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Hornets 119, Knicks 107: “Frank gone. Game’s over.”

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This could have been “The Kevin Knox Game” if it wasn’t maybe “The Frank Ntilikina Game.”

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at New York Knicks Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks fell 119-107 to the <squints at notes> first-place Charlotte Hornets. The margin of defeat is virtually the same as Allonzo Trier’s points per game. Trier strained his left hamstring during in warmups and didn’t play. Fallacious linear thinking (as opposed to fellatious linear thinking) might conclude all that was missing was Trier. The truth is simpler and more complicated.

Simple is understanding Charlotte’s web begins and ends with Kemba Walker. Complicated is figuring out how to stop the All-Star guard. David Fizdale decided the best way was with length. Naturally, there was only one man for the job.

Simple was how Charlotte led by three after one despite everyone not named Cody Zeller and Tony Parker combining to shoot 4-of-15: Zeller and Parker combined to hit 9-of-10. Malik Monk keyed a 7-0 run at the start of the second to push the lead to double-digits, where it stayed the rest of the night.

Complicated are the ups and downs of being an NBA teenager. Kevin Knox was aggressive and comfortable all night, as well as — and this is not mutually inclusive to those two qualities — productive. My six-year-old out of nowhere busted out with “That’s what a good basketball player should do. Work hard and stuff. Like Knox.”

Simple was when the death knell sounded: a 16-2 Charlotte run in the first four minutes of the second half saw them go up 28. Simpler still? This quarter was a microcosm for what this season, at its most potentially encouraging, will look like. The Knicks were getting killed, but the story of the third — besides scoring 31 and still seeing the deficit grow by seven — was Knox (who replaced Mario Hezonja alongside the starters after halftime) and Frank Ntilikina looking like their best-case scenarios. Frank hit a floater and four jumpers, including three threes in the quarter; even when he missed on a drive, he was aggressive in missing, and the possession ended with Knox, who also got after it tonight, hitting from three.

Stopping Kemba is simply complicated, man.

Simple is keep doing what’s working till it doesn’t, so the Knicks kept riding the Frank wave. He hit another three and jumper to cut the deficit to 14. His mates were feeling Frank feeling it.

Complicated is any explanation for Frank’s fifth foul being anything but a con by Floppin’ Frank Kaminsky.

Ntilikina fouled out like a minute later, earning a good round of applause after hitting 7-of-9 for a career-high 18 points and earning Fizdale his second and third technicals fouls of the season and his first ejection. Ron Baker replaced him and Mike Breen goes “Ron Baker...gets a nice ovation” and I mean I wasn’t there or anything but it’s hard to imagine those cheers were for Ron’s entrance and not Frank’s exit.

Simply put, this was another wire-to-wire loss, double-digits most of the night. We know what we want from this team. They’re not there yet. But the revolution is underway.

Notes:

  • If Fizdale’s ejection was the obvious move in that spot, it wasn’t any less appreciated.

  • LOL
  • On a night he wasn’t scoring, Point Vonleh had 9 assists and 10 rebounds.
  • I ADORE NBA oddities. Point centers, small guards who like to post, forwards who’ll grab 20 rebounds and never take a shot, etc. Plus-defenders who are invisible on offense are my kink. So I imagine I’d enjoy watching Michael Kidd-Gilchrist defend over a full season. Especially now that he’s being used more as a big than a wing. Even that corkscrew free-throw motion scratches me right where I itch.

Kevin Garnett didn’t grab that many rebounds in a game until his 47th. I mention this to reinforce my suspicion that Knox will be good, and because it’s a chance to shit on KG, and even if that shit is just a smidge of bird poop, twas worth it.

  • If MSG softened the backboard glass by about 10%, Knox would be hitting 80% of his runners.
  • If Knox ever experiences a Scott Pilgrim thing where people from his past come after him seeking revenge, Miles Bridges will be one of those people. The rook was looking to cook the rook all night long. It did not go well for the hungry Hornet, who hit just one shot.
  • Three points in four garbage time minutes for Willy Hernangomez, for all of y’all who lost your shit when that trade went down.
  • Baker looked good shooting (5 points) and setting others up (3 assists) in his 9 minutes. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
  • Lance Thomas looks fine as hell in street clothes. Has there ever been a bigger discrepancy in how smooth versus not-smooth a Knick has looked in a suit versus on the floor?
  • I will miss Tony Parker when he’s gone.
  • In the summer of 2010, the Knicks had cap space and dreams of LeBron James and another star. The fear was they’d end up with Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer. In the summer of 2019, the Knicks have cap space and dreams of Kevin Durant and another star. Some fear they’ll spend it on Kemba. He’s not KD or Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson. But he does things no one on this team can do, he’s younger than Durant, the same age as Klay and only a year older than Kawhi. It makes an uncomfortable amount of sense, doesn’t it?
  • When the Knicks and Bulls squared off in the early 1990s, one feature of Chicago’s offense was to feature Bill Cartwright early and often in games, and then pretty much never again. Cody Zeller scored eight points in the first five minutes and hit all five of his first-quarter shots. Didn’t take another shot all night.
  • I know it’s not the same thing. I do. But it’s conspicuous how demonized Enes Kanter is for his struggles on D while Mitchell Robinson is routinely teed up and torched on switches with nary a peep uttered. I’m proud the fan base seems to have collectively accepted Robinson’s inescapable learning curve. I know it’s not the same thing. I do. But still.
  • I watch the yin and yang of Kanter giving and taking, scoring and rebounding yet being exploited on the other end, and I picture a game of chess where one side is 16 knights. They’re better than pawns, but they’re no bishops or rooks.
  • Hornet head coach James Borrego’s face has notes of David Schwimmer’s.
  • MSG public address announcer Mike Walczewski’s “MOOOO-DIAY!” is MSG’s most entertaining player pronunciation since...?

Quoth arckillious: “Frank gone. Game’s over.” Hopefully the Knicks don’t complicate the present or the future. Ntilikina needs to play. He needs to play well to keep playing, but first he needs to keep playing to play well. Knox, too. The games aren’t over. A three-game road trip begins Wednesday in Cleveland. Hasta pronto.