With the starters shooting a combined 30% from the field and staring at a 10-point deficit early in the fourth, the Knicks had every reason to quit. But it was the bench, powered by a huge double double from Willy Hernangomez and a historic night from Sasha Vujacic, that helped Kristaps Porzingis show his potential as a closer in the Knicks’ 95-90 victory in Brooklyn.
WHY ISN’T HERNANGOMEZ STARTING?: This kid continues to show his value every night on both sides of the floor. He helped hold Brook Lopez to 10 points by making the Nets star work on defense. On offense, Willy had some sweet fourth quarter plays, including a tip-in on a wild perimeter pass from KP, and a driving layup on Lopez that made 86-80 with under two minutes to go.
His most impressive play came with 1:09 remaining and the Knicks clinging to a 87-84 lead. Willy got an offensive rebound off a miss, was blocked, then gathered himself again for a tough layup. He gave a war cry and flexed. Our rook is becoming a man right before our eyes. Willy finished with 16 points and 16 boards (7 on the offensive glass).
KP IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT: With Melo having no legs and shooting terribly, Coach Hornacek made the wise decision to go with the bench and Porzingis to lead the comeback. It paid off with KP also having a double double (19 points, 12 boards) and some timely buckets. When the Knicks were down 10 early in the fourth, 66-76, KP hit two jumpers that ignited a 10-0 run. The chemistry with his BFF Hernangomez was great in keeping the Nets from their earlier feasting in the paint.
KP’s biggest play was a dagger three-pointer that made it 92-86 with 53 seconds remaining.
If we’ve learned one thing this season, it’s that the veterans struggle immensely on back to backs. For the rest of the season, I’d like to see Melo rest on those second nights while Porzingis gets acclimated to being the first option for full games.
Y’ALL MUST’VE FORGOT ABOUT SASHA!: Give Vujacic some credit; the man stays ready. We needed a spark and it came from Sasha, who became the first man in Knicks history to have two 4-point plays. The latter was part of the 10-0 fourth quarter run that got NY back in it. 12 points in 22 minutes is an excellent night’s work..
DEAD STARTERS: From the opening tip, the energy and decision-making was abysmal from our starting five. There was no semblance of play calling — passes went nowhere along the perimeter until Melo had to heave a long jumper with the shot-clock expiring. They tallied six turnovers, shot 29% from the field, and scored just 15 points in the first quarter to the Nets’ 27.
It got no better as the game went on. Combined, the starters shot 18/57 (30%). Carmelo Anthony had one of his worst games this season, shooting a horrific 6/22 (15 points). Considering his strong play as of late, we can likely attribute this to fatigue from playing his third game in four nights.
Despite Anthony’s futility, the worst among the starters goes to Brandon Jennings, who shot a putrid 9% from the field (1/11). To his credit, he did manage 10 assists, many of them when matched with the bench.