Last night the Knicks put the “ick” in Knicks, falling 128-110 to a Suns team that put the “nix” in Phoenix, as in nixing the tank. The West’s bottom feeders won their third in a row and just their second road tilt all season. New York was without Tim Hardaway Jr., Allonzo Trier, Damyean Dotson and Mitchell Robinson, but this game was all about who was there — on both ends.
For a lot of people tonight was their first extended look at the top pick in last summer’s draft,
Sam Bowie Deandre Ayton. I’ve seen a number of “I wouldn’t trade Robinson for Ayton” takes of late. That’s adorable.
When the Suns visit, the center of their universe is Devin Booker. Anyone who scores 70 against the Celtics is a friend for life. Booker had the hot hand from the drop tonight, scoring 13 in the opening frame. He offered a simple, public explanation for the Suns’ game plan tonight. We’ll get to it later, but don’t hold your breath. It’s nothing new.
On the other end, Kevin Knox scored 15 in the first. He’s a pretty good prospect when people aren’t blowing a few missed free throws out of proportion.
The aggressiveness is and always will be welcome.
Kevin Knox almost ended Richaun Holmes’s career pic.twitter.com/OAf0dhUNTn— Jeremy Cohen (@TheCohencidence) December 18, 2018
The Knicks looked good early, reversing their recent trend of trying to lose games right off the bat. For once they held an opponent under 30 in the first, and the offense was sooo fluid. Like Laminar fluid.
When water flows so smoothly it looks solid. This effect is called Laminar flow pic.twitter.com/2QtUYcQcxb— Physics & Astronomy Zone (@ZonePhysics) December 13, 2018
At one point Stingy confessed “Frank [Ntilikina] hitting [Luke] Kornet in stride on the trail 3 made it move.” There was much Frankness tonight, and yea, it was good. Frank adding a hook would be like Jason Voorhees adding the chainsaw. I want to see this leading a franchise over and over for years.
He followed a corner three with an elbow three.
Mudiay with the drive and kick to Frank standing by himself in the corner pic.twitter.com/JQ6ukfxaJ9— Jeremy Cohen (@TheCohencidence) December 18, 2018
That’s back to back threes from Frank pic.twitter.com/EPU4IskfVy— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) December 18, 2018
He then took (and missed) perhaps the first heat-check shot of his career. He came by it honestly.
Frank Ntilikina's 3-point Shooting before his 3 straight DNPs: 18 for 70 (26%) in 23 Games... After the benching: 9 for 19 (47%) in 6 games. #Knicks— Pat O'Keefe (@patokeefe12) December 18, 2018
He’d miss his next three-pointer, because of course he would. Every time Frank shoots a three that feels like a narrative-changer if it goes in, it doesn’t. Speaking of narrative changers, Emmanuel Mudiay had another productive evening. 18 in the first half.
Reminder:— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) December 18, 2018
Emmanuel Mudiay is 47 days younger than Allonzo Trier
Enes Kanter’s counting stats at the break were perfectly fine: 10 points, seven rebounds, even four assists. The Knicks were up seven and it felt like tonight was an encore of the Knicks/Pacers game Sunday, with the Knicks playing the role of the Pacers: lead steadily throughout, struggle to pull away, and do enough late to win.
Thing is, the Knicks are not the Pacers, and so they got the first two bits down pat but couldn’t master the “win” part. The Suns’ bench scored the same 33 the Knicks’ bench did, but it seemed like the Phoenix subs scored all their points in the third; they’d turn an eight-point deficit into a 17-point advantage by the end of a quarter they won 41-17. That was the knockout. The Knicks were still technically standing, the lights were on, but no one was home. Soon as the Suns tasted blood, they ran rampant.
As has been the case the past couple games, the Knicks went to a zone for a while. How’d that go?
A friendly face from back in the day engineered nearly a third of the Suns’ third-quarter conflagration. Jamal Crawford dished a career-high 14 assists.
That’s a 19-year career we’re talking about. How many players set single-game career highs that late in their career?
There were boos in the fourth. Mike Breen called them the first of the season. If that’s true, that took longer than I expected. Getting your doors blown upon at home by the worst record in the league was ugly, feeble capitulation, but it also pulled New York within 1.5 games of the best lottery odds in the league. The Knicks lost at checkers, but strengthened their chess. Galaxy brain, engage.
- Booker is good.
What was the game plan tonight, Mr. B?
♂️ “Pick n Roll at 00 every time” https://t.co/riaizpFpZV— Devin Booker (@DevinBook) December 18, 2018
Ahh. So apparently Booker did not forget Kanter’s tweet after this moment last year.
- Crawford’s previous best assists in a game came when in 2004 as a Knick. The boxscore that long forgotten night?
- Just like at Indiana Sunday, Knox put up points early and then few the rest of the way. Not a big deal. Allan Houston did that a ton his first year as a Knick and he was six years older then than Knox now.
- Just like at Indiana University years ago, Noah Vonleh did work on the offensive glass.
- Jamal Crawford is in his 19th season. He’s always looked the same age to me during that time. Tonight, for the first time, he looked his age. You know how some music or movies hit you in ways others don’t? It’s got nothing to do with the quality of the tunes or the scripts. The other night I watched The Devil’s Advocate for the umpteenth time. Whenever A Knight’s Tale is on TV, I have to watch. The Godfather these films ain’t, but they hit me where it counts. Crawford was never an All-Star and won’t make the Hall of Fame, but I’ve never loved any Knicks’ game more. OAKAAKUYOAK.
- ...whereas Ayton’s face looks like a 40-year-old Campbell’s Soup kid. MSG put a pic of him beside Crawford and asked who looked older. It sucks when you think of a good line and three minutes later a soulless conglomerate busts it out to the masses.
- The zone was what was needed to beat the Hornets. Maybe it needs a rest.
The top 3 teams in deploying zones have been the Heat, Knicks, and Cavs.— Cranjis McBasketball (@T1m_NBA) December 18, 2018
New York's 2-3 has been on display a bit already today. https://t.co/SCBklWlb9I
- Mario Hezonja has a little Lonzo Ball-action on his jumper. A little of that typewriter carriage return action.
- There’s an art form to griping about foul calls. Whether the complaints are valid or not has nothing to do with perception. Some guys gain respect while protesting, some lose some. Anthony Mason was the former. Kanter is def the latter. Methinks the Turk doth protest too much.
- For what it’s worth, this is who I would’ve drafted instead of Knox.
I don’t know shit.
- Yesterday I was asking the P&T Slack channel about the relative merits (or demerits, as it turned out) regarding PER as a stat. The consensus? PER’s stupid. Exhibit B:
- If he were a Yankee tonight, I’d have puked up my unborn children.
Quoth Walt Clyde Phraser: “Not even mad. Love Jamal [Crawford].” As you should. The Knicks’ next game is Wednesday in Philadelphia. The 76ers’ only ex-Knick is Wilson Chandler. Never loved the man, but Chandler was my poor man’s Edgardo Alfonzo: quiet, versatile, likable. If he puts up 14 assists in two nights, I’ll tip my cap again. Tonight’s loss was a trip down memory lane and pulled the Knicks closer to controlling their draft-day destiny. Multitasking, son!