The 2018-19 New York Knicks have a bad defense. That fact is not surprising in and of itself — the Knicks have had a bad defense nearly every season this century —but this recent vintage D has become so buck nasty that it might be time to stand up and take notice.
Consider Wednesday’s 131-109 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Knicks’ starters set the tone early, allowing Philly numerous sojourns into the paint en route to a 38-point first quarter. That pace barely let up throughout the game, as the Sixers scored at least 30 point in all four quarters — the shitty defense was the true constant. The big surprise, I guess, was that the Knicks were able to almost keep pace in the first half, with an offense spearheaded by Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kevin Knox. But the Sixers tightened the screws on New York in the second half, and an eight-point halftime deficit turned into a 22.point butt-kicking.
With the loss, the Knicks now rank 29th in defensive rating, according to Basketball-Reference. They’re still nearly one point per 100 possessions better than last-place Cleveland, but the way they’re playing, they could surpass the Cavs by next week.
— Kevin Knox got to 21 points, so the Knicks really won, IDC IDC IDC. It wasn’t easy to pass the 20-point threshold — Knox struggled in the fourth until adding a pair of free throws late to reach 21. I felt like the Knicks missed a chance to feature him more on offense in the third quarter, when he was clearly in a groove. Knox has been the team’s best offensive player in December, by far, but the starters have a curious tendency to freeze him out on occasion, especially in the second half. Kid still gets his shots of, though, because getting shots off is what Kevin Knox does. Still, in a lost season, with their best scorer nursing a pretty serious injury, it might be time to start looking in Knox’s direction a little more consistently.
— On the same day we learned Tim Hardaway Jr. is playing through a bout of plantar fasciitis, the Knicks’ leading scorer had his best game in a good long while, scoring 27 points on 7-16 shooting. Timmy got to the line 10 times, which called to mind some of his superior early-season exploits. Perhaps sitting out that one game was exactly what the doctor ordered. Still, the dude isn’t quite right — he appears to be favoring one foot when he lands. Then again, I’m not a foot doctor...or a doctor of any kind, really.
— Emmanuel Mudiay struggled a bit in this one, scoring 11 points on 3-12 shooting. that fall-back foul-line jumper that he’s been splashing with such regularity of late was barely grazing the rim in this one. The form on his jumper is so funky that, even with his strong mid-range shooting numbers this season, it’s scary to watch him in a game when he’s off — dude misses badly.
— Trey Burke was the odd man out of the rotation Wednesday. He’s been quite bad since returning from a knee injury, so it was a welcomed sight. Of course, Frank Ntilikina (3 points on 1-7 shooting) didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in Burke’s absence. Get it together, Frank.
— Damyean Dotson returned from a recent shoulder injury, sporting an undershirt and scoring 14 points on 6-11 shooting in 22 minutes. Hey, if the shirt works that well, keep on wearing it.
Sadly, the Knicks can’t just fast-forward to June, as P&T’er ClydeandThePearl73 wants. There’s still tanking to be done, and Friday’s game against Atlanta is a big one.