When a post-mortem is performed on the Knicks’ 2021-22 season, Friday’s 115-114 loss to the Suns will be worth a re-examination. Despite stretches of genuinely good basketball in the game, many of this year’s ailments were on display: Julius Randle’s capricious and costly emotions, Evan Fournier’s anemic defense, a collapse in the final minutes, confounding coaching decisions, the need for a floor general in crunch time, etc.
You’d be right to expect the same when the New York Knicks (25-38) visit the Los Angeles Clippers (34-31) on Sunday. The Clips are riding a five-game win streak and 7-3 in their last 10. Although the team is neither high-scoring nor speedy, head coach Ty Lue has them playing solid defense, and that has kept them in the playoff hunt. Remember defense, Knicks faithful? And playoff hunts?
The Knicks have won three of their last 20 games. That’s eye-poppingly gruesome. And tonight’s game will be nationally televised yet again. No mercy.
One bright spot of that Suns contest—and an anomaly, to be honest—was Mitchell Robinson’s play (more below). The Knicks will need more of that good stuff from him if they want to win this one. Unless they’re, ya know, tanking.
It’s game three of the seven-game road trip. Tip-off’s at 10 p.m. EST, hair trimmers.
Julius Randle was determined to reclaim top dawg status on Friday. He dropped 25 points and seven boards before losing his cool and getting tossed. C’est la Randle.
Not to re-litigate it, but Randle elbowed Johnson to start this scenario, and I don’t fault Cam for the shove (listen to his explanation below). The funny thing is, Julius complains constantly to the refs, but if they called all his sneaky elbows and shoves, he’d foul out of most games. But never mind my unpopular opinion, here’s food for thought:
And more linebacker play:
Randle’s counterpart on the Clippers, forward Nicolas Batum (6’8”, 230 lbs) has played for three teams over his 14 years in the association. This year, the 33-year old has averaged 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 24 minutes per outing and has a respectable defensive rating of 107.2. He’d be wise to bring his shoulder pads tonight.
Point guard Reggie Jackson (6’2”, 208 lbs) is second on the Clippers in minutes (31), field goal attempts (16.2), and three-point shots (6.9), although he isn’t great from deep (33%). The 31-year old Boston College alum has averaged 17 points and 4.7 dimes in his 11th NBA campaign. He’ll face off against Alec Burks, who averages 10.9/4.6/2.7. That’s our point guard. Yessir.
In year three, 25-year old Terance Mann (6’5”, 215 lbs) has averaged 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in 29 minutes per game. The Florida State product is shooting 49% from the field and 37% from downtown on 2.6 attempts.
Mann’s career-high is 25 points, and he’s my pick for random-dude-to-break-a-record-against-New-York. Look for Evan Fournier to lay out a defenseless picnic blanket upon which Mann shall feast.
Former Jayhawk Marcus Morris, Sr. (6’8”, 218 lbs) has averaged 16 points and 4.6 boards in 30 minutes per game. The 11th-year man will bump with RJ Barrett, who shot 6-for-26 for 20 points in 44 minutes on Friday. Barrett played well despite the ghastly 23% shooting and seemed more intentional about involving Mitch on offense than any other teammate this season.
In his sixth season, Ivica Zubac (7’, 240 lbs) is averaging 10.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in 24 minutes per game. The 24-year old will square off against Mitchell Robinson, who was an all-out beast against the Suns: 17 points, 15 rebounds, four steals, three blocks, and only three fouls all in 37 minutes. If he played like that more often, New York would sit higher in the standings.
New York defeated the Clippers once already this season, 110-102. That January victory brought our heroes to 23-24 at the time, and post-season play remained a possibility. Ah, isn’t hope a feathered thing?
Will New York have the Clippers’ number again? Or will L.A. be the latest team to hold the football so the Knicks can do their Charlie Brown routine?
Prediction: Knicks by dos. Surprise!
Crypto.com Arena. Sunday. 10 p.m. EST. Go get ’em, Knicks.