August 2018
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Knicks Lose Heartbreaker to Bucks, 92-90

Giannis Antetokounmpo buried the Knicks on Friday night as another road affair ended with a loss for New York.

The Knicks were in Milwaukee on Friday night, looking to eradicate the stink from the horrid loss in Boston on Wednesday night. They played the Bucks to a draw in the first half, with the second quarter horn buzzing seeing the teams knotted at 55. In the second half, the teams brought it down to the wire, with the final two minutes deciding the contest. The Knicks and Bucks have made a habit of playing close games, with multiple games last year hinging on just a few possessions in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. This one did not finish in favor of the Knicks. Giannis Antetokounmpo stuck the final dagger in the proverbial heart of this Knicks team, finishing a spinning layup over Enes Kanter with 1.9 seconds remaining. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s attempt at the buzzer went awry, and the Knicks fell to 23–30.

A few thoughts:


  • I was able to watch some of the first half on my phone while I was at one of the worst basketball games in America of the night, so I missed some of the nuances of the first half. Bear with me here, seeing a college basketball team put up 47 points and then seeing the Knicks lose like killed a lot of brain cells.
  • That ending was brutal. Giannis was able to get a mismatch, took advantage of Kanter’s slow feet, and brought the win home for Milwaukee. Give Kanter credit, he defended this well, but he should never be asked to close a game for these type of mismatch reasons:

  • Besides that, Enes Kanter has been damn good lately, huh? He’s averaged 17 points and 13 rebounds over his last nine games, including a combined 55 rebounds in his last three contests. He became the first player since Dwight Howard in 2013 to record three consecutive first-half double-doubles. There is no denying that the man works his butt off. As good as Kanter is at what he does, there’s just always something in the back of my head saying the numbers are hollow. Basketball is a funny sport. There are guys that pass the eye test yet the numbers fail them, but it’s fairly rare to have a guy not totally pass the eye test and have the numbers sing his praises. In Kanter’s case, his advanced numbers are impressive, but something never sits right.
  • THJ normally stands for Tim Hardaway Jr., but tonight it stood for “that’s his jumper?!?” I’ll be here all night, thank you folks. Hardaway Jr. was a mess, finishing 1-14 from the floor. Not only was his shooting abysmal, he missed two free throws that would’ve put the Knicks up with 1:30 left in the game. He then proceeded to get the rebound, drive to the hoop, and chuck up an out-of-control layup. Not a good THJ game when they really could’ve used his scoring.
  • NEW YORK GRIT:

  • Michael Beasley was 3-of-8 with six points, but it felt like one of those games where he was doing much more harm than good. These type of matchups come around every once in a while for Beas, where he forces his shots against a strong defensive unit. With the Bucks, he had to deal with their athletic, strong perimeter defenders, and he just wasn’t an asset tonight. It happens.
  • Frank Ntilikina. Be still, my beating heart. Great game from the rook, which was beautiful to see after a few rough contests. He ended up with nine points and five assists in 17 minutes. Frank does an incredible job of finding his roll men on the pick-and-roll, both with the pocket pass and the lob. Even on a play like this, which isn’t exactly a simple one to pull off, Frank makes it look relatively easy:

  • Related:


Before we file this away as the latest chapter in “Excruciating Losses: The Complete Collection,” let’s have a brief discussion about Jeff Hornacek. I don’t think there is any rush to get rid of him, and I also don’t think he’s one of the worst five coaches in the NBA. He may be close though. From not putting Kristaps Porzingis in the best spots, to refraining from shooting threes despite having a squad that shoots the fifth-best percentage from deep in the league, to insisting on giving Jarrett Jack serious burn there are lots of areas to be upset. Let’s focus on just one part here.

Jeff Hornacek chose to close this game with his starting unit of Jack, Lee, Hardaway Jr., Porzingis, and Kanter. Against the Bucks, this is an embarrassing deployment of resources. Frank Ntilikina should always be closing games due to his defensive prowess and ability to switch onto forwards, so that’s the first thing. To task Kanter with getting switched onto Giannis with the game on the line is indefensible. As a coach, you have to know that the Bucks are going to go for exactly that. As I mentioned before, give Kanter credit; he stuck with Giannis and contested the shot well. But if Kanter is on the bench, it’s likely KP that switches onto Giannis instead of KP having to give up the switch like he did, which I would tend to believe he did so lackadaisically because the coaching staff told them to switch on everything:

When it comes down to it, this game won’t be any different than the other agonizing games the Knicks have lost in crunch time. Jeff Hornacek will likely last the season, and I don’t even know if the Knicks would be able to land a replacement markedly better than him, but he is often out-coached in situations that he should not be.

The Knicks are back in action on Super Bowl Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks. Tip at noon.

Associate Editor at The Knicks Wall. Also Giants, Rangers, Yankees. Once caught a pass from Eli Manning.

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