It started out so well — the Knicks jumped out to an early 10-point lead in the 1st quarter, hitting their 3’s and playing lively — it looked like they had brought their A game to Toronto for a possible upset. And then — they were absolutely blown off the tracks. Toronto used a 17-2 run in the 2nd quarter to reverse the score and take a 10-point lead at the half. In the 3rd quarter it was more of the same. The Knicks spent the rest of the night down 18 to 28 points.
They had nothing.
In the 3rd, it looked like a time to bring in Allonzo Trier and “Iggy” Ignas Brazdeikis to spur the offense, but Fizdale kept his regular, tight rotation in. Finally, with 5 minutes left in the game, Fizdale brought in Trier and Brazdeikis — not to energize the Knicks but to wave the white flag — the Knicks down 24 with 5 minutes left and the game over. Trier immediately went to work scoring — his outside shooting, penetrations, and passing opened up the Toronto offense. But it was too late. Trier scored 10 points (3-4 shooting, 1-2 from 3, 3-3 from the free throw line) and had 1 assist in 7 minutes.
Trier Unleashed, Excels
If anything comes out of this loss, it is hopefully that Fiz puts Trier back in the rotation. The Knicks sorely need a guard who can penetrate, and score, and get to the line. Trier’s passing is underrated. Trier almost won the 1st Brooklyn game with his 4th-quarter scoring; he was missed in the 2nd Brooklyn game, when Spencer Dinwiddie did what Trier does: penetrate, score, and get to the line.
Dennis Smith Jr. is supposed to do that for the Knicks, but he is not doing it. Trier at this point looks like a better penetrator, better scorer, with better outside shot, and better passer. Smith has not been penetrating that much, and his outside shot is abysmal. His form from the 3-point line is flat as is his shot; you know it’s a miss as soon as he shoots it. He also doesn’t seem to have the explosiveness or lift to the basket he showed in Dallas or when he first arrived here last year — one might imagine he is still suffering or worrying about back pain.
Toronto Is Well Coached
Toronto was led by budding superstar Pascal Siakam (30 points) and a juggernaught team that is full of “who?” players who went undrafted — Fred VanVleet (15 pts), Chris Boucher (13 pts), Terence Davis (15 pts), Malcolm Miller (13 pts) — or were relatively high draft picks (OG Anunoby (23rd pick, 13 pts), Norman Powell (46th pick, 7 pts) — but all look great in the team offense and defense that Toronto — the defending champs — bring. They are coached by Nick Nurse, who won a title in the G League (and was highly regarded for developing players who made it in the NBA), before becoming an assistant coach with Toronto in 2013, became known for invigorating Toronto’s offense, and then was inserted as Toronto’s head coach only last year (June 2018), turning Toronto into NBA champs.
The Knicks have to hope they have a similar coach waiting in the wings in Mike Miller, who took Westchester to the playoffs the last 2 years in the G League and also was known for developing a lot of players. Coach David Fizdale has to be again on the hot seat after this game — the Knicks were so clearly outclassed by Toronto in team Offense and Defense — a report card for the two coaches. Knicks Twitter smashed Fizdale relentlessly during the 2nd half and postgame.
“Our team just ran up against a buzzsaw”, said Fizdale after the game.
Fizdale: "our team ran up against a buzzsaw" pic.twitter.com/5g3fMzZHkz
— NEW YORK KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) November 28, 2019
Other highlights for the Knicks were:
- Trier — as mentioned above. Trier is now shooting 50% from the floor on the season, 45.5% from 3, 79.2% from the free throw line, and 7.4 pts in 13.8 very-inconsistent (some games 7 minutes, some games 30) minutes.
- The play of Mitchell Robinson — he stayed out of foul trouble (only 2 fouls) for 31 minutes, 2-3 from the floor, 4-5 from the free throw line (he’s becoming excellent at free throws), 8 rebounds, 1 block. At one point in the 1st quarter he put the ball on the floor for a move to the basket that had Knicks Twitter comparing him to Anthony Davis, and questioning why Fizdale didn’t run some plays to allow Robinson more opportunities like that.
Mitchell Robinson needs be arrested for attempted murder pic.twitter.com/sxlYFl3LO5
— Fredo🗽 (@goknickstape) November 28, 2019
- RJ Barrett was aggressive and made some nice shots — he missed a bunch of shots early and some of his drives to the basket rolled in and out, but he finished 5-17 for 16 points (4-6 from free throw line which is good), 5 rebounds, 4 assists in 31 minutes.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) November 28, 2019
- Julius Randle played well and within the team concept in this game, offensively — he was 7-14 for 19 points and 8 rebounds.
Coast 2⃣ Coast pic.twitter.com/nAb4ixOehg
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) November 28, 2019
Some not-so-great things:
- Frank Ntilikina played with a wrap around one of his legs and seemed to be playing with a groin pull, according to some fans on Twitter. He played only 22 minutes and was 2-6 from the floor (1-3 from the 3) for 5 points.
- Marcus Morris was off — 3-7 from the floor for 7 points in only 21 minutes and a -26 — the worst plus/minus amongst all Knicks by far. He had 3 fouls but Fizdale seemed to sit him because he was not effective. After the game he refused to comment on the game to reporters.
- Wayne Ellington was 1-5 from 3 and his defense was so-so. He did not get back on one play in the 3rd, then turned the ball over on the next possession.
- Iggy Ignas Brazdeikis, when he did come into the game for the final 5 minutes — did not distinguish himself. he looked rushed.
- Smith finished 1-7 (0-4 from 3) for 2 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists.