Jeff Hornacek called his last first-timeout of the game with 9:58 remaining in the first quarter of game 82 tonight. The Knicks, down 8-4 after two ghastly turnovers, must have gotten the message. Either that or the Cavs pulled the plug on Lebron James and the Rotations (new band name!) rather than risk injury heading into the post season. New York finishes the year 29-53. Squarely the 9th-worst team in the NBA.
Upon arrival back home, Hornacek did indeed get faded. He went out on a high note, despite being out of key.
Knicks dismissed coach Jeff Hornacek, league sources tell ESPN. Management informed Hornacek of decision upon returning to New York late tonight.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 12, 2018
Kurt Rambis was also kicked to the proverbial curbial. More on that later. For now let’s take an exhausted look at a the final sputtering away game of 2017-18.
- The Knicks walloped the Cavs in the first half and garnered a 20-point lead with little resistance. Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina got the engines running with smart plays on both sides of the ball.
- Burke did his usual amount of hesitating darts to the lane only to squirt into the open space as defenders collide into one another trying to block a shot that is now five feet to the left. He also squeezed in enough open threes to keep defenders falling perilously forward. After a somewhat lackadaisical opening few minutes, Burke decided that he came to play. Even made a terrific read in transition, baiting a Cavalier into an obvious pass, which Trey intercepted and pushed the other direction for an easy bucket. It was a jam-packed game for Burke: In 42 minutes he had 19 points and 9 assists to go with 5 rebounds and some of his better defense.
- Frank Ntilikina is my favorite player. The French Press showed his tantalizing post defense on Jeff Green early in the game and Green never tested him again. Frank just doesn’t budge. He bodies up, never bites on fakes and just throws his arms up as he latches the pressure cooker. He crowded underneath Green, chest to chest forcing an off balance turn around fadeaway. It’s like he was guarding a Hornacek set, but still he snuffed it right out.
- More Frank, on offense he wedged George Hill underneath and inhaled an easy offensive board. Instantly he turned and posted Hill up as he waited for wide lumberin’ Lance Thomas to cut down to the hoop and reverse yam on no one.
- More Frank. In early transition, Ntilikina got back and tracked Cedi Osman’s eyes on a touchdown pass, just keeping his hands high to deflect a pass. So smart not to fall asleep against a Cavs team that gets two or three of those every game it seems like.
- More Frank! The kid still tosses up some uggo jumpers and floaters but Frankie Teardrop still has the chops when he doesn’t overthink and aim. So there’s reason to be completely elated with his performances late in the year. He drifts, he’s stiff and his timing me...anders in different funny pinches. Too soon, too late. But he finally is starting to get to see what shots he’ll be able to find. Now he can go back to the Chris Brickley lab and work on some hyper-specificity.
Trey Burke ➡️ Frankie for the YAM! pic.twitter.com/qjq41ewEty— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) April 12, 2018
- The other star of the night for New York was Luke Kornet. He’s not without his clear discomforts on defense. But the boy is not shy about letting it fly. To his credit Luke moves it quickly and cleanly when he doesn’t have a play. You don’t really want him putting it on the deck for much more than a dribble hand off. Unless he is gonna throw globs of jelly on the whole league’s lips:
Uhm Luke Kornet??? Is that you? pic.twitter.com/W6PrQ6B7ox— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) April 12, 2018
- Kornet, bless him, also airballed a fading righty hook on a quick post up. He had Jose Calderon on him. Oofah! Thankfully he made up for it with the same set up in the second half on the slightly smaller London Perrantes.
Sweet Luke Kornet with career-high 23 points. #takethatwilly— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) April 12, 2018
- Yea, nah. Larry Nance was able to sneak behind Kornet and cause plenty of trouble with his combo of quicks and explosiveness. So despite some decent scoring (23 points, including 4 triples) Kornet still was unable to get stops in pick and roll, like Willy. He also only snagged 3 rebounds. Which is what Hernangomez would have in the first two possession of his playing time.
- It wasn’t all Knicks. Tristan Thompson bungled plays and took bad beats to the rim. It’s the Knicks, pal, you can get where you need to be. I’m sure Khloe Kardashian is laughing about his bank account right now. I didn’t notice it but...
#Cavs fans booed Tristan Thompson when he was shown on screen. He wasn't announced coming off the bench by the PA announcer, either.— Spencer Davies (@SpinDavies) April 12, 2018
- At least the Knicks didn’t get booed all year like they normally do. Like friend of the show, Norman Hathaway said in the game thread, you survived another season of this dreck. Congrats.
- Damyean Dotson is fantastic going high and aggressive for rebounds. Cleaning up some messes on both ends. His spasms in poise will start to settle as he gets the reps. It’s not hard to imagine this kid having a Robert Covington-esque effect on the game. Double-double for D. Dot with 11 points and 10 bounds.
- The Cavs really laid down. London Perrantes, John Holland, Ante Zizic, Tristan Thompson and Cedi Osman started the second half. Osman did his best to drag the Cavs back in and he had a pretty great game, but he doesn’t have enough of the good stuff to just outright take over. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him singlehandedly win a quarter in the playoffs. That kid can hoop.
- Isaiah Hicks banked home a three. It looked like he was trying to harpoon a whale. That feat of strength earned him three points and a sheepish smile.
- Kendrick Perkins oiled up his playoff Tims. Nobody dared guard that old grizzly. Until that one time Kornet swatted the complete hell out of a heavily heaved lay up. It was so slow. Perkins’ game almost has the same drawl as his accent.
It’s hard to fairly evaluate this team having lost Kristaps Porzingis mid-way and the electric version of Tim Hardaway Jr. early on in the year. Could they have won an extra 15 games and snuck into the playoffs? Even with that long lost hope, it makes sense not to retain this coaching staff. The ship sank, washed up on shore, got pulled back to sea by the tide and was found being used as a jungle gym for a school of zombie fish before they were willing to cede post-apocalyptic minutes to Ntilikina and Dotson. By that time they had already found the highly productive Burke and plopped an additional pair of young big guys into an already crowded front court rotation. Yet with any luck the front office saw through the court side mismanagement and can make all the right calls this coming off season. Which officially starts today.