The Knicks have a New Year’s hangover against Kawhi Leonard and the burgeoning Spurs in New York’s first game and first loss of the 2018 calendar year.
New year, same Knicks.
The New York Knicks (18-19) played their first game of 2018, falling to the San Antonio Spurs (26-12) 100–91 at home. Tonight’s final score is not indicative of how poorly the Knicks played, as they lost their second game in a week to the San Antonio Spurs. Despite only losing by single digits, the Knicks were lethargic and flat for the majority of the night and didn’t seem interested in competing. Giving up only 100 points, the Spurs, however, went to the free-throw line 34 times on the night, punishing the Knicks for poor defensive rotations.
Here’s what went down in Tuesday’s home loss against the Spurs.
Poor Overall Defense
What stood out most during this game were the horrid and slow close outs on perimeter shooters. San Antonio’s shooting numbers don’t jump off the page as impressive, but the Knicks failed to contest seemingly every shot, and the Spurs were missing wide open looks in the first half. Once the second half rolled around, guys like Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Manu Ginobili began find their respective rhythms and the Knicks’ D had no answer.
Yes, San Antonio is far and away a better team on all fronts, but that is no excuse to be lazy on putting a hand in the shooters face. Whether that is a result of the Knicks not playing hard or a failure to make an adjustment by Coach Hornacek, tonight was absolutely brutal to watch.
Another disturbing trend that seemed to jump out tonight was the Knicks playing defense with their hands instead of their feet. Too much reaching and dumb fouls resulted in the Spurs getting to the line 34 times and sinking 28 free throws. Maybe New York can learn a few things from Coach Pop and the Spurs method of defending because they seem to never get into the penalty and are always moving their feet and looking like they want to defend.
On the offensive end, it was a collectively subpar performance from everyone on the roster, aside from Lance Thomas and Michael Beasley (18 points, nine rebounds), who deserves an immense amount of credit for his tremendously effective and efficient play of late, despite taking a shot to the eye from Willy Hernangómez during pregame warmups.
Kristaps Porzingis, on the other hand, was off his game on Tuesday night and looked to be physically overmatched against the tough and gritty Spurs defense.
The point guard play tonight between Jarrett Jack, Ramon Sessions, and Ramon Ntilikina as they went a combined 5-of-16 from the field with a total of 16 points (per ESPN boxscore). Both Jack and Sessions have proven to be ineffective at this point of their careers and that should open the door for Frank to get more minutes and develop. His lack of minutes are frustrating and he needs to learn the ropes of playing point guard at the NBA level soon if the Knicks want to compete for the playoffs in the near future (Ed. note: post-game Hornacek mentioned Frank was feeling sick, per The Record’s Steve Popper). Tonight, Frank was timid and passive and didn’t take shots he should’ve taken. It is essential that Frank is able to showcase himself and be aggressive when given the opportunity. His defense is there, he just needs his offense to catch up and finish drives to the rim.
A lack of accountability and a sense of urgency is something that has been the downfall of the Knicks in recent memory and there’s the sense the passivity is starting to creep back in as the once promising season is slowly starting to slip away. The Knicks have lost five of six and have 13 of their next 16 on the road, so the chances of a free fall are growing at this point. Hopefully, this loss lights a fire under each and every Knick and that propels them back to a fun, intense, and watchable style of basketball like we saw a few weeks ago.