Dud. CLANK. Miss Miss Miss Miss Miss. Overconfidence. You name the negative noun or adverb — it aptly described this dog of a game. Upset. Both the game and Knick fans.
This was a ‘gimmie’. The Knicks were supposed to win. They came in 14-15, winners of 3 in a row against better teams than the 10-18 Magic, who have key players out — Aaron Gordon, center Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, and Cole Anthony. And the Knicks quickly opened up an 11-pt lead in the 1st quarter. Then this happened:
1. 2nd-Team Crapped Out
The Knicks 2nd team, which has been their strength of late, finally crapped out. They quickly let the 11-pt lead slip away.
Later came a 3rd quarter of doom wherein the Knicks were outscored 30-14. The Knicks started the 3rd with a 3-pt lead, and held a slim lead with the starters in throughout most of the first 6 minutes of the 3rd quarter. Orlando had edged ahead by 6 points when the Knicks 2nd team came in with about 3 minutes left in the quarter. Instead of giving the Knicks an expected boost — the 2nd team kept missing shots, and allowed Orlando to increase their lead to 13 by the end of the quarter.
Tom Thibodeau kept the 2nd team in for most of the 4th as they made a run to pull within 10, but the run went nowhere. Therefore RJ Barrett, who was 5-11 for 15 points, 7 rebounds and a -3, only played 27 minutes and Elfrid Payton, who went 6-11 for 13 points and a -1 — didn’t play in the 4th.
EP staying aggressive pic.twitter.com/REGzO6cLio
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) February 18, 2021
2. Poor Defense
As coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game, the Knick defense wasn’t good from the start — even with the 1st team running out to the 11-point lead. The Knicks didn’t adjust as Orlando was getting on a roll. Said Thibodeau: “We have to adjust during the course of the game. When a team starts making shots, like they did, we have to look at our containment of the ball, appropriate help — are we moving on the flight of the ball, and are we challenging shots correctly. We didn’t have our normal awareness, and that’s been one of the strong suits of the team. We have to learn from it and approach the next game.”
3. Too Much “Hero Ball”
In the 4th, down double digits, the Knicks stopped rotating the ball as much as they have when they’ve been successful. It seemed Rose and Quickley were trying to go at the rim too much by themselves to help turn the game around; ‘hero ball’.
A Knick fan on Twitter suggested Julius Randle was guilty of this too; although it’s hard to statistically back up that statement since Randle had another all-star performance with 25 points on 11-19 shooting (3-7 from 3), with 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
Julius stays fighting pic.twitter.com/znKwxILwPL
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) February 18, 2021
4. “If You’re Going to Shoot, Shoot”
Thibodeau saw it differently — he didn’t mention ‘hero ball’ after the game, but instead said the Knicks were at times too unselfish. “When you’re open you have to shoot. If you don’t shoot, then you’re taking a contested shot, and that isn’t good either,” added Thibodeau.
5. Not Enough Dogs?
Evan Fournier lit the Knicks up for 19 points on 8-15 shooting; Nikola Vucevic had 16 points on 8-24 shooting (although 0-7 from 3 — imagine if he had hit some 3’s), and importantly, Terrence Ross came off the Orlando bench for 30 points on 10-16 shooting (5-6 from 3; 5-5 in free throws).
Ross is averaging 15.3 ppg this year (.351 from 3), after 14.7 last year (also shot .351 from 3), and 15.1 the year before (shot .383 from 3). The 6’6″ former #8 overall pick in the 2012 draft by Toronto is now 29 yrs old.
As the evening turned bad in the 4th quarter you kept looking around for the Knicks cavalry to arrive — with Quickley and Rose and Randle already on the court. Barrett and Payton were on the bench as mentioned above, and Mitchell Robinson is out. But you started to wonder if that was enough cavalry. If the Knicks still need another big dog or two.
Obi Toppin, a possible big dog of the future, had 3 points (on 1-2 shooting) in 12 minutes for a -17. Nerlens Noel played well; 6 points and 9 rebounds in 30 minutes for a -8. And Alec Burks (8 pts on 3-9 in 24 min) and Reggie Bullock (4 pts on 1-2 in 33 min) did what they do as role players.
Kevin Knox played 1 minute. Knox, with his pretty, high-arcing and accurate 3, his 6’7.5″ frame, and improved defense, at still only 21 years old — can certainly become as good a dog as Terrence Ross someday. Maybe he, along with Toppin, is a future ‘dog’ right in front of us.
PS: Former Knick Chasson Randle got 19 minutes for Orlando, and made some key plays at the end of the 3rd when Orlando was pulling out to a double-digit lead. He had 2 pts, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, and a +7. Another kind of dog.
Every dog has his day.