Look, I already know what you’re thinking as you click to read this article: “Drew, why wasn’t this article written when this stuff was actually relevant? It’s old news already.” First of all, that’s totally fair. I do not have a good reason/excuse as to why this took so long. With that said, I could republish this article in the dog days of the season and it will still be worth it because reminiscing on this year’s clean sweep of the Mavericks is always a fun thing to do.
Watching the Mavericks lose to this Knicks team is a thing of beauty. Luka Doncic went off in both games and it still wasn’t enough to defeat the Knickerbockers. And honestly, after this weekend’s back-to-back losses, we all could use some good memories to lift our spirits because we consume way too much food for no apparent reason other than gluttony. Let’s not waste anymore time and get right into the five plays that stood out to me the most.
The Knicks Ran Screens!?!?
It’s amazing what some simple screens can do. Whether it’s drag screens in semi-transition or high pick-and-roll to initiate the offense, this is something we have been begging the Knicks to do. The Knicks guards are best running pick-and-rolls, so maybe start running actions that put your main ball-handlers in positions to succeed? But what do I know since I never worked for an NBA team and don’t DM people on Twitter to become patrons on my Patreon.
Anywell, let’s look at this simple, yet effective play:
Dennis Smith Jr. gets the ball over half court quickly, Both Bobby Portis and Mitchell Robinson set screens for Smith on Luka Doncic, and Portis pops as Robinson dives. Enlightened, experienced NBA personnel will tell you that the Knicks shouldn’t run pick-and-roll because all the defender has to do is go under the screen. Luka probably should have listened to this very intelligent individual because he didn’t go under any of the two screens. It’s almost as if basketball isn’t played in a hypothetical vacuum and defenders are going to go over screens from time to time, even on Dennis Smith. Shocking, I know.
Doncic going over those screens forces Powell to sag off because otherwise Smith has a clear path to the hoop. This leaves Portis open behind the arc. Smith seals off Doncic and makes the easy pass to Portis, who nails the three. Contrary to popular belief, basketball isn’t rocket science and running a simple play like this for your guards can lead to efficient, easy offense. You can swap Portis with Kevin Knox or Marcus Morris. You can swap Robinson for Julius Randle or Taj Gibson. You can swap Smith for Frank Ntilikina and RJ Barrett. The possibilities are endless! Fiz Daddy, if you’re reading this, please tell your guys to do more of this.
Luka Gets Cooked
I try to avoid “highlight plays” but sometimes they are too good to pass up. Let’s watch Doncic get cooked by our French Prince and the new King of New York:
RJ puts Luka Loser into a spin cycle and Frank does his best Hot Sauce impression to get by Luka and kick out a beautiful and perfect no look pass to Randle. Ntilikina’s handles have clearly gotten better and he’s getting more and more aggressive as each game passes. I love these two beautiful, handsome young men. The future is bright.
Good Offense Leads to
Great Offense That Technically Worked
Our gorgeous French Prince has been playing his way onto an All Defense team this year. He’s been a one-man wrecking crew. It’s such a refreshing thing to watch. Let’s watch Frank’s defense lead to a Portis basket:
Frank switches onto Dwight Powell and Doncic tries to play into the “mismatch.” Only problem is that Frank on anyone isn’t a mismatch. Frank gets around Powell because he’s sealing like a turd and grabs the steal. Ntilikina and Portis push the ball but can't get an easy basket in transition. Portis surprisingly resets and Frank gets him the ball right back in the post. Portis makes a quick decision and drains the turnaround jumper.
I hate that shot with a passion, but at least it went in and Frank got the assist. Taj Gibson should take notes on how to not blow a Frank assist.
Porzingis Still Can’t Create Off The Dribble
Two of the biggest criticisms against Kristaps Porzingis when he played in New York were he cannot create his own shot off the dribble and cannot pass. Well guess what? He still stinks at these two things.
Porzingis gets bottled-up by Taj and he commits the biggest sin in passing: he left his feet. Barrett is right there to nab the pass — quick tangent, Barrett has been great reading passing lanes off the ball — and gets into transition. Thank the lord that the ball bounces in the Knicks favor to Randle for the basket because RJ made a poor pass to Gibson. The King of New York needs to both improve and gain confidence in his right hand because he should have faked the pass and went hard to the rim. He’s a rookie, so I’ll forgive him. If he keeps doing this in like year four, I won’t be so kind.
The Biggest Play Of The Game
If you’re paying a seven-footer a max contract, one thing that should be expected is that when the game is on the line and your team needs a rebound, he will be tall and grab said rebound. That’s a fair expectation, right? I think so, and hopefully you think so as well. Or you can be someone who believes that defensive rebounding isn’t important, which, okay then, I guess.
Anywell, with the Mavericks needing a critical defensive rebound with RJ Barrett at the line, their max player Kristaps Porzingis does this:
Porzingis can’t box out Randle, gets moved all the way under the basket, and is in no position for a rebound. Instead, Randle gets the offensive rebound and effectively wins the game. Mavs fans must have been incensed when this happened, but we Knickerbocker loyalists know all too well about Porzingis’ inability to properly box out. Maybe Phil Jackson was right about Porzingis after all? Can’t wait to revisit his tenure 10 years from now.
Let’s get back to basketball, though. One positive thing about Barrett’s free throw shooting is that it seems to be coming around. The kid couldn’t make consecutive free throws if he tried to start the season. Luckily, Barrett loves the game and is a psycho (in a good way) when it comes to working on his weaknesses. It’s wonderful to watch the origins of an actual potential franchise player.