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SummerLakers 109, SummerKnicks 92: “If I see Hezonja, Lee or anyone not named Knox starting on Day 1... ”

Great game, bad result

NBA: Summer League-Utah Jazz at New York Knicks Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

It’s beach season, and I’m sure plenty of P&T readers have been hitting the shores to take in the beautiful weather of late.

One of my favorite activities at the beach is going into the water and riding waves. Usually there’s a nice ebb and flow, and you can have a good time feeling like Free Willy. But every once in a while, you turn to say something to your friend, turn back around, and get absolutely wrecked by a huge wave. Saltwater in your nose. Saltwater in your eyes. Saltwater all up in your lungs.

Tonight’s SummerKnicks game against the SummerLakers was basically like that.

Without Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks were not looking great on either end. The defense was lacking, and the offense was not doing great under the leadership of Allonzo Trier. The Knicks kept their heads above water for most of the first half, but still trailed by 11 at the break.

After half, I honestly just assumed the Knicks had called it quits for the night. They went down by 20-something points, and were barely getting the ball over mid-court before coughing it up. But then, Tidal Wave Kevin Knox came and knoxed me out, washed me ashore and left me for dead. It was Knoxtacular.

Knox, running off the smelling salts of success, helped get the Knicks tied at 78-78 going into the fourth quarter after a 28-3 (!!!) run to end the third (which also included a 17-0 stretch as Knox was igniting).

Ultimately, Knox was subbed out, and the Knicks then Knicksed it up. But, hey, I’m not complaining. My 18-year-old rookie scored 29 points tonight! As commenter ShouldhavekeptXman said, “If I see Hezonja, Lee or anyone not named Knox starting on day one...” Well, let’s just say I won’t be happy!

Let’s get into notes:

— Knox’s stat line in whole: 29 points, 9-22 shooting, 5-7 from three, and 6-6 from the line. He also had nine rebounds, two assists, a steal and seven turnovers. All in all, probably Knox’s best game this week, though he didn’t have any of the bouncy dunks that we’ve come to expect over the first two games.

I’m also going to roast ESPN commentator Marc Jones in a minute, but a very special shoutout to his multiple “Knox turning the boos into cheers!” lines tonight. Kindly stop saying that, everyone. Real life Knicks fans were not booing the Knox pick.

Frank Ntilikina’s absence was very noticeable. Allonzo Trier started at point guard, and while Trier actually had a good game overall, he’s very clearly not a point guard or even half the defender at the point of attack that Ntilikina is at this point. Come back for the tournament, Frank!

— Let’s give Trier some props, though. He was good! Can’t complain much about 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists on 8-13 shooting. He started the game kind of cringey as the point guard, looking more for his own offense than to set up the team’s (a common theme for him so far). But once the Knicks started spreading the ball-handling duties around and Trier was able to operate as an off guard, he found a rhythm. Knox was the star of the fake comeback, but Trier was the Robin to Knox’s Fake Comeback Batman.

Mitchell Robinson showed some really great flashes, but also some really boneheaded moves that he will hopefully grow out of.

The great? How about stepping out to block multiple 3-pointers that he had no business getting after?

Robinson also proved to be a menace yet again on the offensive glass, with multiple putbacks. He also looked noticeably less gassed after halftime, which is a good development in his conditioning. That’ll be all but gone by the time preseason rolls around.

Robinson’s stat line: 13 points, eight rebounds, three blocks.

However, on the bad side, he was -33 (which surprisingly wasn’t the worst on the team tonight, shouts to Damyean Dotson) and had five fouls in just 26 minutes. One or two of the fouls were just silly. I don’t recall the timestamp, but I believe sometime in the abysmal part of the third quarter, Robinson basically clubbed a guy trying to get a ball loose in the lane rather than just putting his hands up and defending the shot.

Still, negatives aside, it seems like the Knicks have a gem in Robinson.

Troy Williams played with that fire again tonight, and I’m 99 percent certain that he’s going to be on the opening day roster. At this point, I honestly think he’s too good for Summer League. Troy had 15 points, three assists, two steals and a number of wacky wipeouts from going 1,000 miles an hour.

Michael Gbinije and Isaiah Hicks are your surprising plus/minus all-stars, at +11 and +17, respectively. Hicks actually did some good stuff out there, hitting four of five shots and blocking three on defense. Gbinije did his best Emmanuel Mudiay impression and fell at one point, and otherwise I barely remember him even being out there.

— There was a great sequence during the run in the third quarter where Williams hit Knox for a corner three, and then two plays later, Knox returned the favor to the exact spot. It was very satisfying.

Damyean Dotson just couldn’t hit anything tonight. It’s been a rough summer league for him.

— I did not love ESPN’s broadcast tonight. First item: the weird skycam camera angle. Frequently throughout the game, the broadcast would switch to a view that looked as if it was hanging from the jumbotron. I was not into it. It didn’t work for football, and it doesn’t work for basketball, either.

Secondly, Doris Burke was interviewing coaches during the first half for “coach appreciation night.” And while I love DB and the work that she does, ESPN kept cutting to a 50/50 view of DB and her subject(s) on the left and the game on the right. It cut off a lot of useless summer league action! Dislike!

— Special section for play-by-play man Marc Jones, who did not have his best night. His gaffes included:

  • After Mitchell Robinson’s second block on the perimeter he called him “Williams” (Troy Williams was also in the vicinity). Jones then corrected himself, but went back to calling Mitch “Williams” for another minute or so.
  • He called Paul Watson “Dotson” at one point, unironically.
  • Josh Hart apparently played for the Knicks last year, according to Jones late in the game.
  • Called Allonzo Tree-air “Try-er” pretty much all night.
  • Called Isaiah Hicks “Isaac Hicks.”
  • Started telling Mitchell Robinson’s unique high school/draft story, only to get extremely off track and get checked by Burke live on air to finish the damn story.

So, yeah. Maybe I’m grumpy. Maybe I just miss Clyde. But that was a messy announcing performance.

Alex Caruso is really turning into a Knick killer supreme. He had five points and 10 assists tonight, and was a positively bone-crushing +41. It made me very happy when he doinked a relatively easy breakaway dunk late in the game.

Josh Hart also had a night with 27 points on 8-16 shooting. There were times where it seemed like he could have whatever he wanted against the Knick defense. Trying out for the Spurs, maybe?

— Completely random, but I realized that Mitchell Robinson has tattoos tonight. They’re really faint! Not that it’s super important, but I just like to think I’m more observant than that!

And that there is your recap! Let’s get ready for the (summer) playoffs!