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Hawks 100, Knicks 96: “I’m thinking I won’t be very pleased with Portis this season”

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The Knicks played a lot of funky weird lineups and lost

Atlanta Hawks v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The New York Knicks played a game on Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks. Posting and Toasting is a blog which covers the Knicks and does recaps of their games. I write for this blog. This is my recap of the game in which the Knicks trailed almost all of the way, briefly took a late one point lead, and then immediately farted it away. I took a lot of time to write this. Praise in the comments for my effort is welcome.

Notes:

  • With the roster the front office created this summer, I have some sympathy for the difficulties facing David Fizdale in finding the right combinations and settling on a rotation. It’s understandable he wants to experiment. However, not all experiments are required to ascertain certain lineups and combinations will suck ass. One such combination that should never see the light of day again is the Marcus Morris, Julius Randle, and Bobby Portis starting (and closing) frontcourt which featured tonight. The lack of player and ball movement, or any semblance of team play offensively was palpable. The defense wasn’t as bad as I’d have expected, but that was a small sample size quirk rather than anything sustainable. Let’s not spend more time on this starting five.
  • The Knicks have a lot of new players, so a lack of fluidity and cohesiveness in their offensive play isn’t very surprising. The issue is on too many possessions they don’t even seem to be attempting to play together. The entire closing stretch of the game was an offensive abomination characterized by ISO’ing Randle at the elbow or force feeding Carmelo Anthony Morris in the mid-post.
  • At some point in the first quarter the Knicks actually ran a Morris/Portis pick-and-roll. It did not end well. Get that shit all the fucking way out of my fucking face, Fiz, ya fuck.
  • My primary issues, although certainly not my only ones, are that while the Knicks do run some actions at the top of the key to initiate possessions, they’re repetitive, unimaginative, long-developing, poorly-spaced sets that catch nobody off guard. The end result is a lot of possessions where no advantages are created by our actions and we have to rely on individual brilliance to bail us out. If you have LeBron James, Stephen Curry or James Harden you can get away with that, not when your primary offensive creators are Randle and 19-year-old rookie RJ Barrett. Do better Fiz, or let Mike Miller try.
  • I’m no Fiz fan, but the hand-wringing over every decision he makes is a bit much. Starting Portis over Mitchell Robinson, or Dennis Smith Jr. over Frank Ntilikina in the third game of preseason just aren’t things I can get very worked up over. Hell, after the first two games I advocated strongly in the P&T Slack for him to give Mitch a necessary kick up the ass by moving him to the bench for a game. I was fine with that choice and it sure seemed like Mitch came out more focused and, as a result, had a largely positive performance.
  • The primary reason I barely care about who starts is that the overall lineup combinations and who closes are far more important to me. I actually liked a bunch of the lineups Fiz usedtonight, but that starting lineup, man. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh.
  • One thing he did right? Letting Ntilikina close the game. Yeah, he still isn’t hitting shots. Neither was Trae Young down the stretch. Frank put the clamps on him, walling him off on drives, not giving him an inch to breath when fighting over screens, and even when Trae did get a shot off, Frank sent his shit packing.
  • The point guard battle was the primary focus entering the game. Frank struggled with his shot, but his defense, especially down the stretch, was eye-opening. DSJ struggled far more than The French Prince to find his footing in his first appearance this season. He hesitated when he had open looks, seemed tentative and unsure of himself when driving, and through much of the second half was moving quite gingerly. I’m guessing that he’s not at 100 percent, which makes sense as he was held out of the first two games with lower back issues. But still, that was a very uninspiring performance from the third-year guard. He’s going to get more opportunities, but as things stand he’d be behind Ntilikina in the pecking order for me. So would Elfrid Payton, who mercifully didn’t feature, although it’s unlikely that’s a permanent state of affairs.
  • One of the main reasons I’d start Frank, despite his continued offensive struggles, is that the pairing with RJ seems comfy and alleviates his weaknesses as a primary creator.
  • Speaking of RJ, he missed a lot of bunnies, and his scoring efficiency isn’t going to be a thing of beauty this year. The kid has game, though. He’s already flashing the ability to bully-ball his way to the rim, especially when he has a size advantage, and his playmaking stands out as a plus. More notably, his defense has been much better than advertised. Coach K might really totally suck nowadays.
  • Fiz’s obsession with playing RJ 40 minutes is highly concerning. Relax, pal.
  • Kevin Knox missed some gimmes at the rim, but he really does look waaaaaay better. He's more fluid and forceful in his movement, which seems to be leading to more trips to the free throw line. The shot looks beautiful. His defense is still well below average, but he does seem a bit more alert to the dangers lurking around every screen. He even had a beautiful dime out of a pick-and-roll to feed Mitch for an easy dunk. I still believe.
  • Bobby Portis certainly has talent. Whether that talent can be harnessed in a way to make him a productive plus player I’m not very bullish on. If it’s going to happen I feel confident giving him latitude to do a bunch of shit on offense with the ball in his hands isn’t the way.
  • Running sets that call for Wayne Ellington to handle the ball is bullshit coaching. Again, do better Fiz.
  • Ban Randle from step-back mid-range jumpers. He took two in the first quarter. That should never be repeated again.
  • On the plus side, this was Randle’s best performance thus far, and you can see how dynamic he is with the ball in his hands. Preferably you’d get him the ball in motion when he has a head of steam more often rather than feeding him the rock at a standstill and letting him go to work.
  • Doesn’t it just seem like everything works better on both sides of the ball when Taj Gibson is in? It certainly has to me through three games. He also has been a pleasant surprise in his willingness to pop from distance when he has an opening. Helps that he’s been hitting those looks too. Please just teach Mitch how to set a real screen.
  • Big fan of that Ntilikina, Knox, and Gibson trio off the bench. Keep those three together. It works, baby. I’m of the opinion Fiz wants to do exactly this to buoy the bench unit, but I’m not going to deny I’m still concerned he’s gonna have Frank as one of the odd men out of the rotation to start the year and I get why many aren’t willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that I have.
  • Trae Young is really fucking good, but between the whistle he got tonight and the endless praise on the ESPN telecast from Doris Burke, you would be forgiven if you came away thinking he’s every bit as good as prime Michael Jordan.
  • Sure starting to think Allonzo Trier isn’t going to be happy with his role this year. That’s fine by me given the numerous ISO chucks who seem certain to feature.

That’s all I got after the third preseason game. The offense continues to be buttjuice, although the defensive effort was at least worthy of an NBA team, unlike the Knicks’ previous outing. Hopefully any of y’all wildly hoping for the playoffs this year got that out of your system now. Quoth Disappointment: “I’m thinking I won’t be very pleased with Portis this season.” You won’t be, buddy, and he won’t be the only individual involved with this enterprise you’re going to feel that way about. We got the Pelicans and Zion Williamson on Friday. My body is ready.