Your favorite player's favorite player filled up the stat sheet and helped a short-handed Knicks team spoil Carmelo Anthony's return to the Garden. After playing a triple overtime game in Philadelphia last night the Thunder were unable to overcome the quick turnaround and the Knicks took advantage with another home victory.
With their top two scorers sidelined by injuries, the Knicks were able to gut out a 111-104 win over the Nets in Brooklyn on Friday. Frank Ntilikina led the team in assists (8) and plus/minus (+14) in his 27 minutes. Crediting Frank as the primary reason for the win would be overstating his impact; this was truly a team effort. But, his recent progress has relit a spark of optimism among Knicks fans. This recap will focus on the areas of Ntilikina's offensive game where he has made strides.
The Knicks desperately needed a road victory and they were able to come away with one against the cross-town Brooklyn Nets. The Knicks played well in the first half, temporarily fell apart after Kristaps Porzingis left with an injury, but were ultimately able to scrap their way to a huge win. The Knicks IMPROVED to 2-8 on the road, winning without their two best players for the most part.
New York's 113-109 overtime thriller over the Los Angeles Lakers was the Knicks' most entertaining game of the year. Kristaps Porzingis dominated for the majority of the game and Michael Beasley was an unlikely hero down the stretch, going 3-for-3 in crunch time (defined by NBA.com as five or fewer minutes left and the score within five points). But, it was how the Knicks ratcheted up their defense when it counted that secured the victory on Tuesday. I'll start by showing the Lakers' shot chart in crunch time:
This game had it all. The Knicks were able to pull out perhaps their most exciting win of the season. This game was back and forth but the Knicks were able to overcome a slow start and a blown lead late to pull out the win in overtime. Kristaps Porzingis was back to form looking like a true superstar. As part of a glimpse into the future, Frank Ntilikina joined him throughout crunch time, playing the entire fourth quarter and overtime with confidence. Great win that was fun to watch.
Heading into their 111-107 win over Atlanta, the Knicks had been consistently losing the "points off turnovers" battle all season. Defensively, they ranked dead last in the league, allowing opponents to score 19.6 points per game off Knicks miscues. On the other end, they ranked 19th, scoring 15.8 points per game off opponent turnovers. On Sunday, the Knicks turned a weakness into a strength by outscoring the Hawks 25-9 in turnover points.
There's a lot to unpack from Saturday night's 102-104 loss in Chicago. First, it's possible to be upset at the foul call on Courtney Lee, which led to Kris Dunn's game-winning free throws, while also recognizing that the Knicks should've never been in that position in the first place. It's tempting to look at the overall free throw disparity - 23 attempts for Chicago versus just nine for New York - and blame the officiating for the loss. However, over the course of the game, since the Bulls shot just 56.5% from the line, they only made four more free throws than New York. So, there was more at play here, mostly on the defensive end.
After a back-and-forth battle the Knicks escaped Sunday night's game with a 4 point victory against the Hawks. Some of the Knicks most dependable players struggled but unexpected performances from others kept the Knicks afloat.
This one hurt. After playing uninspired basketball for most of the night, the Knicks had an opportunity to win the game in the final seconds but a 3 from Kristaps Porzingis came up just short. The loss drops the Knicks to 12-13 including 1-8 on the road.
Year after year, the Memphis Grizzlies seem like the odd man out in the Western Conference. Experts project the antiquated pace of “Grit ‘N Grind” will have run its course. Surely the barrage of three pointers from opposing teams will outweigh Memphis’ deliberate, plodding offense. The bizarre supporting cast of journeymen, more journeymen and low-level prospects, will not have the skill or firepower to keep this old school boat afloat. But, alas, the projections are always wrong and Memphis squeezes their way into the playoffs. It’s happened 7 years in a row.