August 2018
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New York, Tired of Losing, Loses in Miami, 107–103 (OT)

The ‘Bockers risked it all in South Beach, relinquishing a short-lived fourth quarter lead before the Heat came back to calmly sink the Knicks in overtime.

 

The New York Knicks (18–21) are on a tough stretch. They have settled in on playing without last summer’s free agent signee, Tim Hardaway Jr., but now they have to overcome the struggling Kristaps Porzingis.

Like Porzingis, the Knicks’ offense was anemic, again, on Friday night against the Miami Heat (21–17), relying on heavy contributions from Courtney Lee (24 points) and Michael Beasley (20 points). New York had no answers for Miami, who intended to punish the ‘Bockers from deep; that meant pulling up from three-point range with mixed results. However, due to Jeff Hornacek’s squad’s timidness from long-range, the Heat were able to overcome a fourth quarter hiccup and re-take a lead before a crucial offensive rebound collected by KP and quick pass to the corner to Doug McDermott tied the game at 97-all.

Even on a bad shooting night for Miami, 40.4 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from three, the Heat maintained a position to vie for the victory with their three-ball efforts.

The closely contested fourth quarter featured no shows from team centers Enes Kanter and Hassan Whiteside. Both Miami and New York opted to shift small (if you consider a seven-footer in Porzingis as a small-center lineup). Nevertheless, it was the perimeter play of the Heat’s Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington that edged the Knicks. Here’s what else happened in Miami on Friday night.


Porzingis is tired, man

Are you tired of this story yet? A quick recap; Kristaps Porzingis iterated his fatigue 38 games into the season as the number one option with less than optimal players around him after Wednesday’s loss (O.K., he didn’t phrase it like that). Tired Guy KP did not impress on Friday, though, after taking bad press for his comments. Kristaps started the game shooting 2-for-6 and only scoring four points in the first half, which was largely dominated by Courtney Lee’s hot start and out-matched by the Heat’s three-point shooting. Porzingis, visibly struggling, has not hit the same shots he was previously making during the first month of the season. KP scored 15 points and blocked three shots in a game he shot 35.7 percent from the field and did not attempt a field-goal in the overtime period.

The Knicks simply do not know how to utilize him on offense, give him good looks, or even understand the urgency of the three-pointer, for the team and for KP. The Knicks leave points on the board every night when they choose to isolate Porzingis in no-man’s land, or take and miss three triples in the first half. New York has really fallen behind the rest of the league—whether with the Triangle or any polygon.

Porzingis being the crux of the Knicks’ ill-constructed offense is troubling, despite his emerging talent. But New York, and Jeff Hornacek, have yet to unearth what that talent is, and instead relegated KP to the perimeter or in isolation with Kanter’s defender (like Hassan Whiteside on Friday night) or the other guard’s defender able to easily double Porzingis. The Knicks, who rely so much on KP for offense, severely limit his impact and the flow of their offense with poorly designed sets that bank on KP bailing out the possession through tough shots. The Knicks’ losing streak, at three, and eight of the last ten contests, can be attributed to the absence of Tim Hardaway Jr. (a floor-spacer, transition seeker, and athletic guard who creates lanes to the basket), the less-than-ideal roster, and the coaching decisions that feature a backwards offense.

Hornacek mostly played a Jack–Lee–Thomas–Beasley–Porzingis lineup in overtime, which looked for Beasley isolations and missed short-range jumpers from Jack. The offense stalled in a winnable game, and bad habits are forming for the Hornacek-coached team.

Three-pointers are worth more than two’s

To complete that statistic, in the second half and overtime, the Knicks shot 5-of-10 and the Heat shot 5-for-25 from three.

The Knicks kept the game mostly close due to Miami sorely missing shooting guard Dion Waiters and wing defender Justise Winslow. Overall, Friday’s matchup was sloppy, too, featuring 33 turnovers. A terrible third period from Erik Spoeltra’s team pushed Miami’s lead separation to four points, and actually the Knicks took the lead in the fourth quarter before the starters returned. Wayne Ellington’s six triples off the pine guided the Heat back to control of the game. Josh Richardson, second leading scorer to Goran Dragic tonight, did an excellent job slashing the Knicks to pieces and finding narrow lanes to excuse himself to the tin (plus, he was a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe), including the crucial shooting foul committed by Jarrett Jack in a pseudo–fast break to push the Heat ahead.

Good defense is aesthetically pleasing

On a non–sour note, props to good defense from Lance Thomas and Frank Ntilikina in particular. Watching these two (one a veteran, another a fresh-faced rookie coming into his own) bottle up opponents is so much fun. Thomas will force another wing (or, like a lot of times during Miami’s three guard backcourt, Tyler Johnson) to move to an uncomfortable spot. Ntilikina will quickly re-adjust to opposing point guards and coerce them to pick up their dribble, or deflect a foolish pass. Go defense. (I was really hoping to see Frank get OT minutes, but alas, we had to watch Jarrett Jack struggle.)

I harp more on offense than the defense, although the latter is far from perfect, too, because the Knicks’ offense has underachieved (obviously without THJ in the mix). They give up the 12th-best opponent points per game at 104 (and gave up 107 points in 53 minutes on 40.4 percent from the field)! That’s not too shabby for this rag-tag team, which still needs to play most of the Western Conference. But Hornacek and company have performed far below expectations on offense. I’m fairly certain a coaching change or roster shakeup occurs before the end of the season. A depleted Miami team didn’t put up fantastic numbers, but every Heat starter scored double digit points, and the 15–8 offensive rebounding advantage by Miami was back-breaking.

Miscellaneous Notes
  • Another quick start from Courtney Lee, as per the usual. But I wonder if he can sustain hot shooting unlike what recent history has dictated. Despite 24 points, defenses often adjust mid-game to Courtney’s game, cutting off circulation to the three-ball and forcing bad passes (four turnovers from the Indiana native).
  • There was a Beasley cheer section at American Airlines Arena. The Walking Bucket scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
  • Porzingis received a technical after fouling Tyler Johnson on a jump shot. The Latvian mouthed off at the official, resulting in the gimme for Miami.
  • Courtney Lee has connected on 39 consecutive free-throws and leads the league in free-throw percentage (95.8).
  • That’s Dougl4s McBuckets’ third four-point play of the season, which were his first points.

The Knicks, nearing rock bottom, find themselves in Dallas against Dirk Nowitzki, Dennis Smith Jr., and the Mavericks on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. EST.

Managing Editor of The Knicks Wall. Still not over the ’94 Finals. Andy Bernard levels of Cornell love.

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