The Knicks scored 45 in the first quarter against the Kawhi Leonard-less Los Angeles Clippers Sunday afternoon. Then they gave up 47 in the second quarter, were outscored by 30 over the middle two frames, fought back to make it close late and came up short, 135-132. The Knicks lost, but they didn’t have to like it. And they didn’t: New York was called for four technical fouls in the first half, which is pro’ly the only reason they weren’t called for more later. The griping never stopped, a credit to the fact that the Knicks didn’t, either.
The Knicks set a season-high for points in any quarter and tied a franchise record for points in the first. They hit 14 of their first 19 shots and shot 76% for the frame, helped by RJ Barrett hitting all four of his attempts, including a three-pointer. A Marcus Morris three capped a 24-8 run that put them up 14 over a Clipper team that’s no joke even without their best player. Bobby Portis hit a couple of threes late in the frame, then got New York’s first T for jawing at the Clipper bench on the way upcourt.
The Knicks were up 16 entering the second. Then Montrezl Harrell happened.
Montrezl Harrell has a scary combination of bounce, strength, and quick loading + explosion to the rim. pic.twitter.com/lTQYcLaNnn— Spencer (@SKPearlman) January 5, 2020
Ditto Lou Williams.
Gran labor de Lou Williams y Montrezl Harrell para darle la vuelta al marcador.— NBA MÉXICO (@NBAMEX) January 5, 2020
Primero Williams con 3⃣ triples seguidos : pic.twitter.com/HBnYwcx6DR
Harrell was bossing Mitchell Robinson like I have never seen anyone boss him before, and apparently Mike Miller’s strategy of having bigs drop back off pick-and-rolls was preferable to contesting Sweet Lou’s looks. By the time Paul George returned to action and hit a transition three the Clips were back in front. Those three players — Harrell, Williams and George — would each end up with 30+, the first time in Clip history that’s ever happened.
Taj Gibson got hit with the Knicks’ second technical foul after being whistled for fouling George. Before his second free throw, Marcus Morris and Patrick Beverley were — hard to imagine — antagonizing one other prepping to box out. Beverley slapped Mo’s arm, Morris pushed him off, and the refs called him for the tech. Moments later, Randle was T’d up between two more L.A. free throws after telling someone on the Clipper bench “I swear I’ll bust you on that ass. Make a move.”
What works in government works in basketball: if things are falling apart, distract the masses with drama. The technical tsunami did nothing to quell what crested to a 35-11 Clipper run in the second, but here I am writing about it. Less painful to discuss than Williams repeatedly hitting that lefty leaning three-ball against big men mysteriously refusing to contest him, or Harrell having 21 off the bench before halftime, or the Knicks tying a franchise record for points bled in a second quarter. Morris hit a pair of last-minute threes to paint some lipstick on a pig of 23-point single-quarter swing.
New York opened the third hitting their first five shots. Even that late in the game, they were hitting 61% of their shots. Thing is, the Clippers were, too, including six more threes than the Knicks. With just under 10:00 left in the third the score was 84-80. In the late 1990s that was a final score. This is a different neighborhood.
Lou checked back in, an excellent and exciting opportunity to see the Knicks try Frank Ntilikina on him. Naturally, Frank went to the bench and Kadeem Allen got the nod, ‘cuz with Elfrid Payton out for personal reasons and Damyean Dotson out for inexplicable reasons, why give your young defensive specialist a shot when there’s an afterthought available who’s played fewer NBA games in his lifetime than Williams has for five different teams?
The mid-third is where the Knick offense went to die. On consequent possessions we got: Allen forcing a midrange pull-up; Taj tossing up some spinning fadeaway nonsense; Barrett stripped pulling up; Allen forcing up a full-body heave with the shot clock expiring that snowballs in hell considered a pipe dream; and then Randle committing an offensive foul nearly separating his shoulder driving it into Patrick Patterson’s grill.
But then came the fourth: cometh the hour, cometh Marcus Morris. Moses was relentless and featured in an interesting lineup along with Allen, Reggie Bullock, Portis and Mitch. Still, all the individual effort in the world can’t overcome institutional inequality; you need systemic change. That came with 7:00 left, when George fouled out after colliding with Ntilikina. Frank and Randle replaced Allen and Portis and the hardscrabble was on.
Barrett drew a foul on Jerome Robinson and hit one free throw. A Bullock corner three in transition courtesy of Randle penetrating made it a three-point gap and capped a 10-0 run. After all Mitch and Portis’ suffering at the hands of Harrell, Randle played him tough in the fourth, and Bullock did a good job not letting Lou get open or draw fouls with his pump-fake shenanigans. Late in the game Ntilikina drove for a lay-up and had a shot at a three-point play, but no Knicks are allowed to hit free throws, so he missed. After a Williams deep ball put L.A. up six, Morris hit a pretty incredible triple while trying to draw a foul. Knicks down three.
With the biscuit firmly in its crux, Julius Randle was caught one-on-one defending Lou Williams. Randle didn’t do anything wrong. He did everything he could. But one of the things he can’t do is stop Lou Williams one-on-one late when it’s stop or bust. Lou boomed. Knicks busted. Fin.
- Bench points: Clippers 85, Knicks 36.
- Morris pumped in a career-high 38. He is not here for your redundant leading questions.
"I want to be here long term"— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) January 5, 2020
➡️ Marcus Morris pic.twitter.com/nbHq0x9kVQ
- We can dissect and micro-analyze Barrett to the nth degree. One thing the numbers can never tell you is how comfortable the teenager looks out there against the best in the world. He had a couple early off-hand drives, including one where he went right at George and finished a three-point play. Even after getting knocked around on drives, he just kept coming.
- Mitch did not have the strength nor the patience to deal with Montrezl. The Clips did a better job than any team I can remember this year using Mitchell’s aggression against him. Harrell, especially, one-on-one or off set-ups from others, was living large in the paint with no regard for Robinson’s presence. I don’t know if he shows no fear because he’s having success, or if he’s having success because he has no fear; either way, they both were things. Harrell and George went strong right at Robinson; instead of looking to avoid his wingspan, they attacked it.
Similarly, late in the 3rd when the Knicks had the ball, Robinson was down deep in the restricted area with Lou Williams on his back, begging for the ball. Barrett, guarded at the arc by Harrell, lobbed it into Mitch. But when he caught it he brought it down to his waist, and as he tried to rise up Rodney McGruder stripped him and the ball was recovered by Landry Shamet, who’d come in from the corner off Bullock.
- Early in the game, Mitch set a pick for Bullock, took a bounce pass at the top of the arc, drove the lane and finished a running lay-up off-glass over Harrell. Have we seen a running lay-up from M-Rob to this point in his career? From that far out?!
- The Knicks could have scored even more than 45 in the first. After Ivica Zubac was called for a defensive three-second violation, 86% free-throw shooter Frank Ntilikina came over to take the shot, as he did in a recent game. But he was rebuffed by 70% free-throw shooter Julius Randle, who, as the gods of karma and comedy (they’re the same gods) ordained, missed the foul shot.
- Later, after another L.A. three-second violation, 85% free-throw shooter Marcus Morris lined up for the free throw. Randle, not surprisingly, did not intervene. Morris — not surprisingly, if you study the gods — missed.
- RJ hit 9 of 11 free throws. The rest of the Knicks? 15 of 26.
- Portis reminds me of Action from West Side Story. It’s not just that he can’t cool off; it’s that he shows up ready to blow.
- There aren’t too many players today who’d fit in seamlessly with the old Pat Riley Knicks. Patrick Beverley 100% would.
- George did this.
For some reason, that made me think of David Wright’s great catch against the Padres years ago.
- Didn’t Paul George screw over Doc Rivers’ daughter? Yes. Yes he did.
How on Earth does Rivers agree to work with this man after all that???? He’s already made millions. He’s already led a team to a title. How is it worth it?
- In addition to his numerous foibles as a color analyst, Wally Szczerbiak is in danger of losing whatever shred of credibility he has left by being a blatant fucking homer on every. Single. Call during every. Single. Game.
- Props to the MSG broadcast for their baseline microphones today. They were picking up everything the players were saying after whistles and on the foul line. Every game should have that clarity and access.
- Donald Sterling sold the Clippers just five short years ago. Keep hope alive, Knick fans.
- Landry Shamet looks like a guy who will lead a massive sociopolitical revolution in 40 years, and people will hear he used to play basketball and look up images from his playing days and be shocked at how he used to look. It happens.
Quoth Kaisersoser37: “WTF is [Randle] doing on Lou...?!” Who knows? Next game is Tuesday, when the Knicks will deal another Los Angeles contender, one that likely won’t be missing it’s best player (whichever one you think that is). Tune in for the exciting, stressful cross-matches sure to follow!