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Knicks 107, Wizards 100: “Randle is trying his damned hardest to make me not hate him”

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The Knicks bank a W despite up and down coaching and playing vs. the Washington Underdogs

New York Knicks v Washington Wizards Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Surprise! It’s your boy Prez aka @_Prezidente aka Plus Minus Platano aka Young Trade Mook For Shamet, bringing you this recap from a DC coffee shop a mile from the site of the Knicks’ latest win, like a true #coastalelite. This Saturday evening affair saw our Knicks battle to a 107-100 victory, despite an inability to keep their mitts off a cobbled-together Wizards roster (31 FTA for the Wiz) and a predilection for turnovers (21 for NYK).

In what is becoming a trend under interim head coach Mike Miller, a big reason for this was Julius Randle. JuJu had a box score game that actually reflected his dominance: 11-21 from the field, 6-7 from the stripe and 2-6 from three for 30 points, along with 16 boards and six dimes (five turnovers too, to be fair). The fall-away “no-no-yes” jumper was, well, falling today, as was his corner three (2-4 from the corners for him, 7-8 from the corners for the team). When watching JuJu, I loosely divide all his offensive possessions into:

  1. Assisted makes
  2. Plays where he passes out of doubles
  3. Downhill shots
  4. ISOs ending in bad jumpers and/or fadeaways
  5. Shots after collecting offensive rebounds

A nice Julius game (like this one) has a strong amount of assisted makes (threes and layups), willing passes out of traffic, a nice quantity of downhill forays to the hoop resulting in fouls and shots at the rim, a few O-boards and limits the iso-ball fade-aways mostly to quick decisions on clear mismatches. Fortunately for Julius, most defenders on this version of the Wizards (missing Brad Beal, Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, Thomas Bryant, and a few others) are mismatches. The Wiz tried to counter by packing the paint, but he dutifully tried to pass out (resulted in a few turnovers, but also a few assists/hockey assists).

So said HighFlyers28, “Randle is trying his damned hardest to make me not hate him.”

A few thoughts about the game in no particular order:

  • The Knicks got off to an incredibly slow start on offense thanks to everyone in the starting lineup fucking turning it over. The first six minutes, before Mitch checked in: turnover, 19-foot brick, Wiz getting a buncha O-boards, turnover, made three, turnover, turnover, made two, missed three, made two, missed two, turnover. Also a few fouls in there.
  • The defense vs the Wizards was mostly collected*. Even the young boys made the most of their minutes, rotating and helping with gusto. It can get frustrating watching Bobby and Taj drop back on pick-and-rolls (Miller has all three centers consistently do this) since they don’t offer much pressure when dropping back, but you’d still rather opposing ballhandlers take “easy” floaters and pull ups than easy layups — and that’s what this coverage tends to induce (especially vs. bad teams). That’s what IT3 hit us with in the first half: drawing fouls and shooting floaters/short Js after high PnR. So the key is a passable point of attack defense and passable rotations to complement the dropping big, especially when it’s Bobby or Taj.
  • *EXCEPT ELFRID. This was Phoenix Suns Elfrid Payton — it may have been his worst game as a Knick on both ends. He finished with a positive plus/minus thanks to the run of exceptional play in crunch time from Julius and Mitchell and RJ, nothing more. IT3, Ish Smith and Jordan McRae ran high pick-and-roll after high pick-and-roll, successfully taking Elf out of the possession every time. His footwork getting around screens is bad, and once he’s behind the ballhandler/screener he is not good at affecting the possession from behind (i.e. slowing the roller or bothering the ballhandler from behind). He would just die on the screen and leave his teammates playing four on five e v e r y t i m e. If RJB is 225 lbs maneuvering around screens like a motherfucking ballerina a year after not caring about screen defense, then all these non-Frank guards can get their fucking shit together. I have no patience for it.
  • Elf also had a pretty horrific offensive game. His game is centered on probing, but not forcing shots — he shoots just enough layups and floaters that teams have to think about him shooting on drives even though he’s a pass-first point guard, which lets him organize the offense in a pedestrian yet reliable fashion. The Wiz threw a 1-3-1 zone out for large swaths of the game, which makes useful penetration tough since so many people are in or near the paint. It also makes some pick-and-rolls less effective. That, combined with lazy passes and the quick hands of a few of the young Wizards (Troy Brown and Gary Payton the secondses, namely), led to six turnovers and a few more near-turnovers for the erstwhile starter.
  • Lest I sound too harsh, Elf’s been good under Miller! It’s just sometimes he really should be closer to 20 minutes than 35 minutes, for both development and winning purposes. Today was one of those instances. Frank led the team on an 11-0 run when he came in during the first half before picking up 2 quick fouls and getting hooked. Later in the game, when the offense stagnated, Frank actually began playing aggressively for his standard, driving and drawing a shooting foul and calling for some PnR on his own. He was subbed out for no real reason other than Miller wanting to close with his starting PG.
  • I took disproportionate amount of joy from sitting next to an older Knicks fan (my whole row was Knicks fans) who kept calling Frank “deer in the headlights,” because I would loudly call out Frank’s successful defensive maneuvers and also Elf dying on every screen. I regret nothing, he was quiet for most of the second half. #preztheteacher
  • The Knicks have been great at shooting the corner three all year, but it’s good to see an uptick in quantity of takes and makes from there (and elsewhere!). Especially notable in a game where Mook barely played.
  • Morris had five fouls and I barely remember him picking them up. He was mostly a non-factor, though his two threes and four crunch time free throws were appreciated. Him not playing gave us a bit of a preview of some lineup configurations we could see later this year...
  • More on Miller: I liked him going with a few youngboi lineups thanks to the aforementioned Mook foul trouble. We saw Elf/Frank with Dot, RJB, Knox, and Portis twice. The spacing was very evident, even if the defense was shaky — those lineups mostly bent but didn’t break. I also love him running Dot out there more than Fiz did, as he’s probably our only true two-way spacer not named Morris. My favorite play of the game was a nifty finish by Dot, who is 15-21 at the rim this year (70%) and was 59% at the rim last year, making him the rare NYK guard/wing who doesn’t suck at finishing:
  • All this almost made up for his weird insistence on playing Elf a ton, and even Zo late with Elf (I guess he wanted spacing?).
  • Altogether on offense, Miller has really taken the low-hanging fruits available to him — taking Zo and Dennis Smith Jr. out of the rotation, playing spacers like Dot and Bobby together, playing Knox at the four sometimes, implementing more pick and rolls, having real ATO plays, etc. — but beyond that, Miller isn’t that great of a coach on offense. Which is fine! He’s a strong defensive coach, and has been pretty much exactly as advertised form his time in the G-League.
  • Let’s talk about Mitch’s fouls. Three of Mitch’s four fouls were horribly inexcusable. One was 90 feet from the basket, another was him helping with his arms literally horizontal, as he tried to go across someone’s body and his own body for the ball. In crunch time, when he dominated, he drew a red line: if the shot wasn’t a layup, he didn’t even put his arms up. Fortunately for him, the shitty Wizards guards missed all their crunch-time floaters (to be fair, they were probably worried he would spring up and contest). The key for him is going to be finding a middle ground where he can have his arms up to semi-contest without truly decommitting.
  • Let’s talk about Frank’s fouls. His first three fouls were all with his body. I am going to work on a piece about his fouls, because I think that describes most of them. It is to the point where I can be convinced those ARE fouls by the book, but I feel like if they called those light chest bump fouls on everyone ALL the players would be in foul trouble. I’m not sure if I am just biased here or not (though I know the other name-brand plus-defending guards don’t get that called often), so further research is on my agenda.
  • I would love Gary Payton II on the Knicks. Give.
  • I just want to publicly thank the Knicks for allowing me to witness, in person, the impossible spectacle of the Knicks picking up their fifth win — more than we had under the ScApEGoAtEd PrEviOuS CoAcH — in a game where Elfrid Payton, who is SINGLEHANDEDLY responsible for ALL OF THE KNICKS’ IMPROVEMENT AS A TEAM, played like dirty buttcheeks. Some people spend whole lifetimes searching for rare natural phenomena, yet I, for a mere 22-dollar upper bowl ticket, was #blessed to see a miracle with mine own eyes.
  • Whoever can name all the Knicks on my shirt first gets a high five and a Twitter unfollow:

See y’all in 2020.