If Shakespeare were real, and alive, and covered the Knicks, he may have written of the Knickerbockers’ 114-107 loss to the Atlanta Hawks “To lose, to tank...to tank, perchance to Zion...ay, there’s the rub, for in these collapses to Phoenix and Atlanta what dreams may come…” There were, especially early, moments and sequences that felt like dreams waking to life. There was another putrid second half. There was another blown lead to another piss-poor team. But the Knicks stink, too. There are no bad losses when you’re 9-25. When you’re a half-game ahead of the worst record in the league, every defeat is a deposit in your future; until that day comes, dreams is all you got.
New York was bursting in the early going. Kevin Knox had a career quarter, putting up 17 points in the opening frame, the most any Knick has scored in a quarter this season. Out on the break early and often, Knox didn’t just taketh. He giveth.
The Knicks were running and hitting an improbable share of three-pointers, putting them up double-digits early. Knox opened the second with a breakaway dunk 18 seconds in and Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce called time. It was almost a rout, until it wasn’t, and then it def wasn’t. The Hawks missed a ton of makeable shots early on in the paint; on the plus side for them, they were getting a ton of makeable shots in the paint all night, and when those started falling the Knicks were going to need to score 130 or more to win. They didn’t.
Still, things still looked promising after Luke Kornet hit from deep to put the boys in blue and orange up 15.
The margin between a good team and a bad team is small; the margin between two of the worst in the league is nearly invisible. Late in the first half Knox nearly pulled off a sweet alley-oop, but it bounced out and turned into an Atlanta oop on the other end. Soon after the Knicks had a 4-on-1, only Mudiay dropped a pass out of bounds, and Kevin Huerter hit a lay-up over Enes Kanter. That’s an eight-point swing. That’s all that separates a team being up nine at the break, which is cool but not foolproof, and being up 17 and rendering the second half being a formality.
Maybe David Fizdale saw it coming before most of us. He called timeout less than a minute into the third. The offense kept making highlight plays. Noah Vonleh looking like Connie Hawkins or Julius Erving on one swooping drive.
Emmanuel Mudiay’s confidence tonight looked unprecedented. It may not have been his best game this year, but he sparked the offense and his confidence is so high right now. Dude was throwing in some beautiful high-level-of-difficulty lay-ups.
Even the occasional Emmanuel Mudiay WTF fadeaway.
But the Hawks defense evolved from surrendering 69 in the first half to just 38 in the second.
An Alex Len three capped a 12-1 run to give Atlanta the lead, then the Knicks stormed back, and the see-sawing was on. The Knicks were up five early in the final frame. Another Len three put the Hawks up 102-99, part of a 9-0 run that saw them take the lead for good. After Mudiay bossed and backed Young down for the umpteenth time, Trae blew by TIm Hardaway Jr. on the other end for a three-point play. He actually flexed after the field goal and I don’t care how his career turns out or that in a real-world sense he’s in the kind of shape I can only dream of — Trae Young should never, ever flex. Ever. Not his look. You’re a cutie, Trae. Stay golden.
With no Mitchell Robinson to provide prohibitive presence in the paint, all the Hawks had to do was run a couple dribble handoffs and the Knicks became the Washington Generals. Down five in the final 90 seconds, the Knicks forced Dewayne Dedmon into a travel. On the next possession Kanter set an actual honest-to-goodness non-slip pick on Young, causing Dedmon to switch on Mudiay while Kanter had a mismatch in the post on the Hawk rook. Mudiay missed an ill-advised three and for all intents and purposes that was your ballgame.
- The Vonleh facial over Len came moments after Wally Szczerbiak, the Pete Myers of analysts, was going on and on about how the Knicks “have to” get the ball to Knox.
- Dear Wally:
It’s TV. Not radio. Telling us what our eyes already saw is like Chinese water torture: it adds up, it hurts, and it sucks. Go improve yourself, Szczerbs.
- THJ tied Kyle Lowry tonight for the most charges drawn. Szczerbiak said that fact “resonates.” If it resonates, shouldn’t the Knicks en masse be drawing more charges? My beef here isn’t with the Knick D as much as it is lazy analysis. That kind of comment plays well with the team and the owner, and I feel like that’s why it’s being said. Not because it’s true.
- I feel justified doubting Szczerbs’ integrity because he carries the stink of the homer to him. I can deal with decades of shitty basketball, Lord, but please. Spare us a homer. That’d be the final straw.
- Mike Breen shared Dedmon’s incredible backstory. His father committed suicide when Dedmon was just three. His mother devoted her family to religious studies and avoiding worldly wastes of time. Dedmon didn’t try out for basketball until his senior year of high school, disobeying her in the process. What youthful disobedience are you most proud of?
- When the game was over and the cameras were lingering over player interactions, Vince Carter was on-screen. “This might be his last game on the Garden floor,” Szczerbiak brayed, before Breen mercifully corrected that shit. The info’s out there, Wally. The NBA isn’t even my main job and I knew to know that shit. Step it up, Cold Spring Harbor.
- Whatever TV production wizard decided it’s entertaining to have Al Trautwig leering in the foreground while Alan Hahn and Szczerbs or Swin Cash are failing as actors in some stupid background pantomiming: do more coke or less coke and come up with something else. Or, it’s New York City. Maybe there’s an acting teacher somewhere?
- Only six shots in the second half for Knox. That’s not why they lost, and I really do like what I’ve seen from a lot of the Knicks youngsters, Mudiay in particular. But someone needs to have enough awareness to keep feeding a guy on the cusp of a breakthrough effort.
- Before the season, Fizdale suggested Lance Thomas could play a Draymond Green-type role for the Knicks. It was an absurd claim then and remains such, but maybe Fiz had the right idea but the wrong guy. Maybe it’s Vonleh. The rebounding, the ball-handling, the shot-blocking, the willingness to shoot threes when he’s open...give.
- John Collins = legit.
John Collins' last 9 games:— Kevin Chouinard (@KLChouinard) December 22, 2018
- Collins got banged up a few times tonight, once rolling his ankle and once falling on Hardaway after finishing an alley-oop and appearing to wrench his back.
- Lance Thomas gets a lot of crap. Here’s a positive: after Mudiay hit a lovely fadeaway with a few seconds left in the 3rd, Atlanta inbounded and Lin tried that thing where players let the ball roll up the floor before touching it to save the clock from starting. Lance saw it coming and timed a blitz that forced Lin into a turnover.
- Kornet always does just enough on both ends for me to want to see more of him next game. I haven’t missed Willy Hernangomez once since the Knicks went with Luke.
- I think I’m leaning toward supporting the addition of a four-point line sooner than later. I’m getting bored watching every freaking team in the league turn every action into a reason to shoot a three. If that wasn’t the most valuable possible shot, priorities would shift and hopefully more varieties of playing styles and points of emphasis would emerge. I am not excited about watching the game I love turn into 10 people playing the role of Deep Blue.
- 11, 5 and 4 for Jeremy Lin. OAKAAKUYOAK. Still lighting a candle for you, brother.
- No Mario Hezonja tonight. A Rohrschach sentence if ever there were.
- I asked this on the P&T Slack about a week ago: If Mudiay is Shaun Livingston 2.0., would you sign up for that?
I think I would.
- My six-year-old has that stupid Panic At The Disco commercial memorized. She has no clue what “huddled masses” are, but she rolls with it. A few days ago I heard a song on the radio (they still have those) and someone rhymed “I look in your eye” with “and see the sky” and I’m all GTFO. Turns out it was Panic At The Disco. Put some of that “special guest” money in your savings, Two Feet.
Quoth lordhlatts from the postgame: “This is perfect.” Yeah. Yeah, it really is. Knox, Mudiay and Vonleh had productive nights. In the past 10 days New York has lost to Cleveland, Phoenix and Atlanta; that’s like if they were good and beat Golden State, Milwaukee and Toronto in the same stretch. I got holiday shopping left to do and the Knicks don’t play again till Christmas noon against the Bucks. We may be picking top-three for the first time since 1985. These winter tragedies may yet yield a midsummer night’s dream.