The gap between good NBA teams and bad NBA teams is narrow. The most dominant team from year-to-year, on average, only outscores opponents by an average of one basket every quarter. The gap between a pretty bad team and a really bad team playing out the string in late March is virtually non-existent. Exhibit A: the Knicks’ 137-128 overtime loss in Charlotte Monday night, an entertaining but ultimately doomed affair. C’est la vie.
New York was shorthanded, missing both Kyle O’Quinn (injured hip) and Emmanuel Mudiay (sick). The Hornets spent pretty much the whole first half in rhythm, leading by as many as 17 while looking like the team some considered a dark horse for a top-four seed in the East. Then the second half started and the Hornets looked like the team that’s spent this season falling well short of that.
Michael Beasley, who missed almost every shot he took before the break, got off three dunks in three minutes and caught fire, adding a tough baseline jumper and a tricky runner before throwing down a fourth slam. Beasley was Robin tonight. Trey Burke was Batman. Early in the opening quarter, just as I was telling my girl how comfortable Burke looks now — he’s looked confident all year, but he really looks comfortable now — he ran smack into a Dwight Howard pick he never saw coming. That may have been the only moment all night Burke didn’t look comfortable. He scored 13 in the third, when the Knicks cut the deficit to five. He scored another 16 in the fourth during a stretch where he hit 13 of 16 shots in a performance as memorable as the Eddie Lee Wilkens game, the Lavor Postell game or the Nate Robinson game.
Frank Ntilikina fouled out 1:30 into the fourth and the Knicks had committed four team fouls with over ten minutes remaining, but they’d go the rest of the quarter without sending Charlotte to the line. Burke kept on keeping on, leading breakways, cashing pull-ups and setting up others, driving the Knicks to a five-point lead late in regulation (hint, hint). Kemba Walker scored off a turnover and Jeremy Lamb followed with a three-pointer to put the Hornets up 114-110, but a Burke tear drop and Tim Hardaway Jr. breakaway tied things up again. Hardaway hit another three, but with 20 seconds left in the fourth Walker, who’d missed his first eight from downtown, hit the ninth to tie the game. Burke had a career-high 42 points tonight and 12 assists against just two turnovers, so I’ll keep from kvetching about the look he got at the buzzer that was straight out of the Mike Woodson “You there! Score!” playbook.
After Charlotte won the overtime jump ball, they ran a Walker/Dwight Howard pick-and-roll, Luke Kornet dropped off of Kemba, and he drilled it. Kornet looked gassed, which makes sense: he set a career-high for minutes against a non-Canadian team tonight. Walker had the momentum and went with it, scoring the first five points of overtime before setting up Marvin Williams for a lay-in and a gentleman’s alley-oop (no dunking). Burke and Walker went back and forth, but it’d be Kemba’s roundhouses that ultimately finished off an admirable Knick effort. They failed to win consecutive road games for the first time this year. The LORD works in mysterious ways. The tank does not.
- Burke gave us our first 40+ points/10+ assists game by a Knick since Stephon Marbury in 2005. This Burke run is fun, man.
- Only two Knicks finished with a positive plus/minus tonight. One was Burke, at +2. Who, at +7, was the other?
- Ntilikina scored 12 points (on 6-8 shooting) in his first 12 minutes. Kid’s looking good swishing those pull-ups off picks. Looking familiar, you know?
- Definitely a melange of aggression and timidity from Frank. Sometimes he was thrillingly willing to force the action. Other times he was sooo passive. Too passive.
- Box scores and highlights tend to privilege offense. Check out some more impressive defending by young Mr. Ntilikina.
Can’t beat the technique.— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) March 26, 2018
Batum is 6’8” 200 lbs. Can’t gain an inch on Frank pic.twitter.com/zZRWqwvKMo
- Hardaway will best serve the Knicks in the future as a Sixth Man who values and is valued for being something closer to Latrell Sprewell than Allan Houston. He’s not the shooter the volume of looks that he gets might suggest, but he does multiple things, like Spree did. Five rebounds, a couple assists, and five trips to the foul line. He’s not an All-Star, but he can be an impact player on a Knick team making deep playoff runs in a few years.
- Clyde said Kornet “reminds me of Bill Russell” as a shot-blocker, because he doesn’t squat before going up to contest. Clyde will never, ever quit trolling the Celtics, and that is just another reason to love him.
- 12 points and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes for Willy Hernangomez. He looked cuter in a Knick jersey. It’s scientific. #OAKAAKUYOAK
- Dwight Howard was called for four traveling violations in the first half. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before.
- Whenever I watch Howard play and try to land on what it is I feel watching him play, I start sounding like Sheriff Ed Tom Bell from No Country For Old Men: “I watch that man play and don’t know what to call it. I don’t know what I feel inside. I surely don’t.”
- Howard was blatantly desperate to go at Kornet the moment it was legally possible and Luke was having none of it. Dwight Howard is like the first boss you face in any video game. He’s bigger and stronger than the grunts you’ve bested to reach him, but pretty quickly you realize he only has like two moves and then you just can’t be bothered to think about him anymore.
- Having said that...watching Howard and Kanter go at one another is like getting to see the final battle between the last two triceratops ever to walk the Earth.
- Three threes, 11 points in 16 minutes for Malik Monk. I root for Monk to fulfill his rich man’s J.R. Smith destiny and sign with the Knicks in a couple years. I will always root for it.
- Eight points, five rebounds, a couple of three-pointers for Kornet. In his first 10 games, he played 10+ minutes just four times. His last three games? 21. 19, and 27.
- Trivia answer: it was Kanter!
Quoth NeedforShved: “Treyverson!” As luck would have it, the Knicks next play Wednesday in Allen Iverson’s old stomping grounds in Philadelphia. It’s their second-to-last road game, so if they’re finally gonna win two in a row away from home, it’s gotta start then. See y’all then, then.