Kristaps Porzingis struggled in his return from a bad ankle sprain, but Courtney Lee, Jarrett Jack and Enes Kanter provided enough support to hold off the Grizzlies 99-88 and improve to 11-5 at home. As we’ve seen in most home games this season, New York started off slow and caught fire in the second half. However, there remain glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed.
THREE-POINT DEFENSE: No team is ever out of it against us due to our poor perimeter defense. After going up by 17 late in the third, the Grizzlies chipped away behind threes and had cut it to six in the fourth. If it were a matter of talent, I’d be more understanding. But we saw in the closing minutes that guys like Lee and Lance Thomas can lock down the perimeter when needed. Against subpar teams like this, we can get away it. But as the schedule gets tougher in the new year, this will sink us when facing the decent and elite squads.
KP’s OFF NIGHT: Porzingis looked like the KP from his rookie season. The Grizzlies were physical and prevented him from getting set in the post. He started 3/9 and later struggled to make quick passes when the double teams came.
But its how you finish. The Grizz made a late fourth-quarter run to get within six 88-82. KP got physical and pushed off the defender to hit a long jumper, and an open three on the next possession to push the lead out of reach at 95-82 with two minutes left. A funny moment came when he got a tech for hanging on the rim after an alley-oop from Kanter. I’ll take a KP off-night (18 points, 42% FG) when it comes with a win.
ROLE-PLAYER SUPPORT: Courtney Lee led the way with 24 points (10/17 FG). He did it from three (4/6), got to the rim, and played strong defense. When the Grizzlies got it to six in the fourth, Lee was the player who broke the momentum with a slashing drive to make it 90-82. It was also good to see him taking time to hold Micheal Beasley accountable on defense.
Jarrett Jack kept the offense flowing to the tune of 10 assists and chipped in 10 points. Lances Thomas had a quiet scoring night (8 points), but his value can’t be understated. He was a +19 while on the court due to his defense. And late in the fourth, you saw him calling out defensive switches and making teammates press fullcourt to make sure the lead was held.
Kanter never got into a complete offensive flow due to Marc Gasol. He was 4/10 (12 points), but still managed to deliver a double-double by grabbing 12 rebounds.
And as much as we give Beasley grief for his defensive woes, the man was a +19 off the bench with 14 points.
TRAP GAME TONIGHT: We’re facing the lowly Bulls, but it’s not like we haven’t gotten burned by trash teams before (see the Hawks game). Plus it’s a road game. It’ll be interesting to see if the squad has learned their lesson.