Beasley’s offensive Renaissance in the first half would not sustain itself as the Rockets run the Knicks out of the gym, 117-102.
Those who tuned into the Knicks–Rockets game on Saturday learned two lessons about Michael Beasley: the reason behind his nickname, “Walking Bucket,” and why he has been in and out of the league.
The 28-year-old southpaw sparked a ridiculous Knicks start to a game they were presumed D.O.A. No Porzingis, no Kanter, how would New York (10-9) compete with James Harden, Chris Paul, and the Houston Rockets? Well, necessity is the mother of invention it seemed when Beasley went bonkers in the first half, 17 points in the first period plus seven in the second totaled 24 points on 73.3 percent shooting. The Walking Bucket was filled to the brim with wet jumpers and nifty moves, which shook the Rockets out of his way. The only thing that could stop Beasley was the free-throw line, where he went 2-of-5 in the first half.
Nevertheless, Houston (15-4) flipped the script in the second half. New York’s, at one instance, 20-point lead would not sustain itself, however, as Harden’s calm demeanor rallied the home team back with 15 points and five assists before the halftime buzzer sounded. Although the ‘Bockers kept the Rox to 36.4 percent shooting from three-point range, Mike D’Antoni’s team stood down only three points at the break. The Rockets outscored the Knicks in the third quarter to a score of 37-13, the mirror image of New York’s insane run last night against the Hawks. Harden’s 37-point, 10-assist performance was dynamic, wearing down the Knicks enough on defense that, mix in last night’s match in Atlanta, New York’s well-traveled club broke down to the side of the road on offense, too.
Beasley’s extremely high usage rate was a double-edged sword for New York. As his touches increased, his handle on the ball slipped, and awkward jumpers plus a company of turnovers fueled a Houston run. In the first 4:30 of the third quarter, the Rockets casually ignited a 19-6 run. Saturday’s defeat was reminiscence of the Hawks loss on Friday: despite the difference in opponent quality, the Knicks ran out of steam and tripped over themselves. Of course the Rockets are a premier team in the league, however, like Friday’s loss, the Knicks could not compete against either squad due to their own misgivings. Entering the fourth quarter down 21 points, the Knicks committed 13 turnovers through 36 minutes.
While the Rockets are an offensive dynamo, the Knicks’ scoring came to a screeching halt when the effort stopped, too. There were plenty of instances where the Rockets ran the fast break two-on-one or one-on-one with absolutely no help from the Knicks. In other words, the Knicks gave up on themselves with poor effort exemplified by Beasley’s bewildered lack of hustle running back on defense; he wouldn’t dare get back on D after a turnover or miss.
Hornacek’s makeshift starting lineup goes well… until it comes back to earth
Kristaps Porzingis (lower back tightness) and Enes Kanter (back spasm) didn’t play on Saturday night in Houston, so head coach Jeff Hornacek started Michael Beasley and Kyle O’Quinn, respectively, in the power forward and center spots. We spoke about Beasley’s scoring prowess, and although the team leaped to a dramatic lead in the first quarter, the hastily assembled starting lineup could not properly coalesce. Individual performances stood out, but the Knicks fell apart when the Rockets figured them out. Harden’s creative performance on offense pushed the upset down into uncanny valley, and on the other end, New York ran out of gas. You can’t build a consistent offense around Michael Beasley.
Knicks’ road woes a thorn in their side
After establishing themselves as a solid home team, New York cannot will themselves to the same energy on the road. The Knicks are now 1-6 on the road, squandering Friday’s winnable game to the Hawks and leaving Houston with another ugly loss. If the Knicks want to keep themselves in the playoff picture, then dependable effort away from the Garden is the only way to separate New York from the NBA’s bottom feeders.
Willy Watch 2k17
Willy Hernangómez entered the game early in the first quarter due to Kyle O’Quinn’s quick pair of personal fouls. Again, Willy struggled with weak side help on defense giving both Harden and Clint Capela plenty of room to set up their patented alley-oop dunk bonanza. I’m uncertain if there was a language barrier, but Willy continued to combat with poor communication with his teammates; he didn’t know which spots to position himself and allowed easy access in the paint for the Rockets (an impressive euro-step move by Harden proved especially lethal, although not many bigs can keep up with that acrobatic maneuver).
- Here were my notes during the wild first quarter: the Knicks started the game up 21-3, the Porzingis and Kanter–less team found nice looks with good ball movement and unselfish play led by Jarrett Jack’s three early assists. Beasley contributed six of the 21 points and Houston’s only scoring came from the game ice-breaking dunk and a 1-for-2 trip to the free-throw line. Courtney Lee hit back-to-back threes to start the game perfect from the field and from three. It was 25-5 before a blown goaltending call (upon further inspection Capela’s hand touch the ball while it was still above the cylinder yet the officials deemed O’Quinn responsible for interference) then it was 27-7, then 29-7 before Harden connected on an and-one. One of the craziest starts to a Knicks game in awhile. Can you say Ewing Theory?
- Please explain to me how Ryan Anderson is a Knick Killer (17 points, four three-pointers). Another role player who ascends into a back-breaking scorer when he faces New York (no offense to KP and Kanter’s back ailments).
- Damyean Dotson’s Houston homecoming brought 10 minutes and two points.
- A no-show from Tim Hardaway Jr. on Saturday: 11 points on 4-of-12 from the floor, although he impressively dished the ball again, this time six dimes (mostly occurring during the first half’s stretch).
- Frank Ntilikina was a team-worst -27 on the night. Not much to rewind and watch for the French rookie, other than perhaps his defense against Chris Paul.
- Ron Baker played the final 50 seconds of the game.
- Miscellaneous stats: O’Quinn had a 20-15-4 game plus two blocks; 30 points from Beasley (unsure if he made more than two field-goals in the second half); a Moses Malone “fo-fo-fo” game for Willy, this time repurposed in points-rebounds-assists form.
As brilliant as the Knicks were on offense in the first quarter, the team’s reaction to Harden and Houston’s offensive response was down right disrespectful. Maybe chalk it up to a back-to-back on the road, but without Kanter and Porzingis, New York was a beatable squad with little to no rigor or answer during crisis. Next game is Monday at home against Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers.