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Knicks 96, Pistons 84: Mitch is the final boss of this roster

90’s Knicks, 80’s Pistons. It was the best/worst of times.

Detroit Pistons v New York Knicks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

This game was half-calamity, half-abrasion in the early stages. Both teams were clunking and thunking. As it started to unpack, the Pistons’ execution was a little more firm and friendly while the Knicks were disjointed, disinterested, discombobulated. Quickly enough, the ‘bockers were playing from behind. It’s almost as if they were more comfortable in that position. Julius Randle was spinning easy looks off the rim, with his fingers practically touching the goal. There was no real ball movement. RJ Barrett laid some shoddy masonry.

It burbled up slowly but Jules finally got real hot about his misses and in a determined thrash to the hoop he kneed Sekou Doumbouya in the stones and converted the lay up. Things started to turn around from there as the Knicks started to play a little more fierce. Then Mitchell Robinson got in and the pace suddenly quickened. Detroit just was not clear how to deal with this clawed and fanged gazelle.

Still, the game stayed tight with the Knicks up two at the half and up one after three. In the fourth quarter Frank Ntilikina and the gang started swallowing possessions whole and the Knicks pushed out to a twelve point advantage with a few minutes remaining. The Pistons just didn’t seem interested by then but they still tried a funky half court trap that didn’t produce any turnovers and in essence helped the Knicks run the clock out. Detroit had an anemic 13 points in the final frame.

Healthy victory for the Knicks. Always nice to see them dispatch teams in games they should win; at home, against a banged up team with no distinct identity. This is more or less what the honest fan expected coming into the season. These Knicks, on paper, should have enough juice to be competitive every night and beat teams that are in a bad place.

  • Kevin Knox had two blocks and he pooped home a three in the final minute of the first quarter. His poop was especially fibrous because the ball got to him twice on one possession. Kudos to Elfrid Payton there for recognizing the defense was fading and working the ball crosscourt.
  • All in all decent defensive effort from Knox, but he still willingly sets up to take bad routes getting over screens and unsurprisingly it gets him in trouble. It happens often, where he is scrambling to contest while dealing with the screen and fouling three point shooters. He needs to move his feet to get his whole body over the top and then he can run downhill without colliding on a contest or to catch up in control. Instead Knox cozies up the screener and stays almost even with them, as if he’s expecting a switch then jumps around the screen and hits the shooters. Dubious calls be damned, it’s bad practice.
  • After the game Mighty Mitchell gave Knox some praise.
  • Mitch of course, had a few blocks oh his own. One time the Pistons had a 3-on-2 fast break. Langston Galloway led the way but was blanketed by Kevin Knox. With Ntilikina on the flank, a drop off to Khyri Thomas was quickly stonewalled, and the ball swung to Svi Mykhailiuk, who scooted down to the left corner. Poor kid, he looked down to make sure his feet were behind the line...

...and, shit I dunno if he thought Robinson is 12’ away so he’s not a threat, or maybe he thought he had all the time in the world. Mitchell brings that daylight savings energy to your still-in-bed ass jump shot though.

  • Amin Elhassan had a nice anecdote, on the Back to Back podcast, talking about Nick Nurse’s philosophy to double team post ups from the strong corner when he (Nurse) was coaching the Iowa Energy. It’s counterintuitive to most NBA schemes because there’s too much good shooting in the league. So doubling from one pass away is a fool’s gambit. Essentially Nurse knew that G-League bigs were too selfish, or unaware, or both, to kick the ball out. So the help just gets closer and closer until eventually they can scrape it away.
  • All this is to say: Julius Randle and Bobby Portis forcing post ups, is just about my least favorite thing this team allows. They’re willing to accept the double team with no intention of passing, it gets them in trouble. Their teammates wait around, open, slump their shoulders, and now they’re a step slow getting back on defense. Happened twice to Randle (one was a held ball) and once to Portis. Just! Where would you even be going with this, Bobby? You don’t have good touch around the rim and the entire defense is keyed in on you. :(
  • Kenny Albert always keeps Clyde up to date on hockey. The Rangers I think it is. Clyde just sits there and nods. Riveting audio. When it came to Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier, Clyde was rejoined the broadcast. The whole team got ring side seats for Ali-Frazier 1, at the Garden on March 8th, 1971. “Court side seats” if you ask Clyde. He was rooting for Frazier because the name had a nice ring to it.
  • Good game from Elfrid Payton, but that’s all you people ever want to talk about, so I’ll ignore him for now and just leave you with his sister’s thoughts:
  • Frank Ntilikina continues to be a little more carnivorous on offense. Chopping his way further into the paint and putting together some longer series’ of moves than he ever seems willing to show. Maybe Elfrid’s perpetual forward motion is rubbing off on Frank. In previous years if Ntilikina had a rough first half despite some good attacks, he’d just disappear into the offense, politely declining shots. Now he keeps on coming.
  • Bruce Brown caused all sorts of trouble from all sorts of corners in his 37 minutes. He hit a couple shots he baited defenders and got into the paint. The Knicks seemed pretty uninterested in him but eventually they realized he was giving them the business.
  • More Pistons: Christian Wood was frustrated with Julius’ physical play on both ends. Little bursts and flails eventually led to a couple shoves and then they got close enough to smooch, but Wood seemed like he thought that would be a bad idea. Maybe his wife was watching. Then Mitchell Robinson inexplicably came in and threw his lank on the scrum. Technicals were assessed. Wood did not seem to be enjoying himself tonight.
  • Speaking of tonight, it was Women’s Empowerment Night at the Garden. RJ Barrett had some sneaks for the occasion.
  • This one lady, I’m sorry I missed her name, was surprised with a service dog after being honored for her war efforts. I think she deserves a service animal, but I have thoughts about war. It’s the worst card game. Anyway, she got to sit at center court and kiss a puppy! The dog, whose name I also missed, is still in training. But damn, I want to do that! I’m so jealous. Dogs are great, and if responsibly cared for, they’ll give you everything they got.
  • Nice moment with RJ Barrett clanging two consecutive free throws, the rim mics caught Christian Wood annoyingly saying “Hell nah, hell nah”. On the second miss, Mitchell Robinson skied over Wood to gather the offensive bound and he got fouled on the way up. Wood went to the bench.

Don’t worry, goodly Posters & Toasters, Professor Miranda will be back soon enough. I’ll get out of your hair. The only life experience I have to relate to this game is that I love my dog and I could talk about her, but you would look at me weird.

Next up the Knicks hit the road to face the ever challenging Washington Wizards. More Knicks stuff from us is always on the horizon. Drink water, wash hands, and never let your friends post up if they don’t kick out.