It hurts to see Kemba Walker in the Knicks pregame promotional video. It’s a reminder of the fragility of this season. Isn’t there supposed to be a media group in charge of these kinds of fan-facing promotions? Steve Stoute, do your thing. I have an NBA group chat with frenemies who root for various teams. As the lone Knicks fan, I started the season in Bing Bong heat, over-shooting my shot and talking a ton of shit. I am looking like a clown these days.
The Knicks playing the champs at home gave my group chat plenty of ammo. Even worse, RJ Barrett, Alec Burks, and Obi Toppin were all out due to COVID protocols. This could get ugly. Last night, I got little to no sleep due to my neighbors shooting their guns off into the air in some hood celebration. So I was already grumpy, to begin with.
Evan Fournier and Julius Randle heaved up a few air-balls to open the game to start down 9-1. Things would worsen when Kevin Knox entered the game at 4:30 in the first — yes, first quarter. What the hell, Thibs? When was the last time Knox entered the game in the first quarter? It had to be during the David Fizdale era, which this season is looking more and more like as each game goes by.
Derrick Rose started at the point with two starters out, and rookie Quentin Grimes started at shooting guard. Coming into the game, Grimes was shooting 9-22, with 20 of his 22 shots coming from beyond the arc. Julius Randle only took a few minutes to find him at the top of the key to knock down a triple. This kid needs to play as do the other two rookies. If there’s one thing most Knicks fans agree on, it’s that Thins needs to play the kids more. Why the hell not? The vets are truly sucking, especially Fournier and Noel. Why not play the guys with boundless energy and something to prove?
At the end of the first, Grimes has five points and three assists. I love the way he plays. He resembles youth and agility on the floor, something these Thibs line-ups suffocate with his overreliance on his under-achieving vets. It’s ironic. It’s not hard to imagine if the three guys out due to COVID protocols were playing, we would still be down by 10. So why not just play the kids and see where the cards fall. If you keep losing, you earn a solid young player to add to the core and can trade off the vets before the deadline for additional assets. If you win, you give the young core opportunities to impact winning.
Bobby Portis has to relish torching his old team. After being a part of last year’s championship, he’s having an nice season. He and Knox had a nice back and forth early in the second quarter. Knicks were still down by ten after their mini-shootout was over. Knox took nine shots in nine minutes for eight points.
This was a game Giannis was able to slide into facilitator mode and let the other guys get the bag. He’s the best player in the NBA because of his ability to impact every facet of the game on both sides of the court. Kris Middleton’s game had an early 13 points on 5-7 for a +20.
At the five-minute mark in the second, Randle gets his first field goal on a three-pointer, only to turn it over on the next Knicks possession. Shockingly, Thibodeau benched him. Knicks down by 20. Portis was in beast mode, gobbling up offensive rebounds and power through the Knicks' weak defense. He knocks down a very well defended turn-around jumper from Quinton Grimes. Mike Breen told us what we already knew in our hearts: for the fifth time in six games, Knicks trailed by 20.
Can we talk about Evan Fournier? Man. This guy has played like trash since those first seven games. By the end of the first half, he was 1-5 overall and 0-5 from three. When his shot is off, he is such an negative force on defense. We have seen none of the playmaking and off the dribble scoring promised to us. Instead, he has regressed to floating out to the perimeter, waiting for the inevitable pass by Randle for three he will surely miss.
Quentin Grimes, on the other hand, poured in 13 first-half points and gave the Knicks inspiring defense, guarding all five positions on switches. A Grimes three with 20 seconds left pushed the Knicks into a run that cut the Bucks lead to 10, only for Rodney Hood to hit a three off a pick-and-roll screen. The Knicks were down 13 at the half. Shrug.
By the third quarter, it was obvious that this was the Quentin Grimes game. The rookie knocked down back-to-back threes to cut the lead to 11 at 73-62. Grimes with 25 points. The Garden began to rumble awake.
Unfortunately, Fournier (2-7) was still on the court and let Jrue Holiday back him into the paint for a quick turnaround lay in. He then chucks a brick out of a TO and fouled Khris Middleton on a pull-up. Knicks fans are starting to hate the Frenchman. Hopefully, Thibodeau will consider starting Grimes over Fournier permanently. To do so, Grimes has to show more than a three-ball to earn consistent playing time.
Rose was back to his old self in the second half. He started to finish at the rim and blow by any defender the Bucks threw at him. He knocked down a three to cut the lead to 10 again.
Towards the end of the third quarter Thibodeau played Rose, Immanuel Quickly, Grimes, Knox, and Mitchell Robinson, and boy was it fun. IQ instantly showed his chops, dishing to Robinson to beat the shot clock. Then Knox drilled his third three for 11 points.
It was shocking to see Thibodeau have this much trust in Knox. It probably won’t translate to an increase in minutes, but it was fun to see for the moment. The defense still struggled with all five Bucks starters in double figures by the end of the third. Knicks were down 13 entering the final quarter.
With the way the season has gone, it’s looking more and more like Randle’s career year last season was an aberration. He finished the game 2-0 for 8 points. Too much indecision. Not enough trust in self. Not enough effort. It’s one of the main reasons, along with Thibodeau’s poor coaching, that has led to an under .500 season this far. The same could be said for the entire team’s effort. Try as they might, the Knicks couldn’t make the game close.
Until these factors change, things will remain the same.
Until they do, please, play the kids more. McBride finally entered the game with 45 seconds left. It was downright disrespectful. As P&T’er Walt Clyde Phraser noted, it’s hard not to root for more “garbage time” these days when the big-money starters are crapping all over themselves every game.