March 2018
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Knicks Lose 105-98 to Sixers on Christmas Day

Enes Kanter’s best efforts were marred by missed free throws from New York as they fell to Philadelphia.

It was uncertain if fellow superstar big Joel Embiid would suit up for the first of the NBA’s traditional marquee slate. In the first of four meetings between these two young squads, Embiid saved up his body and arsenal of offense just for the Knicks. The downside is by Kristaps Porzingis being positioned as the four, we didn’t see the two behemoths go one-on-one as much as we’d hoped.

The Knicks — who were 5–0 at the Garden in December — came out looking to push the ball aggressively to kick off Christmas Day hoops. The 76ers are one of the league’s worst defenses, giving up just over 109 points per game. The Knicks took advantage out the gate by attacking the paint. Courtney Lee started “wheeling and dealing” to establish his offense, which has traditionally been a key cog to Knicks’ victories. He had this elite floater early in the first, to get 12 first half points.

The squad didn’t attempt a three-pointer until the end of first quarter. That stood out to me because several times KP had a mismatch on the switch outside. The upside is I liked his proclivity to catch the ball inside and go to work, as he did versus Dario Saric:

The Knicks and 76ers traded the lead back and forth to close the first half. The second half started off cringe-worthy, with the Knicks struggling to keep pace with Philly. It began with a Jarrett Jack flagrant on Joel Embiid, and then another foul by Enes Kanter. It doesn’t take much to get Embiid going in spite of him being on a minute management. Thankfully for the Knicks, Kanter is automatic from the paint and gets double-doubles even on his worst day.

What worked well:
  • Like I said, Kanter doesn’t know how to miss at the rim. He got every and anything he wanted down low with Embiid on him. Put backs. Spin cycle. He did it all. At home thus far, Kanter is shooting 64 percent from the field and averaging 14 points in 26 minutes per game, per NBA Stats. He finished with 31 points in 36 minutes, as well as 11 offensive boards (22 altogether).
  • The Knicks held rising 3-and-D star Robert Covington to eight points. Lance Thomas primarily did an excellent job chasing the 39 percent three-point shooter off the arc. I hope to see Thomas get his offensive mojo back though. I miss seeing him catch-and-shoot. However, he’s been consistent at locking up wings, as well as being a help defender, so you take what you can get from him.
  • Courtney Lee continues to shine in the absence of Tim Hardaway Jr. Water is wet, snow is white.
What didn’t work well:
  • Jarrett got damn Jack. Not only did he have the pointless flagrant, but he also had several airballs and costly turnovers (four!). He shouldn’t have played in the second half. Period.
  • Michael Beasley had a rather quiet game after having a streak of scorching performances offensively. He passed up a few buckets that he usually knocks down. He also missed two clutch free throws in the fourth quarter that would have gotten the Knicks within four. He finished with 10 points and was a -10 for the day
  • Turnovers and free throws. We know that the Knicks have problems taking care of the ball, but it was disheartening to see them choke at the charity stripe. KP specifically was 9-for-14. If he’s going to spend all year flopping, then he has to keep that same energy on the freebies.
  • The Knicks’s guards had no response for T.J. McConnell. Coming off the bench, and alongside starter J.J. Redick, the Knicks couldn’t keep the ball out of his hands. He and Redick combined for 6-for-12 from long distance and 39 points as a duo. Ouch.

Once again, this was a winnable game that the Knicks let slip away due to little mistakes. Jack, who has been okay this month, was a liability in the backcourt. In situations like these, I would like to see Coach Hornacek trust Frank Ntilikina more to pick up the slack even if he is foul trouble. Additionally, I wouldn’t have minded a bigger lineup with Lee bringing the ball up as a 1 and Doug McDermott in on the wing for his pesky defender role.

A Knicks’ loss today ended the 76ers’ losing streak while the squad heads on the road to Chicago then San Antonio. My only Christmas wish and hope for 2018 is in line with our editor-in-chief:

James Woodruff

Fan of Knicks/Cuse hoops, Panera sandwiches, Avion Tequila, and a good whiskey. Invested in improving your 40 time.


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