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Bulls 120, Knicks 102 “Fizdale has somehow got this team playing worse than last year’s”

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The Knicks played competitive ball for three quarters before letting Coby White shit on their face

New York Knicks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Knicks came into Chicago on Tuesday night in desperate need of a win. Just two days earlier they had been embarrassed on their home court by Collin Sexton and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Right after the game, president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry gave an impromptu press conference expressing their disappointment with results thus far, although they expressed confidence both in the roster they assembled and the head coach they had handpicked to guide it.

I totally believe you!

During the opening minutes of the match, the two teams seemed to match each other bucket for bucket and turnover for turnover. Few could question either team’s effort, but the application was found wanting, as the Knicks stumbled their way into a marginal, but deserved, 22-18 lead with 3:04 left in the first quarter. With both coaches then turning to bench-heavy lineups, the Bulls gained a clear upper hand, closing the quarter on a 12-0 run.

The Bulls pushed the lead up to as much as 12 early in the second, capitalizing on the Knicks reserves’ sloppy play and non-existent half-court defense. Fiz turned back to his starters with nine minutes left in the half, and buoyed by RJ Barrett’s all-around virtuoso performance, the Knicks battled their way back into the game. They cut the lead down to just one before Zach Lavine found his footing to push the lead out to six at the break.

The Bulls quickly jumped on the Knicks to start the third quarter, scoring at the rim on their first three possessions of the half, capitalizing on some late interior rotations and flat-footed perimeter defense to push the lead back out to 10. Fizdale quickly called a timeout, and made a full-on hockey substitution, pulling the entire starting lineup for their lethargy.

JK. Fiz would never do that.

Still, the quick timeout had the desired effect, as the starters once again whittled away at the lead with Barrett, once again, proving to be the catalyst. The Knicks even edged ahead by one a couple of times, and a picture-perfect final possession, ending in a Bobby Portis corner three right in front of the Bulls’ bench to square things up at 85 entering the final frame.

The game seemed poised for another butt-clenching finish, but then Coby White happened. The Bulls’ rookie guard out of North Carolina hadn’t done much of note until that point, but caught fire early in the fourth. He canned two quick triples, forcing Fiz to call yet another quick early quarter timeout and make changes to the lineup.

JK. Fiz would never do that.

Out of the timeout, the Knicks’ bench bros continued to sputter. Allonzo Trier got called for his 48th offensive foul of the year for pushing off before White hit yet another three to push the Bulls’ lead out to seven. After a few sloppy possessions by both teams, White again found himself open from three after Kevin Knox foolishly chose to leave him open to rotate over to Kris Dunn.

The Bulls continued to pour it on, eventually extending the lead to 17 with just over seven minutes left, with White, yes, hitting another three. The rest of the game played out as extended garbage time, with White knocking down one more three for the culture, setting a Bulls’ franchise record with seven threes made in a quarter.

Looking for a reprieve amid rumors of upheaval, Fizdale’s seat only got hotter last night. The ship be sinking, yo.

Notes:

  • I have some sympathy for David Fizdale’s struggles to field lineups that have a clue on defense. The absence of Mitchell Robinson leaves the Knicks with — let me check — zero, yes, zero rim protection. There are certainly lineups he should still be able to avoid, and times he needs to be quicker with cutting his losses. But without Mitch, there’s no way to manage his roster for 48 minutes and avoid completely inept defensive lineups.
  • However, Fizdale continues to not know when to cut those losses, and as a result frequently costs the Knicks four or five unnecessary points each half. In both the first and second halves, Fiz gave bench-laden units far too much spin all while the Bulls’ bench bros lit them up, turning seesaw battles into double-digit leads.
  • Fiz also continuously fails to even understand the factors that actually help the team play its best ball. His infatuation with lineups heavy on shot creators irrespective of their efficacy, and not attempting to create advantageous situations for them to play to their strengths continues to be a major blind spot.
  • Under Fiz’s watch the Knicks are, simply put, a very poorly-coached team. They’re not disciplined on either end, players too often are allowed to break the offense and freelance as they wish with no repercussions, late or missed defensive rotations from the same culprits are rarely punished, etc.
  • Leaving out that lineup as long as he did in the fourth, complete with the Fizdale special of calling a timeout because the lineup he has out there is getting fucked, then leaving them out there to continue to get fucked is a complete dereliction of duty. These are the exact type of problems the team had going back to last year with a shittier, less-talented lineup.
  • For the first three quarters the Knicks moved the ball well, ran some pick-and-roll, even set some good screens and trusted in each other. They had 24 assists entering the fourth. Then, when shit hit the fan, Julius Randle and Marcus Morris devolved into the worst versions of themselves, isolating and chucking up bullshit in misguided, but seemingly coach-approved, attempts to hero-ball the Knicks back into the game.
  • The Knicks are 30th in offensive rating, 23rd in defensive rating, 30th in net rating, 26th in pace, 29th in true shooting percentage, 29th in effective field goal percentage, 27th in assist rate, 23rd in 3-point attempt rate, and 25th in opponent effective field goal percentage. These are not hallmarks of a well-coached team. Yes, the roster is clunky and not very good, but the expectations, at least from fans, weren’t very high. Expecting the team to be improved from last year and not lose half their games by double digits isn’t a high standard.
  • That zone defense we whipped out throughout the game was very much not it, chief.
  • I think Fizdale should be relieved of his duties effective immediately, if that wasn’t clear.
  • ...which doesn’t mean Steve Mills and Scott Perry should be off the hook either. Their job should absolutely be on the line and up for review right after the trade deadline, but right now we aren’t even able to evaluate many players on the team due to how Fizdale has this team set up to play. If they need to demonstrate progress to stay employed, as has been reported, they’d be better off cutting bait sooner rather than later. Optics be damned, Fiz isn’t a good coach. Appoint Mike Miller as an interim head coach, and see if he can get more out of this roster. If not, the front office should be packing their bags as well.
  • RJ Barrett is really wonderful. After a few subpar performances, the rookie bounced back in a big way. He finished with 21 points, nine assists, and six rebounds in an all-around display that was certainly the biggest bright spot on the night. His vision kicking out to shooters in pick-and-roll is already advanced for a 19-year-old two-guard.
  • Frank Ntilikina is a plus player. I truly believe that. But being a starting point guard entails more. He needs to take responsibility when the team is floundering during a possession, and he needs to be more aggressive about taking defenders off the bounce and pulling up when defenders go under the screen. Nobody is asking or expecting him to be prime Russell Westbrook, but we have seen the flashes of his improved handle and need to see that bear out consistently game to game. If he simply won’t do it, he caps his own ceiling as a plus bench guard. No shame in that, but it is what it is.
  • Julius Randle is one of the most unintelligent, least fundamentally sound basketball players I have ever watched. His behind-the-back dribble that he usually fumbles off his heel is the worst move I’ve seen an NBA player consistently attempt in game. Yeah, Fiz is compounding the issue by trying to use him like LeBron James, and giving him the latitude to create off the bounce, but Randle needs to take responsibility for his own bullshit. He’s playing like a fucking mercenary when he’s the one guy they signed that actually has multi-year security.
  • Watch Randle any time somebody else grabs the rebound. He goes over to get the ball from them in order to bring the ball up himself. Fuck that. Run your ass up the floor. You’re not a point forward. Indulging that desire of his slows us down and is another example of bad coaching.
  • Kevin Knox has progressed very nicely this season. His offensive game in particular is much more efficient now that he’s been cast in a role with far less on-ball creation duties. His handle has improved, and while he’s still not comfortable making advanced dribble moves, that uptick allows him to make plays for others on plays last year that would have resulted in either offensive fouls or weak, flailing attempts at the rim.
  • The Frank/RJ/Knox trio has been criminally underutilized. For a team this shitty, not using one of your most complementary three-man lineups that also features three core young players is beyond ridiculous. I’d rather watch those three figure it out and give a shit over attempting to force feed Julius James, Carmelo Morris, and Bobby Bosh.
  • Add Mitch back into the mix with those three and you actually have something worth a damn to build upon. Get well soon, Mitch!
  • Dennis Smith Jr. really struggled to find his footing last night, and defensively let Ryan Arcidiacono drive on him too easily, but he looks like he has his burst back which was really nice to see. The Knicks desperately need him and/or Elfrid Payton to get themselves right so that they at least have a nominal point guard on the floor at all times.
  • Damyean Dotson hasn’t quite found the range yet, but on a team loaded with on-ball players, his off-ball movement, cutting, and shooting is necessary to balance things out. It also helps that he’s a competitive defender.
  • Bobby Portis needs to take open threes and only be allowed to post up when all else has failed. The more freedom you give him, the less you’re going to get out of him. He’s no great shakes, even in that limited of a role, which is why paying him $15 million was always foolish. But at least then he may provide some marginal value rather than taking so much off the table from others that deserve more than the scraps he so often leaves.
  • Fuck Randle.
  • No, seriously, fuck him.
  • I like Marcus Morris, but how Fizdale is using him makes him unbearable to watch. He got off to an ice-cold start, but did finish with 22 on 16 shots. But six turnovers to just one assist on that kind of usage is a major problem, and one that’s probably not going to improve at his age. I know that to an extent, given the roster we have, we’ll have to lean on his shot creation at times as a necessary evil; but the frequency with which we do, especially in combination with Randle’s bullshit is too much. That should not and does not need to happen.
  • Taj Gibson is a vet I want to keep around. He plays within himself, keeps the ball moving, sets screens, and definitely understands the finer details of the game. He’s the exact type of guy you want around your developing young core.

The Knicks dropped to 2-9 now on the season, good for last place in the league and on pace for a worse record than last year’s squad. Quoth Your Favorite Poster’s Favorite Poster: “Fizdale has somehow got this team playing worse than last year’s.”

With Fizdale’s status becoming ever more tenuous the Knicks host the Dallas Mavericks and our former savior-cum-nemesis Kristaps Porzingis on Thursday. If you want to drown away your sorrows, P&T, in conjunction with other Knicks blog bois will be hosting a watch party for the game. If you don’t want to watch the Knicks in public, I don’t blame you.

Until then, losers!