Those of you that are long-time readers of this blog (predating my time writing here by quite some time even) know all about Friday Night Knicks. It’s a scourge to Knicks fans, and more importantly, to the Knicks themselves. Something about Friday Night Knicks just makes the Knicks NOT want to get there.
Well they certainly didn’t get there tonight. They got out to a hot start, though! The Knicks led by as much as 15 in a pretty exciting first quarter. But the Grim Reaper had already pointed his scythe at the Knicks by the end of the quarter; it was all over (or, as another old P&T reference might say, things went Chinua Achebe). The Knicks got outscored 41-17 in the second quarter and went on to lose the game, 115-99, despite their best efforts in the second half. As commenter MetsFanXXIII said (note: #LFGM), “Friday Night Knicks in midseason form.” Yep.
Marcus Morris continued to be a stud. RJ Barrett seems like he’s going to be really good. I’m sure I could bore you with a recap of the actual game action, but I’d prefer to just hop into the notes today and focus on the players rather than the result of this slog of a game.
So here’s the notes:
— I feel pretty damn certain that Marcus Morris is going to have a great season. For the second straight game, Mook led the team in scoring with an incredibly efficient outing. And this time he even played both halves!
Morris finished with 21 points on 8-13 shooting (3-7 from three) and six rebounds. This shot chart looks like Christmas came early (no, really, look at all the red and green!):
He’s sorta reminded me of like a hyper-efficient version of Carmelo Anthony on offense so far through these two games. Like, check this out and tell me your first thought isn’t Melo:
Hoping that he can keep averaging 19 points per game on 56 percent shooting is beyond foolish, but if he can shoot around 45 percent from the field and 38 percent from three like he did last year on a higher volume, Morris could potentially be the Knicks’ best player this year. Because unlike Melo, he’s definitely going to be a constant on the defensive end of the floor as well.
— I really enjoyed RJ Barrett’s game too, in a game without all that much to enjoy all around. He only shot 40 percent (six makes on a team-leading 15 attempts, but also 2-5 from three), but I didn’t blame him at all for calling his own number. He got really, really hot early and was putting it on himself to continue that. That’s what you want to see out of your top draft pick!
His first make in particular was just a gorgeous power finish in the lane:
One of the most bankable things about RJ coming out of Duke was that he already had a body built for the NBA. I was admittedly a little worried during Summer League when that didn’t really seem to be translating, but the offseason work looks like it’s paying off. RJ is going to be dangerous going into the lane all year, and it looks like he’s really worked on driving to the right as well as his dominant left side. He’s worlds better going to his right now than he was over the summer.
— OK, enough with the good. There wasn’t much of it. How about the bad? What’s wrong with this picture?
Yeah, that’s about four Knicks in the vicinity of the paint, none of whom are even really clogging the lane all that well, while Justin Anderson just poops in the corner waiting for the ball. Anderson probably guaranteed his non-guaranteed contract tonight while he was shooting 5-11 from deep, so good for him in that regard, I guess.
The Wizards as a whole shot 46 percent from three for the night. That... can’t happen, man. That’s really bad. There’s going to be other nights this season that Mitchell Robinson gets into foul trouble, and the Knicks are going to need to find a way to be serviceable on D during the times that he’s not out there. And just in general.
— The h8rs might tell you that Frank Ntilikina had a bad game based off the box score, but he was actually pretty good yet again. Elfrid Payton was an absolute trash fire, going 0-9 from the floor and not really doing anything on either end of the floor to inspire the smallest bit of confidence in him to run this team. He also finished with a team-worst minus-24 for the game.
Frank, meanwhile, had at least a little bit going on. He was breaking down the defense and attempting to get some looks for his teammates, and also wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on some looks of his own. This, for example, is not something I would’ve ever really expected to see out of Frank before:
So my thought through two games is this... The knocks on Frank are his lack of efficiency on offense and not being aggressive enough. Through two games, Frank is shooting 29 percent on 8.5 field goal attempts per game, and Elfrid is shooting 14 percent on seven attempts. Elfrid is averaging 3.5 assists to Frank’s three, but in four more minutes of play time per game.
It’s really sad to say when Frank’s shooting 29 percent, but he’s literally shooting the ball twice as well as Elfrid right now and seems to be getting the offense running better. Why not trot Frank out for a start next game, regardless of if Dennis Smith Jr. is cleared or not? DSJ will need to be eased in anyway, and the early returns on Payton have really not been great.
— Mitchell Robinson... just yikes, man. Mitch only played a little under 11 minutes because he just could not stop hacking and whacking tonight. And they weren’t even remotely smart fouls. Hopefully Mitch can just forget this game ever happened.
— Speaking of things I’d like to forget, there was a stretch at one point in the game where the Knicks fouled the Wizards on 3-point attempts about four times in a row. I could look it up, but I’m not going to for the same reason I’m not going to punch myself in the testes right now.
— Allonzo Trier really redeemed himself in this one! After a truly lackluster debut game, Zo was kinda just what the doctor ordered down the stretch of this game. He didn’t play at all in the first half and came in once the game was out of hand in the third quarter. Zo wound up with 14 points on 4-7 shooting in just under 17 minutes of play time.
The unfortunate part of Zo’s re-emergence was that the Knicks desperately needed someone to score in iso (as is his style) at that moment, because things had gone so far to shit with the rest of the offense at that point. I would’ve preferred him just being in there getting buckets with the second unit after the first unit was super efficient and awesome or something.
— Bobby Portis really needs to consider doing something else with the ball than just shooting it every time he touches it. I actually didn’t even hate all of his takes, but he just seems like he has a singular focus when the ball comes his way.
— Clyde made his return today! After getting stuck with Wally on the first broadcast, the GOAT came home for the second preseason game. He came stylin’ and profilin’ too:
There weren’t any big-time highlights to me in the Clyde/Breen dynamic today, but I did enjoy hearing that Clyde’s self-care routine is still on point in St. Croix during the offseason. Here’s to a zillion more years of Clyde.
— If the Knicks aren’t able to push the pace, things get ugly really fast. The Knicks basically need to always push the pace.
— Taj Gibson and Wayne Ellington are just good vets. Of all of the free agent signing this offseason it’s pretty safe to say that those two are going to not only be good mentors, but also just be happy with whatever life throws at them as far as role or play time. And if they get called on for big minutes, they’ll be ready. Both guys have played pretty decent minutes in the first two games and just given nice, consistent production consistent with what you’d expect based off their respective careers.
— I guess I’ll end on Julius Randle, who was pretty good (14 points on 4-8 shooting, eight rebounds, four assists) but didn’t really take my breath away. The Knicks are clearly putting a lot on Julius’ plate as far as setting things up on offense and leading the fast break, but I wish they’d set some more plays for him to get him easy looks. Like, this was Julius’ second shot of the day:
If setting your $20 million prized free agent power forward up on the perimeter to back down in iso into four defenders is the best you can think of, you should probably think of some better stuff.
Yeah, that’s about all I can muster. Oh, also, shouts to Iggy Brazdeikis, who got his first NBA minutes. Other than that, time to move on. Til next time!