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Rockets 114, Knicks 110, Harden 61: “So close”

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NBA: Houston Rockets at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

In a season like this with a team this bad and young, you start to talk yourself into losses to numb yourself. The 20-point beatdowns are probably the easiest once the initial anger of being down 20 in the first place fades.

The Knicks’ previous outing against OKC was enjoyable in that sense. They went down 20 in the blink of an eye and then just bounced around that margin five or six points in either direction the rest of the way. It was a comfortable loss, but not an embarrassing one, of which there have been plenty. Even embarrassing losses are pretty easy to get over when you accept this team just isn’t very good.

But it’s games like last night against the fucking Rockets built around the grotesque triumvirate of James Harden, Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey which stick in your craw. The Knicks played hard, they battled back from a deficit (we’ll get into that later) and even managed to get their noses in front with 20 seconds left.

Alas, the Knicks are bad. Because they’re bad they farted away their slim advantage all too easily. They Tim Hardaway Jr. failed to execute a basic switch on defense and gave up a wide open three to Eric Gordon.

The Knicks still had a chance to either force overtime or go for the win with the last possession. You’d think that with Allonzo Trier cooking like he had been, assistant Keith Smart, forced into head coaching duties following David Fizdale’s ejection, would have drawn something up to get the rook the ball. Instead he drew up whatever the fuck this was.

He probably isn’t destined to be a head coach anytime soon.

Knicks lose. Harden matches Kobe’s 61-point record for a visiting player at MSG, but the building record #StaysMe7o. The Knicks inch ever closer to Zion, hopefully.

Notes:

  • The B A L L E R is back. Allonzo Trier had a whale of a game. 31 points on 18 shots, 10 boards, three assists, some pesky defense, and more than a few sonnings doled out to hapless Rockets defenders. The kid struggled for awhile after returning from injury, but it looks like he got the spring back in his step.
  • Mitchell Robinson is a wild man. Yeah, he fouled out in 17 minutes and somehow only grabbed one rebound, but there was a stretch in the first half where he just beasted inside on the Rockets. Trier in particular has figured out that if you throw the ball anywhere in a 39-foot radius around the rim, Mitch will catch and dunk it in one fell swoop. Most impressive about his performance to me was that while he fouled out as fast as he possibly could, Harden isolated on him twice, tried a stepback both times, and got his shit packed both times. Whenever this man gets full control of his bodily functions the league is fucked.
  • Frank Ntilikina must hit shots at some point if he’s to become a primary ball handler. He has to understand when he needs to take control of a possession and try to create. He has to improve as a consistent scoring threat otherwise he will limit his own potential.
  • What he did do is have a very tangible and real defensive impact in his 24 minutes on the floor. He has had a good run of late taking care of the ball and creating for others, and the Knicks have generally looked more fluid offensively in his stints on the floor. Last night, his defense on Harden was excellent, holding him to nine points on 1-6 shooting, and forcing him into four turnovers with zero assists on 18 total possessions. I loathe Marcus Smart, so it’d quite be something if that’s the type of player Frank develops into.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. had a fairly efficient scoring game last night, but also fuck Tim Hardaway Jr. for his bullshit defense on the game’s most critical possession. Zo knows.
  • Emmanuel Mudiay had 14 points on nine shots, which is cool. He also had seven turnovers in his 28 minutes last night. That is not it, chief.
  • David Fizdale may be a fantastic development coach. If so, he’s going to have a very positive impact on the Knicks’ future. What he also has demonstrated is that his in-game coaching leaves much to be desired. Sticking with the starters as long as he did in the third quarter turned a five-point halftime lead into a 12-point deficit real quick. Pulling Frank for Mudiay in the name of shot creation down the stretch was a real head-scratcher, especially with Trier cooking like he was and Tim also in the game. The need for a third “scorer” while sacrificing your best perimeter defender, regardless of his ineptitude from the field, is yet another example of Fizdale overvaluing shot creation in key stretches. This shit doesn’t matter in the present, and you could even argue is beneficial, but it will somewhere down the line. He’s a young head coach who must develop his own skills if he’s to be part of the long-term solution.
  • I’ve listened to and watched countless MSG telecasts of Knicks games. We all have. I fail to recall a more irritating performance from the Breen and Clyde duo. Breen spent the entire night endlessly praising Harden’s craftiness in drawing fouls, including in one instance in the first quarter when he got to the line by jumping elbow first into Kevin Knox’s head. Later, Breen was the only person in the world who thought Trier’s foot was on the line on a three point attempt he was fouled on in the fourth. Clyde simultaneously wanted the Knicks to crowd Harden on the perimeter to prevent him from shooting threes, but also stop him from penetrating, and to foul him at any point during this was an act of sheer stupidity. The high point of the duo’s broadcast last night was seeing Clyde’s suit in the pre-game. The rest of it was embarrassing and could have substituted as the Rockets’ local feed.
  • Trier and Hardaway got into an argument because Trier didn’t pass Tim the ball on a fast break. I thought that was somewhat ironic and also not that big of a deal.
  • I really like the burgeoning chemistry of the bench unit with Frank, Dot, Trier and Mitch. They work well together. I hope Fiz doesn’t have too much of a desire to promote anybody right now. Let that unit simmer.
  • I’m over Enes Kanter and have zero desire to discuss anything about him. Have at it in the comments if you so desire.
  • Coach Sullivan risked it all shooting his shot on Rebecca in the post-halftime interview. Somewhere Joshua Longstaff is not pleased.
  • I hate Harden’s game. I despise his egregious flopping and the NBA’s complicity in enabling his behavior. So long as they do that man is unstoppable, because the rules and how they’re enforced play to his strengths. He’s a great player, but I really do think his game is juiced to another level due to the era he’s playing in. I’m just happy he didn’t get to 62.

So the Knicks lost another heartbreaker. Quoth LatvianPrankster: “so close.” To Zion anyways. The Knicks face the surging Brooklyn Nets on Friday. Odds are they’ll lose. Just accept it into your hearts now and it’ll go down easier. Alcohol helps. Peace.