Another day, another loss for the Knickerbockers of New York. I started writing this recap right after Tony Snell hit that 3-pointer around the four-minute mark, or something like that. These type of articles are certainly never fun to write, especially when the team you’re covering is 1–7 and appear to be hopeless. Okay, maybe hopeless is too strong a word, but when you decide to dedicate time to watch a team lose in another blowout instead of, well, anything, the morale disappears.
I should have seen the sign back in the first quarter when Mitchell Robinson took an inadvertent elbow to the head by the other Morrii, Markieff. Honestly, if Marcus and Markieff switched jerseys at halftime, would any of us really know? I doubt it. Anywell, the beautiful, sweet baby Mitchell Robinson tried to muscle his way through a concussion to no avail as he eventually was brought back to the locker room. When you lose one of the few reasons why you tune into Knicks games, it’s always a tough blow, but at least the gorgeous pairing of RJ Barrett and Frank Ntilikina was still playing. And playing is what they did, because they were the bright spots in another dull, early-season game.
Barrett had another inefficient shooting night with 15 points on 44.5 true shooting. No need to freak out about the efficiency now, especially early in the season. If Barrett is still shooting 50 percent on his free throws halfway through year three, then we can start getting worried. Until then, let’s praise the rookie for taking 11 free throws in the game, because Barrett’s ability to draw fouls this well is quite promising long term. His lack of an explosive first step really doesn’t matter because he’s so strong and crafty getting around his man. Not only that, Barrett had a team-high in assists with eight and in rebounds with six. Along with two steals, this kid just fills up the box score, in a good, non-Enes-Kanter way.
I could spend pretty much all day, any day praising RJ Barrett, so let me praise another player: Frank Ntilikina. This was one of Frank’s better all-around performances I’ve seen in some time. He posted 11 points on 69.8 true shooting and simply played elite defense. Ntilikina had three blocks, one steal, and conservatively caused all 16 of the Pistons’ turnovers. When the game was actually still a game, anyone he guarded had no shot at doing anything on offense, especially poor Luke Kennard. The offense also ran much smoother when Ntilikina was on the court calling plays and so forth. The pairing of Barrett and Ntilikina just makes too much sense both in the immediate and long term, so you know Fizdale is going to break it up once Elfrid Payton and/or Dennis Smith Jr. return.
For roughly 27 minutes of this matchup, the two teams were evenly matched. It was tied at one point as well.
After the moment pictured above, however, is when the game went to shit. The officials made a horrific flagrant foul call on Julius Randle as hit foot was in Morris’ landing zone on a 3-point shot. Not only did Morris make the shot, but he converted the free throw, the Pistons got the ball back, and Andre Drummond scored an easy two. A six-point swing just like that because the officials somehow took Randle’s aloofness as flagrant. Absolutely despicable. Then the game got really out of hand when the refs gifted OAKAAK Langston Galloway an and-one 3-pointer on Kevin Knox as Galloway flung himself 69 feet in front of the 3-point line and into Knox. Even on the challenge the refs still got it wrong. In all seriousness, those officials reviewing the play at the arena and in Secaucus should lose their jobs for their ineptitude in understanding the NBA rulebook. I loathe nothing more than shitty officials still getting a call wrong when they have replay. Disgusting.
Alright, let’s get into some notes on this game to close this shit out because I’m already tired of discussing this game.
- Julius Randle had a bounce-back scoring night. And I used scoring specifically because that was the only thing he did well tonight. Hopefully seeing his 3-point shot go in tonight gives Randle some confidence moving forward because overall, he did not play a good game. Another poor defensive game and he didn’t even grab defensive rebounds to at least soften the blow of his ineptitude on that side of the court. I’m not ready to say that he needs to come off the bench, because Fizdale needs to put Randle in better positions to succeed, but he can at least split him and Morris up by staggering the lineups more.
- Kevin Knox scored 14 points on seven shots in roughly 27 minutes of play, while not being a dumpster fire on defense. Still not necessarily good, but being somewhere between below average to pretty bad on D is a huge improvement, especially when he’s this efficient on offense. Him coming off the bench and focusing more on off-ball movement, catch-and-shoot threes and attacking closeouts is a much better role for him long-term. The Knicks should be looking to get more creative with Knox off the ball and playing him more with Ntilikina and Barrett.
- Bad Bobby Portis showed up, and this version of him really cannot be on the court more than five minutes. I really hope that Mitch’s concussion isn’t bad...
- How many Ntilikina assists is Taj Gibson going to ruin?
- At practice, what do the Knicks do? They certainly don’t practice free throws or setting screens.
- The Knicks’ team defense stinks so much that Andre Drummond dropped Jokic numbers tonight. 27 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. Seven fucking assists for Andre fucking Drummond!
- The Pistons had a 68.1 true shooting percentage. Sixty-eight! That’s 55.7 percent from the field, 79.2 percent from the line, and 50 fucking percent from three!
- Barrett played just under 34 minutes in this one. At least for tonight, Fizdale realized that playing your rookie less than 40 minutes in a blowout loss is dumb.
I really need to watch a win soon because there is far too much good television, movies, and books for me to entertain myself with during these long, cold New England nights.