Steve Clifford’s well-oiled machine dominated on the glass and from three-point range for most of the game…
Then another KP-led comeback ignited the Garden faithful, erasing a double-digit deficit to put the win streak at three.
Kristaps Porzingis was emphatic. For the outside observer, it was difficult to determine whether Porzingis, called for a personal on a Cody Zeller’s floater in the second quarter, was simply mad at the official’s foul call, or he was exclaiming his elite rim protection skills in the face of another, puny try from an opponent. He’s a seven-foot-three truffle-sniffing pig, except he favors blocking useless shot attempts over decadent foods. Even though he picked up the foul, KP was enthusiastic that he could lift the Garden’s spirits against a superior team through his individual electricity. In his mind, Porzingis sees himself as the caretaker for the Knicks; he spoon feeds the Knicks’ best highlights and biggest dunks. On Tuesday, the Knicks came back from another 15 point hole in the fourth quarter with KP at the center of it all—literally and figuratively.
The New York Knicks (6-4) beat the Hornets (5-6) with a final score of 118-113. However, there’s a rather interesting pattern of electric play from these feister ‘Bockers. The Garden crowd responded loudly to the ferocious performance of the Knicks and it appears that Coach Hornacek’s team isn’t going to roll over and die. Don’t tell the Knicks they’re mediocre as hell, because the growing confidence inside Porzingis the Knicks’ locker room proved fatal for opponents.
Let’s breakdown New York’s sixth win of the season:
Malik turns the Garden into the Monastery
New York, and then-president Phil Jackson, passed up University of Kentucky product Malik Monk. Looking back—and it’s still very early—that decision may not be too bad, but night’s like Tuesday will haunt the Knicks when Monk lights up MSG. As well—and as poorly—as the Knicks guarded the rookie guard, Monk trusted his handy shooting stroke, blowing the doors open for the Hornets’ lead in the second quarter, a lead that the Knicks couldn’t overcome like Sunday’s contest against the Pacers.
I’m sure Knicks fans watching this game at home were in their feelings; Monk could have easily been a New York Knickerbocker, and it’s tough to watch another tantalizing prospect turned player light up your team. The Knicks’ selection at no. 8, Frank Ntilikina, did his darndest to contain the almost-already-there scoring expert Monk, however, with a hand in his face or an open look, Malik lit up the Garden playing for a non-Knicks squad. Monk scored 21 points, 18 in the first half, on 8-of-17 from the floor, and made MSG his sandbox, much to the dismay of forlorn Knicks fan, until he couldn’t buy a bucket late and failed the counter New York’s haymakers.
Kanter no answer for Howard, but Porzingis is
Dwight Howard is playing for his third team in as many seasons. While the former perennial All-Star excelled in the post in the Orlando Magic, Howard is a shell of his former self in terms of post dominance. Nevertheless, Dwight still possesses a crucial NBA skill set that makes him somewhat valuable: he can crash the glass like no other.
We’ve praised Enes Kanter’s exploits on the boards lately, but Kanter couldn’t compete with the broad-shouldered Howard. Dwight was fearless, grabbing loose rebounds for easy layups and slamming home alley oops courtesy of New York City native and UConn alum Kemba Walker. While Walker didn’t stuff the stat sheet with big numbers against his hometown club, Kemba dictated the pace of play on the court, sometimes an unrelenting speed that pushing the Knicks’ to their brink. Kemba found the open man and, usually, that meant an open three-point attempt for the point guard’s team to cash in on. Walker’s seven assists led both teams as he commanded respect from the Knicks’ defenders (usually Courtney Lee or Ntilikina when Kemba played with the second unit).
Kanter and Porzingis could only whack the Hornets and rack up personals instead of moving their feet on defense. While communication was an obvious issue for the Knicks on D, Charlotte exploited Kanter through the pick-and-roll, and Walker, Monk, and Howard were all beneficiaries of the subsequent space created in Clifford’s offense.
That was until Hornacek subbed out Kanter and moved KP to the 5 late into the fourth quarter. It made a huge difference as Howard detested leaving the paint, and eventually Dwight’s harassment of KP pushed the Knicks into the bonus, a penalty all too poisonous for Buzz City. With Frank and Lee in defending the backcourt, Walker’s offense stalled to a halfcourt dribble. And on the other end, KP dominated and scored at will. Porzingis finished with 28 points, back-to-back crucial points coming via the free-throw line and a step-back triple that fooled poor Dwight:
HAHAHAHA KP LEAD BACK UP TO THREE pic.twitter.com/AxytWWZSHq
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) November 8, 2017
UNICORN TREY GIVES US THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/AidBf8sxKM
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) November 8, 2017
- Kyle O’Quinn provided the THUNDER tonight for an anxious and hungry Garden crowd. Strung along with the second unit, O’Quinn’s powerful inside play, coupled with his propensity for high post vision, created an interesting mix that helped spark the Knicks comeback. KOQ turned MSG up by a few decibels with flashy passing (four assists), and timely hoops off misses (12 points, five rebounds). Although Kyle took at seat on the bench at the end of the game, the antebellum playing time for KOQ in the fourth provided the kindling for KP’s spark.
- Frank had a weird night. If you glance at the stat line he did fine by his standards; six assists in 25 minutes is fine in his eighth game. But Frankie had trouble navigating Charlotte’s tricky screens and became the stooge for the Hornets’ baskets. New York’s late-game lineup, Ntilikina–Hardaway Jr.–McDermott–Thomas–Porzingis, did a great job of shoring up the belated rotations that plagued the Knicks for three quarter. Frank could have been better though, oh well, it’s a learning process.
- Lance Thomas, man. What can I say. He didn’t play well at the 4 tonight until those last minutes paired up with Dougie in the forward spots. Huge credit to Lance for timing some crucial rebounding over Marvin Williams. That might be a bit geeky, but if you watch the possessions down the stretch in the final period, Lance grabbed some really neat rebounds off well-timed leaps into the air. Such a savvy player, is what I’m saying.
- Dougie McBuckets! A four-point play was the cherry on top of a great night cutting backdoor for finds via O’Quinn and company. Great night from Mr. Creighton.
- Shouts to Courtney Lee—nine assists and two turnovers and some crucial defense in the last stretch. Love you, under-appreciated Courtney.
- Kristaps is a legend, idc idc. The cojones on my large adult son are larger than the New Year’s Eve ball in Times Square. He has the most points in Knicks history through 10 games. Bow down, glitches.
What is this weird winning feeling? A sensation I felt after the first half went along the lines of, “Oh, they’ll probably lose this game, but it’s against a better team and they look fun so all’s not lose.” But hell no, these ‘Bockers keep winning and defending the Garden. I can dig that.
Knicks back in action tomorrow night in Orlando against a surging Magic squad. Be there or you’re KP’s enemy. And the enemy of my friend is my enemy.
Correction: This post was updated to reflect the fact that the Zeller was actually Cody. But in fairness, no one can tell them apart.