ice cold. He had a couple of shots from beyond the arc rim out on an 0-6 night. He’ll be okay, I think. Give him some time to get his legs under him again.
  • When you see Tim take some bad shots from three and Frank not being set and airballing, that’s the downside of this “we need more 3PAs” era. I can’t even take credit for this take. Drew said it in our Slack. I tend to agree. Get off my lawn!
  • We’re 12 games into the season now and I’m seriously starting to question David Fizdale’s ability to draw up a competent or even functional inbounds play, be it out of a timeout or otherwise. In the second quarter they had a five second violation OUT OF A TIMEOUT! That’s completely unacceptable. I like a lot of things about Fizdale, but he’s got to show more creativity and get his guys to execute better.

The Knicks really are better than the Hawks. It seems pretty obvious after two games against them that the margin between the teams right now is considerable, but a cavalcade of missed free throws in the first half and a combination of braindead offensive possessions and failure to box out turned what should have been a fun and comfortable laugher into an uncomfortable and miserable buttcheek clencher in the fourth. Quoth Latvian Prankster, “This game is making me hate basketball.”