Porzingis’s many blocks weren’t enough to carry the Knicks back from a double-digit deficit in a road loss against the league’s second-worst offense.

The Knicks continued their longest road trip in 29 years with a pit stop in Memphis. Coming into tonight’s tilt, the Knicks had dropped their last six visits, but that was against the Grindhouse Grizzlies. These are not the same Grizzlies. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley—the last of the the pieces of that golden era—did not play, making a win even more vital against Memphis’ young team.

However, it looked like the Knicks hit the BBQ spot before the game. Tyreke Evans and a largely unknown cast of characters took it to a Knicks squad that had its mind was already on the next game. They allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 60.7 percent in the first half, tallying 61 points.

The Grizzlies not only hung around but started to take over in the third. A lethargic defensive effort from New York allowed Evans and company to thrive wherever they liked. By the third they built up a lead as big as 18 based on open looks from the perimeter and little intimidation in the paint from the Knicks.

Thankfully, the defense woke up for the fourth quarter. Porzingis helped turn the tide by enforcing his will on defense. He swatted any shot that was in his remote line of vision. He swatted five shots in the second half (six for the game) and even notched a steal. After a huge three late in the final quarter by Lee, it seemed like Porzingis had willed his team back from the brink. Unfortunately, a suspect loose ball foul in the final minute, and an unwarranted technical on Courtney Lee of all people, handed the win to Memphis, despite New York’s lazy first half performance and admirable fourth quarter (fake) comeback.

A disappointing loss to say the least. Where the team goes from here depends on the impending West Coast swing. Here were the key points from the lethargic defeat.

Mauling and Appalling

The Grizzlies came out super small without Marc Gasol, which gave the Knicks the size advantage. Enes Kanter used the mismatch as he straight up bullied sub-in Deyonta Davis and the other Grizz bigs. Jarrett Jack and Frank Ntilikina fed Kanter at his spots and he took care of the rest. The minute he got the ball he went to work and lit the Grizzlies up for 14 points (6-for-7 from floor) and five rebounds in the first quarter alone.

Kanter’s aggressiveness helped the Knicks keep pace with the young Grizzlies. But the outside shot wasn’t falling—the Knicks shot a grotesque 9.1 percent from three—and Kanter played a big role in the team shooting 74.1 percent inside the arc that looked like New York could hang around, given their poor defense.

Swiss Cheese D

I’m not sure if Knicks weren’t taking the Gasol-less Grizzlies lightly, but the effort on defense was nonexistent. Facing a largely unrecognizable squad, the Knicks were on snooze for a majority of the first half. Both the starters and reserves were straight up flat on that end of the floor, giving Coach Hornacek little to no effort.

Guards zoomed into the paint like they had EZ-Pass. The young guns were quicker to the ball, and the Knicks looked like they had little interest in stopping much of anything or rotating over to the open man. There is no excuse to allow 56.8 percent shooting and 61 first half points from a team that came in averaging 99 points per game.

It only got worse in the second half as the Grizzlies pushed the lead up to as much as 18 points. With the exception of Porzingis protecting the rim the Grizzlies got whatever they wanted, inside and out.

Buyer’s Remorse?

You could not watch Tyreke Evans slice through the Knicks defense without thinking what could have been. The Grizzlies signed Evans to a one-year deal worth $3.3 million. That was an absolute steal and one that could have been for the Knicks. (Instead they rushed to pay Ron Baker $9 million over two years.)

Evans flashed every reason the Knicks should’ve asked for a mulligan in the summer. He put together a nice line of 23 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, and a steal as he did whatever he wished. Baker on the other hand did not score in 10 minutes of action.

Progress Report

Following his best performance of the season, Frank looked to keep it going in another favorable matchup. The problem with Frank’s offense, though, could be that he hasn’t found his go-to spot. Right now the only shot I’ve seen him take multiple times is the top-of-the-arc three.

The silver lining, however, is that he did not let poor shooting affect his game. Ntilikina played more of a facilitator role than attacker again. He continues to see the court well as Frank notched seven assists. The French Prince managed to finish +1 for the game despite being yanked in favor of Jack to close the game.

Closing Thoughts
  • Courtney Lee now has the franchise record for most consecutive made free throws. For the season he is now up to a superb 96.1 percent.
  • It was a little strange that Hornacek did not open up the rotation. Collectively, the effort was lazy; why not insert some life into the lineup?
  • Free throw shooting kept the Knicks in this one. They shot a sterling 22-for-23 from the charity stripe.
  • The three-point shot was really off tonight. As a team the Knicks shot 26.9 percent from beyond the arc on 27 attempts.
  • Absolute garbage officiating by Derrick Stafford. His tick-tack foul call on Porzingis all but sealed it for the Grizz. Although the Knicks responded by forcing a jump ball at mid-court, that didn’t stop Stafford from one-upping his ego trip by hitting Lee with a tech a few moments later, pushing the Grizz lead to two possessions and insurmountable for the orange and blue.

The Knicks (20–25) are back at it on Friday, hooping in Salt Lake City against Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz (and on national television). See you all then.