Porzingis fouls out, the Spurs out-Spurs the Knicks, and the team in orange and blue notches another road loss.

Headed into San Antonio, the Knicks were likely relieved they wouldn’t be terrorized by the All-Star perimeter defender Kawhi Leonard. Instead of taking advantage of both Leonard out and Rudy Gay exiting early with a heel injury, the Knicks were overtaken by head coach Gregg Popovich’s meticulous half-court offense.

With Kyle Anderson subbed in for Kawhi Leonard, the Knicks were able to adequately move the ball left to right and even in transition at times. Doug McDermott has been such a great first man up off the bench. His cuts to the basket have become one of the Knicks’ advantages against defenses who can cut off the three point ball. He had this nice feed from Kyle O’Quinn:

We’ve been clamoring for more Frank Ntilikina minutes. Tonight we got to see the rookie go against one of his basketball idols, French point guard Tony Parker. Parker continuously toasted Jarrett Jack, putting up 14 first half points. But Ntilikina came in and contributed several nice buckets as well getting in the passing lane. As a general point of emphasis for the team, if the Knicks have any chance of becoming a better road team, then Jack should be pulled and give Ntilikina the space to grow his aggressiveness against established point guards, like the Spurs’ Parker or the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving.

The Knicks were never able to really control the pace of the game because the Spurs forced them to adjust to their game plan. The tempo was very slow, allowing the Spurs to get LaMarcus Aldridge on a roll versus Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks were late to execute the double-team on Aldridge which led to KP’s  foul trouble (more on that below). The Knicks also struggled to rotate and prevent the extra pass that typically leads to an open three by a Spurs player.


What worked well:
  • Frank finished with nine points, three steals, and 11 dimes. A half-court offense like what the Spurs run is not only where Frank would ideally thrive defensively but also get the opportunity to break down his defender and get a good pull-up bucket. He was the team’s only positive rated player with a +4.
  • Michael Beasley flourished with Leonard not in to seal off the paint from intruders. He didn’t have a single attempt from beyond the arc and looked to attack a good chunk of his 33 minutes of floor time. As a bad free-throw shooter (he’s 67 percent this season), he made every shot from the charity stripe. Beas put up a solid double-double of 23 points and 12 boards.
  • Is Doug McDermott the Knicks’ best bench player? It’s hard to say for sure, but he’s absolutely the most consistent. It doesn’t matter who’s defending him, he’s able to get to the rack so easily because of how well he plays off the ball.
What didn’t work well:
  • KP fouled out for the first time this season. The primary reason for that was LaMarcus Aldridge looked to punish both him and Kyle O’Quinn often in the paint and on the elbow. Aldridge went the line 12 times in spite of the Knicks protecting the paint fairly well. Offensively, KP probably didn’t get a few calls that he would likely get. However, it was a rough shooting night for him. He went 6-for-16 and only attempted two three-pointers.

  • The Knicks as a squad abandoned the long ball. On a roster that features four solid-to-great three-point shooters, they only had 14 attempts tonight. Missing the Spurs premier All-Star defender and Rudy Gay checking out, you would think they would have used that to their advantage. Once again, this is where Tim Hardaway Jr.’s absence is striking and Trey Burke would be of good use if the Knicks called him up.
  • Enes Kanter didn’t notch a double-double for the second straight road game. The Spurs sent the double-, sometimes, triple-team a lot tonight versus both bigs. But a quiet game for Kanter can be attributed to fatigue.

The pressure doesn’t let up as the Knicks face the 1-2 punch in New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. The squad is sitting in familiar New Year territory as they are now 2-11 away from the Garden and sit a game below .500.