Coach Fizdale played his first- and second-year players, or “students,” the entire fourth quarter—and they narrowly made a comeback as the Nets pressed on and defeated the Knicks on their home turf.
What should have been a layup after being blown out by the Celtics turned into an ugly loss at Madison Square Garden.
Though it did have its bright spots, the New York Knicks (8-19) embodied everything that’s been wrong with the team. Funny enough, the Brooklyn Nets (10-18) are nearly a mirror image, a team in flux with budding prospects of their own, revealed these flaws in four quarters of mediocre basketball.
The Knicks were out-rebounded 45-40 overall and, while the difference isn’t grand, the problem lies within the game. In the first half, the Nets had 10 offensive rebounds alone. New York only pulled down 17 altogether. The specific problem has been rookie Mitchell Robinson’s absence on the boards, at least defensive ones. Right now, he’s averaging more offensive rebounds (2.2) than defensive rebounds (1.9). Tonight he pulled down six—dead last among the big men in the game.
Second-chance points killed the Knicks early on. It will continue to do so if Robinson doesn’t start pulling down the shots he’s affecting.
Where’s Hardaway Jr?
Again, Hardaway was nowhere to be found, at least not from the field. He shot 2-of-12 from the field and 0-for-5 from deep.
While he did achieve a quadruple single, his team needs him to be the shooter he was early in the season. Or at least better than Hardaway is right now. This is the trouble with making a player like THJ the focal point of your offense. Formerly a sixth man on the Atlanta Hawks, he’s living up to the role by being a streaky shooter. Currently, he’s on the downside.
Youthful fourth war
The Knicks were down most, if not all, of the game, but the light in the darkness came in the third quarter. Frank Ntilikina checked in. I’d never seen so many people elated for a kid to take his pants off.
Frank splash (shoulda been an and-1) pic.twitter.com/nATZRa3zVu
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) December 9, 2018
Ntilikina began his return by accruing three assists in three minutes, courtesy of fellow sophomore and running mate Damyean Dotson. Knox and Ntilikina, who have both struggled this season, ended the game with identical 3-for-6 shooting numbers. Eventually, the youth crew of Ntilikina-Trier-Dotson-Knox-Robinson managed to close the gap to within seven points, but the Nets relented, keeping the Knicks at bay until the clock ran out.
Spencer Dinwiddie killed the Knicks tonight. D’Angelo Russell helped bury the body. Ntilikina and Dotson keying in on them early probably would have done a lot to stifle the Nets defense by not allowing them to find a rhythm. They combined for 34 points and 17 assists. They’re not Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
The Nets shot 11-for-22 from three-point land. Any chance they had to play the Knicks they would. Stop trying to make zone defense happen. It’s never going to happen. The Nets should never shoot 50 percent from three.
The disappointing Knicks move one step closer away from playoff contention and towards a high lottery pick. The second game of their back-to-back is against the Charlotte Hornets and a struggling Kemba Walker. Hopefully, the Knicks can pull themselves out of this mess and show that the youngins on the roster can take the reins.