Ntilikina made his MSG debut with stingy defense and beautiful assists while the Knicks outpaced normally high-scoring Brooklyn.
It’s odd when something like this happens, but I suppose it’s the nature of the unpredictable sport. Usually, a bad team’s first victory comes from the claws of a hard-fought game, but the New York Knicks’ (1–3) first W of the 2017–18 campaign came from a blowout of their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, 107–86.
Give those ‘Bockers credit, though, because blowouts don’t occur when a team plain ol’ stunk — the Knicks capitalized on bad Nets play all night, forcing turnovers and stretching scoring runs to cripple any Brooklyn comeback.
[Extreme “Stefan” voice] This game had everything: Unicorn moments, Frank Ntilikina’s home debut, and Michael Beasley elbowing DeMarre Carroll in the face yet avoiding a flagrant.
Let’s break down a fun(!) Friday Night Knicks game:
Bienvenue à New York, Frank!
No longer a tourist in the Big Apple, Frank Ntilikina shed his street clothes for the orange and blue threads with some really productive minutes off the bench. First, a long stretch from the end of the first quarter until the middle of the second, Ntilikina found his teammates for easy buckets. To be Frank, he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn; his shot … needs work (plus nerves were abundant even though he brushed off any anxiety).
AN ABSOLUTE DIME FROM NTILIKINA pic.twitter.com/92qSItKsJf
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) October 28, 2017
“The French Prince” may already be the best or second best perimeter defender for New York, though, and that’s only barely hyperbole. He was active — picking up his man by halfcourt to prevent any easy offensive actions or movements — and forcing turnovers. He used his long arms in the interior, forcing tough shots from opposing guards (the same thing you’d see from Porzingis and his power forward/center assignments).
While Ntilikina searches for his shot like Winona Ryder searches for her son on Stranger Things, he remains accurate in his passing, something pretty for a Knicks point guard. In 21 minutes, Ntillmatic accrued nine points, five assists, one steal, and a +8 on a job well done for the 19-year-old.
(And one side note I wrote down: MSG Network’s broadcast mentioned today was the anniversary of Walt Frazier’s (back safely from St. Croix) Knicks debut. In a game recap then, a writer said Frazier displayed good defense a vision — something complementary to Frank’s game. Although Clyde only connected on one field-goal attempt, if Ntilikina could tailor his game to Clyde’s career, well, Knicks fans would be quite content. C’est magnifique!)
Defense responds against league’s highest scoring team
KP victimized three Nets in the first half alone — that is to say, he racked up three blocks.
Of course, blocks aren’t everything in measuring defense. But the Knicks limited an oddly impressive Nets offense to only 42 measly first half points. Thanks in large part to KP’s interior presence and even Frank’s energy off the pine, the Nets couldn’t find a rhythm in the second quarter, only scoring 14 points in the period!
The defensive rotations went smoothly for the most part, and the Nets rarely got a clean look up and in the basket. Good defense in New York? Who’da thunk it?
Porzingis on the move: much, much more dangerous than Iso-KP
The Knicks, and Kristaps, need to make sure they don’t fall into the habit of Iso-KP. I know it’s easy (and, yes, at times necessary) to dump the ball to Porzingis in the post, but Kristaps has proven he’s his most effective — and possibly efficient — when he gets touches while moving his feet for dunks, hooks, and spot up shots.
In 2016–17, KP shot a solid 54.6 effective field-goal percentage (eFG%) on no dribble shots, per NBA.com/Stats. Tonight? The Unicorn went 13-of-24 from the field, 30 points and nine rebounds.
After starting off the game a cool 3-for-3, Porzingis found himself heaving up iso-shots. By the second half, Porzingis adjusted his game to dunks and efficient shooting.
Kyle, it’s 2017, you have to guard your man outside of the paint
Kyle O’Quinn could be a productive player. Despite his on-court trash talking and intimidation, his defense is surely overstated. Take his assignment on #OAKAAK Quincy Acy, for example. Acy, not particularly known for his outside shot, has developed the three-pointer thanks to Coach Kenny Atkinson and this three happy Nets squad. O’Quinn, apathetic to leave that rugged blue paint reminiscence of his team growing up in the ’90s, routinely allowed Acy open from three — twice from the shortest length, the corner 3 — who calmful sunk three triples in the first quarter and another trey in the last period.
- Willy (0-for-4) … make your free-throws, please. C’mon, those are gimmes.
- On that note, Hornacek was swift and merciless when it came to pulling Enes Kanter to the bench. After some ugly defensive sequences early in the game, Kanter had to sit and watch O’Quinn/Hernangómez play the majority of the half. Enes totaled 16 minutes and a dozen points in Friday’s win.
- Quietly good game for reserve Doug McDermott, who scored 12 points in 16 minutes and even found his way to an and-one off the dribble, unusual for the spot-up shooter from Creighton.
- Starting point guard Jarrett Jack: eight points, seven boards, and five assists. He was … mostly fine.
- More aggression on the offensive end for Courtney Lee! He hasn’t been afraid to take his defender off the dribble, too, and scored 13 points on 11 field-goal attempts.
- From my colleague Jeffrey Bellone: only nine turnovers from your ‘Bockers. (Ed. note: that number changed after a couple of garbage time minutes, but the point stands.)
- O.K. you made it this far, here’s another Frank highlight for you brave souls:
FRENCH PRINCE TO THE WALKING BUCKET pic.twitter.com/0dN2gQeZIl
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) October 28, 2017
The Knicks, miraculously, picked up their first win of the season with some ferocious play: 50 points in the paint, 16 Nets turnovers, and solid rebounding, too.
Next up on the docket: a tango in Cleveland with the King on Sunday. Let’s see if the French Prince can dethrone Point Guard LeBron.