The highest compliment I can pay these Knicks is that, when I came down with a crippling headache in the second half of Sunday’s 121-113 loss, it wasn’t caused by the basketball I was watching. No, the basketball was fine—pleasant, even. Sure, if you’re the kind of fan who prizes DE-FENSE above all else, then this was not the game for you. Neither the Knicks nor the Pacers were capable of stopping a simple pick-and-roll. But beggars can’t be choosers, and right now Knicks fans are certainly beggars.
New York held a one-point lead at the end of one quarter thanks to the offensive exploits of Enes Kanter. That lead turned into a six-point deficit by halftime, and ballooned into a 20-point hole fairly early in the Third Quarter of Doom, but the Knicks battled back in the fourth thanks mainly to their second unit of Kyle O’Quinn, Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay (new guy!). They couldn’t quite get the deficit below 6-7 points, though, because the Pacers still have their All-Star. Victor Oladipo responded every time the Pacers needed him to. Gee, it must be nice to still have your All-Star. I hate you, Pacers.
— Welcome to the Knicks, Emmanuel Mudiay!
That’s right, folks—Mudiay stepped onto the court without so many as a practice session with his new teammates and immediately dropped 14 points and 10 assists. He felt one assist short of the all-time record for a Knicks debut: Jalen Rose had 11 back in the day.
Truly it was Mudiay’s passing which stood out the most. Dude was slinging cross-court, no-look laser beams directly into the hands of his teammates. He seems particularly efficient at finding teammates in the corners. Considering how the Knicks have ignored the corner three for the past few years, Mudiay appeared as a lone prophet of offense, emerging from the desert.
Not that it was all peaches and cream from Mudiay—he only shot 5-14 from the field, including 2 of his last 11 after starting the game 3-3. He consistently missed shots at the rim, which we’ve been told is one of his biggest weaknesses. Time to get that stuff together, Emmanuel.
— As for the Knicks’ other young point guard, Frank Ntilikina had his best game in a while, even if the overall numbers don’t necessarily support that conclusion. Frank scored 12 points on 3-7 shooting, though he was bailed out by his opponent fouling him on two jump shots. He was perfect off the catch, shooting 2-2 from beyond the arc. I’d like to see him shooting more threes off the catch with Mudiay handling the ball. Frank played most of his 30 minutes alongside Mudiay, who indeed did most of the ball-handling. Frank isn’t yet assertive enough to take control of the offense when playing next to another point guard, so I’d like to see him playing as the lone point guard more often. Still, he finished plus-8 in a game the Knicks lost by 8, and the team looked far more dangerous on both ends of the floor when he was out there. Good show. The Frank-Mudiay pairing was delightful. To quote P&T’er Latvian Prankster, they make so much sense together.
— Most important stat of the night: 8 minutes for Jarrett Jack. He did start both halves, but was pulled quickly in the first and third, never to return. It would appear that Jeff Hornacek is finally getting the point.
— The Knicks were obliterated on the boards despite solid numbers from Enes Kanter (11 rebounds) and Michael Beasley (13 rebounds).
— Luke Kornet (zero points on 0-3 shooting) struggled mightily in his first game since his sterling NBA debut, though he might have been thrown off by playing out of position at power forward the entire time.
Knicks back at it Monday against Philly. Keep on tanking, sons!