Yesterday, the New York Knicks broke their two-game losing streak by beating the Dallas Mavericks, 93-77. The Knicks played a lot better on both sides after the ball and showed resolve after starting slow and falling into a 10-point deficit in the first quarter. Here were some observations from the game.
Observation #1: Porzingis on Harrison Barnes Wasn’t Ideal
One of the main reasons Dallas jumped out to a quick lead was because of Barnes’ play, who found himself matched up against KP early and often. The 6’8″ forward is having a phenomenal star to the season, averaging 23 points and 5 rebounds with a true shooting percentage of 57.1, and he wasted no time going at New York’s youngest prodigy. Standing seven inches shorter, Barnes clearly had the quickness advantage and he abused Kristaps in every fashion possible in the first quarter. In the GIFs below, Barnes uses a crossover into a step back, isolation jumper and a drive to the basket for a dunk to get Dallas ahead early:
Then, Ndour tried his hand at guarding him and well, his fate was determined as soon as Barnes started dribbling. Swish. KP tried his hands at him guarding him again, and Harrison gave him a drop step and dropped another jumper over him:
Barnes finished with 20 points, but virtually disappeared in the second half, scoring only 4 points. His Houdini act is one of the reasons Dallas never really got any momentum for the final two quarters.
Observation #2: KP and Melo Enter the Paint
As I’ve mentioned before, KP and Carmelo can do things offensively that not many players their size can do. Anthony is one of the best scoring forwards that the NBA has ever seen, and Porzingis – only in his second season – is a unicorn, a 7’3″ gazelle who can run, crossover, and shoot from 30+ feet out with a flick of a wrist. Look at KP. This is filth:
Both are aware of their perimeter gifts and because of that, it also becomes their curse. Melo and KP, for all of their jump shooting ability, have the capability to do damage in the post to whoever they’re defended against. But for whatever reason, they refuse to operate from that distance often, especially this season. But that changed versus Dallas.
Kristaps is as tall as a Central Park tree and while he’s not the brawniest guy, his height alone allows him to shoot over defenders with virtually no issue. For example, KP shows off his athleticism and his touch. He catches the ball on the perimeter with his back to the basket, faces up and instead of settling, dribbles just inside the free-throw line and pulls up for the jumper. He fades away slightly but fully elevates and at his size, no one is touching that release. He knocks down the shot:
Same thing late in the second. KP gets just outside of the post and keeps his defender on his hip while receiving the pass from Rose. After the catch, he faces up, surveys the court – while keeping the basketball high and away from danger – and hits an easy bank shot over the extended arms of his opponent. Porzingis might’ve gotten six inches off the ground and the defender’s hand was right in his face, and it still looked like clockwork for him:
Porzingis doesn’t lack confidence, so he’s going to take whatever shot he feels comfortable taking but he’ll truly assert himself when he doesn’t settle for outside shots and opts for the post instead. Of course, there are things that he can improve in close. He still makes the occasion ‘overthinking’ turnover, and for someone as tall as he is, he’s gotten his shot blocked on dunk attempts far more often that one would expect. But as a post player, he’s establishing himself as an efficient scoring threat, and there are very few defenders that can stop him when he’s doing making these moves (Again, this kid is 7’3″):
The second GIF has to make Dirk proud! Or upset, considering KP was mauling his team as he sat, injured, watching from the bench. I don’t know, honestly. Anthony, on the other hand, is an established scorer and has mastered almost all the scoring tricks. He has the full arsenal; for him, it’s figuring out the right time to use which weapon. In contrast to KP, Carmelo is a wide body with great strength and an exceptional first step. Sure, that step has lost some acceleration but he can still get to his spots on the floor and unclothe your defense like it was ’08. And as he’s gotten older, he’s learned to use that added weight to his advantage. He can bully and punish and back down defenders with relative ease to get easy baskets. Just ask Wesley Matthews:
Melo is going to shoot threes. KP will continue to hoist them up, too. It’s inevitable, especially in this fast-paced, ‘score score score!’ offense. But for these two, those threes are great looks when they come in transition, and not always in a half-court set. If Melo could reinvent himself into a mid-range maestro a la Demar Derozan, he’d be an assassin. Seriously, I don’t know if he’d be stopped. The first GIF below is where I think he should do most of his work. When the team gets out on a fastbreak, that’s when Melo should spot up for the three, like in the second GIF:
When the Knicks are clicking, it’s usually because KP and Melo are on – or a slight imbalance of the two. They need to feed off of each other because I believe that’s the most efficient way for New York to have success, and to do that, they need to utilize their entire offensive repertoire and not just settle for outside shots. Keeping the defense honest by balancing where each player shoots on the court will prove beneficial for both players. Hopefully, they continue this trend because, honestly, it’s not rocket science.
Observation #3: The Knicks were … dare I say … overpassing?
I’m not even going to spend a lot of time on this section because I’m having a hard time convincing myself that New York – the New York Knickerbockers of the National Basketball Association – could’ve possibly passed so much that I thought it was, in fact, wrong. So I’m going to be brief. On multiple occasions yesterday, the Knicks chose to be unselfish to a fault and it cost them points that didn’t end up hurting them later. Case in point, take a gander below:
You can take your best guess as to whether you think that’s too much passing, but woo shit, I can’t recall a Knicks team making that many passes before reaching half-court ever and I only counted two. It was beautiful sequence: a block by Porzingis, then a quick pass to Holiday who shoveled it to Jennings, who made a somewhat errant half-court pass that gets deflected by Seth Curry(!) but possessed by Ndour. After recovering the ball, Ndour could’ve simply pivoted and turned around for an easy layup or dunk, but instead, he pulled out his C+ Curly Neal Globetrotter rendition on a quick spin pass to Hermangomez. That extra pass allowed 7’2″ Salah Merji to get back into the play, and punch Hermangomez’s layup off the backboard.
When I saw this historic spectacle go down, I audibly laughed, not because Hermangomez got his shot smacked but because it’s most certainly something that doesn’t happen often. The Knicks passing without the ball hitting the ground and being unselfish? Hahahahahaha, okay. It’s a mirage, the cruelest optical illusion for fans rendered numb from the self-seeking serviceman of Knicks’ past. Or is it? I don’t know but I’m cynical – that’s what the Knicks have done to me. But I hope this is here to stay.
Next Game: Knicks vs. Pistons – November 16th