With poor effort throughout their contest, the Knicks didn’t show up on national television in Boston versus the Celtics, who successfully avenged their defeat last month to the ‘Bockers.

The New York Knicks (8-18) had lost three of their last four games prior to tonight’s contest. Meanwhile the Boston Celtics (14-10) have been unremarkable thus far this season, with some questioning if their roster is built to win it all. The odds were against the Knicks and, as predicted, the result was a demoralizing 128-100 loss.

Sticking with the same starting lineup as the previous several games, Coach Fizdale and the Knicks failed to play even average defense against their division rival. Boston got off to a 6-0 lead immediately, and the Knicks were playing from behind the rest of the game. Lackadaisical and sluggish switching enabled the Celtics to get into the paint at will, which is when Mitchell Robinson was subbed into the game.

Although Robinson had an immediate impact on offense and defense, including an alley oop from Emmanuel Mudiay, the Knicks lacked defenders capable of stopping Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford. If only the Knicks had an elite perimeter defender to help glue that defense together. Ha, imagine…

Led by Noah Vonleh, who continues to make me have tingly feelings, the Knicks tightened up their defense. You know the old saying that good defense turns into offense? Well, it’s true. Following a streak of tight defensive rotations and higher efforts, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Emmanuel Mudiay hit back-to-back-to-back three pointers.

Down 11 at the half, the New York Knicks should have one goal coming out of halftime: play better defense. In a mostly up-and-down quarter, the Knicks faded out while the Celtics showed off how spoiled they are, with Irving, Hayward, Tatum, and Brown finding their own respective ways to further damage the damaged-goods that are the New York Knicks.

That said, the Knicks continue to have moments each game where you think to yourself, “hey that was good basketball!” For more on the game, read below.


 

You know, Noah Vonleh is pretty good…

I watch the game, and see the Knicks getting a beating from the Celtics in all facets. I look at the box score, and Noah Vonleh has a sneaky double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Add three assists and two steals on 80 percent shooting, and you realize that he’s become a consistent player for these New York Knicks.

Averaging 29.5 minutes over the last four games, Vonleh has proven to be a bit of a Swiss army knife for Fizdale while Lance Thomas, who is close to a return, is out.

Vonleh adds a dimension to the offense and defense that no other player on the roster provides. Offensively, he’s able to stretch the floor in addition to having a post-up game. Currently hitting 45 percent from deep, a 12 percent increase from the 2017–18 season, Vonleh is another name to add to Fizdale’s “Players I Revived and Developed into Actually Being Useful” folder.

“We goin’ get you right,” Fizdale to Mudiay

From the moment Fiz laid eyes on him, Mudiay’s career received resuscitation, was stable, and is now alive and thriving. Since entering the starting lineup on November 14th, Emmanuel Mudiay is averaging 25.2 minutes, 14.5 points, 3.0 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game on 47.5 percent and 37.5 percent shooting. In other words, Mudiay has been the Knicks’ best point guard thus far into the season.

Which leads to me to my next point, and I’m going to be frank about it.

I’m ticked off about Frank Ntilikina’s last three DNP-CD’s. With Trey Burke recently out, one would think that would give Frank more minutes since being relegated to the point. Mudiay’s command of the offense ability to get to the rim has beaten out Frank’s defensive abilities.

While Mudiay’s numbers appear good, not great, he’s a big contributing factor to the Knicks’ biggest issue—team defense.

Team Defense Holds This Team Back

Giving up an average 114.4 points per game, good for 26th in the league, isn’t going to help you win games. Defense is emphasized and harped on by the front office and by the coaching staff, yet we don’t see any results. In fact, we have seen the opposite of a move to alleviate their defensive issues—they benched their best perimeter defender in Frank Ntilikina.

As a Knick fan, you should seriously question why Mario Hezonja is getting minutes over Ntilikina, when the latter offers a skill the team could actually use to win. At one point in the fourth quarter, the fast break scoring differential was 26-4 in favor of the Celtics.

It may be that the Knicks just have players who are innately bad at defense, Enes Kanter included. Whether it’s lack of hustle or knowledge, the players have to get over screens and attack the close out harder.

Currently, the Knicks are ranked the 27th worst defense in the league. Since it appears that Frank Ntilikina needs some growing up to do, Knicks fans should hope for more offensive explosions in the future over hard-nosed, competitive defense.