If you didn’t watch the New York Knicks (1-2) slog their way to their second defeat of the baby season and only checked the final 96-87 score, you might have thought the game was still going on.
That’s because the Knicks were awful at putting the ball in the basket, but the New Orleans Pelicans (2-0) didn’t help matter either by scoring 96 points through 48 minutes.
That’s two points per minute for the Pels and a meager 1.8 for the Knicks. This season, albeit it just kicked off last Tuesday and is only 68 games old, has featured only one game in which both teams combined to score fewer than 190 points. Go figure.
Only the Houston Rockets have scored fewer points (86) in a single game than the Knicks did yesterday. Whatever.
Saturday’s matchup marked the third chapter in the Fight for 2019-Dukie Supremacy between Zion and RJ, and the outcome was most definitely clearer than the one coming out of Riyadh. No split decision here, this was more of a knockout loss.
Quoth Jaybugkit: “Jeffries made the score look respectable. Well, get ready for the next game.”
Zion Williamson was dominant in the Pelicans' home opener— NBA (@NBA) October 29, 2023
70% FG pic.twitter.com/UsnTjj9ewZ
There is no way to sugarcoat this thing, no matter the angle you tackle it from.
The shooting was horrid. The bustling passing from 24 hours before was gone. The turnov—the turnovers.
Were the Knicks tired? Maybe.
“We knew that would be a challenge coming off a back-to-back,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We were a step behind, a step slow.”
No excuses allowed, per RJ Barrett.
“Less than 24 hours and a time change—of course, a little bit of fatigue today, but that’s not really any excuse at the end of the day,” Barrett said. “When we come out here, we gotta give our best effort and play our best game.”
Barrett was far from the worst player clad in blue and orange threads on Saturday, mind you. No, he was not G1 and G2 Barrett, but he still put up 18 points on 16 shots and added three rebounds, a couple of assists, and a block.
The fact that RJ was the best Knick and still sported a game-worst minus-15 +/- tells you all you need to know about the team’s performance.
“I think we played hard, we played together, we didn’t go away,” Barrett said. “Every time they’d go up, we’d make a run, cut it to six. I think we played hard, but they got the better of us today.”
Five members of the Knicks committed at least two turnovers. Jalen Brunson had one. Julius Randle had eight of them. Put them all together, and the 18 TOs were just one shy of the 19 assists the team dished out on Saturday.
“At the end of the day, they still only scored 96 points, so it’s not like it was something crazy,” Barrett reasoned after the game. “But I think the turnovers really hurt us.”
Hurt them they did as the Knicks truly did themselves in against New Orleans.
Randle was his usual stat-filling shelf, getting a double-double effortlessly by dropping 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. He shot 4-of-15 from the field, nil-of-5 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Brunson had another night off, going 4-of-14 from the floor and just 1-of-5 from three after bagging a career-high eight three-pointers against Atlanta on Friday. JB logged 31 minutes, pulled down four boards, and only committed one turnover against five dimes.
The other two starters were irrelevant (Quentin Grimes) and significant (Mitchell Robinson).
Grimes, the supposed Knicks' “Chosen Guard” by the looks of it, put up a stinky 5-2-1-2 line. Got his first points in the third quarter. Only added two more after hitting that three-point shot.
Mitchell, a fundamental player for New York, had himself a day by scoring eight points while grabbing hold of 15 boards—10 of them on the offensive glass—to go with a steal and a couple of blocks.
DaQuan Jeffries and Donte DiVincenzo led all reserves not named Immanuel Quickley (10) with five points each. They got three and 20 minutes of play respectively. Just imagine.
Evan Fournier, the French sharpshooter with room for a $19 million check in his bank account, got a tasty DNP for dinner. So did Ryan Arcidiacono, but he’s a vegan in a steakhouse.
The team couldn’t find any rhythm against Boston midweek. They seemingly played an outlier of a game against Atlanta considering what happened on Saturday in the Big Easy.
“I think that’s why we have 82 games. Get everybody back in rhythm, in the flow,” Barrett said. “We just gotta keep learning and growing each day, and even when we’re having some growing pains, tough it out and find a way to win.”
This was never going to end up in a victory no matter how tough they played as the minutes kept flying off the clock.
According to ESPN’s win probability tracker, the Knicks never boasted even a 20% chance of pulling off a comeback win against New Orleans after the first quarter. They entered the second frame down 14 points, 26-12. They lost the first half 55-37.
All of that happened without any pitch count applied, nor any restriction in playing time, per Thibs.
“[The NBA] requires you to be in great shape,” Thibodeau said after the game. “It requires you to be mentally tough. You’re gonna be challenged each and every night. You get challenged in different ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, you’re gonna be challenged.”
Brunson, sounding like the broken record we all love, said “I’ve just got to be better” after the game.
Randle, sounding like Brunson, said “I’ve just gotta continue to get better” after the game. “I’ve gotta look at the tape, but I’ve just gotta make shots,” he added. “They’ll fall.”
They better do, and perhaps just simple dumb regression to the mean brings them in. Randle is shooting 27.7% from the floor through the first three games. That is 13-of-47. He’s 6-of-20 from beyond the arc, 7-27 on two-point shots, and 9-of-15 from the charity stripe.
Throughout his career, Randle is a 46.9/33.5/74.5 slasher. He’s started the season at a worrying 27.7/30.0/60.0 pace. Will he bounce back or will he keep trying to find the bottom of his personal abyss?
One has to think the balls will eventually fall. Cutting down the turnovers, though, should be something much more manageable and inexcusable to keep repeating going forward.
“I think it was a little bit of everything,” Randle said. “I had eight turnovers. That should never happen. I take full accountability for that.
“We cut the lead in the third quarter and gave ourselves a chance. Just didn’t finish it off right,” Randle added.
He was (at least partially) right. That’s what makes this loss a bit maddening as the Pelicans were good for a rested team, but nothing otherworldly.
Time to move on and get ready for what comes next. On tap, another back-to-back. It’s a home-and-home affair against the lovely Cleveland Cavaliers (1-2), the first game taking place in The Land (Tuesday) and the second one back at MSG (Wednesday). Both tip-offs at 7:30 ET. Don’t miss ‘em.