Knicks Fall to Jazz, But Aggressive Ntilikina Silences Critics (for now)

2018 NBA Summer League - Las Vegas - Utah Jazz v New York Knicks
LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 8: Frank Ntilikina #11 of the New York Knicks handles the ball against the Utah Jazz during the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League on July 8, 2018 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

Frank Nitlikina heard the online chirping. The second-year PG bounced back in a major way for his second Summer League appearance, scoring 17 points and dishing 6 assists in the Knicks’ competitive 90-85 loss to the Jazz. There’s a lot to unpack from this fun game so let’s get right to it.

FRANK’S REMINDER: Summer League hot takes with such a minuscule sample size is illogical, but yesterday’s game served as an important reminder for Knicks fans. One, it reminded us that Ntilikina’s potential will take several seasons to unlock. Within the first few minutes, we saw him drive into the lane and use his length for a floater. He remained aggressive throughout the game hitting fadeaways and driving layups. With Frank establishing himself as a scoring threat, this spread the floor and prevented defenses from easily trapping our shooters.

Second, Ntilikina is making progress and right on schedule for a 19 year old. He has a new coach and system to learn after a year of being “molded” by Hornacek’s regime. Patience in the most important virtue.

KNOX AND MITCH’S STRUGGLES: Our two rooks have their feet held to the fire in getting a back to back this early in the schedule. Knox (19 points) is still struggling with his jumper (5/15, 2/6 from downtown) and I think it’s partly due to a slight rush on the shots. The form still looks great and it’s just a matter of time before he gets comfortable with the NBA pace. Late in the fourth, he had a chance to bring us within one after getting open on a three with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Another improvement area for him will be finding a go-to move to free up space. Right now he’s trying to overwhelm guys with his physical prowess and that gets him out of control on drives if the refs swallow their whistles.

Mitchell Robinson was a force on the glass and nabbing cleanup dunks (12 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks), but struggled defensively with Tony Bradley (16 points, 7/8). The Jazz center’s big body allowed him to get deep positioning and evade Robinson’s wingspan. Remember that Robinson sat out last year and is still getting his legs, so he’ll do better in this area as he gets stronger.


BALL MOVEMENT NULLIFIES ATHLETICISM: A statement was mentioned during the broadcast that I wholeheartedly agreed with — the Knicks had the better players last night, but the Jazz had a better “team.” I took that to mean the Jazz had a much better strategy predicated on ball movement, back-door cuts and guards breaking down the defense and finding open shooters. Our team played like they felt they could beat the Jazz on talent alone, leading to a lot of iso attempts.

That strategy came back to haunt us in the final minutes. The Knicks had a 82-78 lead with roughly four mintues remaining following an Allonzo Trier layup and Knox jumper. From there the Jazz put the clamps down and we couldn’t score. The Jazz went on a 9-1 run to seal the victory.

THE GUNNER: Speaking on Trier, he was once again in chucking mode, going 4/16 (0/4 from downtown). Still, he managed 15 points and was 7/7 from the line. I was joking last game about him being the new JR Smith, but I can also see a hot bench scorer if we can get him under control. I have the impression he has a chip on his shoulder from not being drafted.

IS DOTSON OK?: Now that Frank has shut everyone up, we can expect the critical eye to turn towards Damyean Dotson (3 points, 0/3). I suspect he was told to fall back to let the younger guys cook. However, it isn’t like the 24-year old is some hard-nosed vet with years of experience under his belt. Our offense will need his three-point shooting so I hope he looks for his offense more next game.

The Knicks get a break tonight and suit up on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. against the Lakers.

Warriors Hammer Knicks in 3rd Quarter, Take 125-111 Win


If the Knicks needed further proof of how far they have to go, the Warriors provided a somber reminder last night at MSG. New York fought on even terms in the first half for a one point lead at halftime (64-63). The defending champs then went off in the third quarter, outscoring the Knicks 39-18 on the strength of repeated three-pointers from Steph Curry (21 points) and Klay Thompson (26 points) to take a 125-111 win. This was an expected domination, but New York’s focus on youth development provided some encouraging backcourt moments.

WHAT GOT INTO MUDIAY?: Once again, Emmanuel Mudiay got the start at point guard. Surprisingly, his outside shot was cooking in the first half to the tune of 3 three-pointers in the first half. In 31 minutes, he scored 20 points (8/15, 3/5 from 3) and dished out 7 assists. When his shot is going, it helps tremendously in spacing the floor and allowing for other guys to get open shots.

Unfortunately, when the Warriors upped their second half defense, Mudiay came back down to earth. I’m not big on PG’s that can’t shoot consistently. For me to have any interest in Mudiay staying past this season, we need to see a consistent shooting efforts like this in the next 20+ games.

NTILIKINA FINDING THE GROOVE: Even if Frank ends up being our future PG, I feel this time playing off-guard is proving essential to his NBA development. It’s forcing him to look for his shot and not defer on drives. He shot 50% (6/12) in 28 minutes, making this one of his better shooting performances this year. He had a few defensive blunders when trying to deal with GSW’s ball movement, but that’s expected when facing arguably the best passing team in the league.

BURKE’S FINE PLAY CONTINUES: Trey Burke’s Allen Iverson impersonation continued in the first half with him actually outplaying Curry. He took the former MVP off the dribble several times for dazzling drive and jumpers. His 18 points on 8/15 shooting was strong, but Curry woke up in the second half and exploited him on PnR and pullups, goading Burke into a four-point play and several demoralizing threes in that back-breaking third quarter run.

WE NEED 3-PT SHOOTERS!: Games like this show how badly we’re behind the times when it comes to outside shooting. The Knicks finished 10/25 from behind the arc while the Warrior hits 15 threes, essentially accounting for the point disparity. When Lance Thomas (3/4) and Mudiay (3/5) end up being your best shooters, it says a lot about your team’s ability to compete.

The Knicks get an extended break until Friday when they begin a West Coast trip against the Clippers.

Mudiay Shows Promise in Knicks Loss to Pacers


Losses are to be expected in the wake of the devastating ACL injury last week to Kristaps Porzingis. In the meantime, us fans will have to look for hope where we can find it. Last night it came in the debut of Emmanuel Mudiay, who had a double double (14 points, 10 assists) and played most of his 29 minutes alongside Frank Ntilikina.

Hornacek’s rotations looked the best it has in weeks with aging starter Jarrett Jack only getting 8 minutes, allowing the young guards to work through mistakes and build chemistry. Ntilikina (12 points,+8) looked more comfortable playing off-ball and allowing Mudiay to push the pace and initiate offense.

However, the big concern remains Mudiay’s shaky jumper (5/14 FG). There were several times where he passed up on open shots to try and get closer to the rim. This allowed defenders enough time to close out and force the offense to reset. He can get away with that against the second units of decent teams like Indy. But against starters or good teams, it remains to be seen how detrimental his lack of shooting will be to our backcourt and overall offense.

Outside of the backcourt, Kyle O’Quinn (14 points, 9 rebounds) and Enes Kanter (17 points, 11 rebounds) delivered their usual gritty efforts. O’Quinn was an early fourth quarter spark and at one point scored 7 straight points (including his first trey of the season) to bring the Knicks within 10 after trailing by 20.

Unfortunately, the Knicks just couldn’t get stops when it mattered. They repeatedly gave up offense rebounds late in the fourth and couldn’t contain Victor Oladipo, who came on strong from a slow first half to drop 30 points in a 121-113 Pacers win.

We’ll see if the Mudiay-Ntilikina tandem can repeat their chemistry tonight at the Garden against the 76ers.

Back on Track: Porzingis, Ntilikina and Bench Power Knicks Over Nets 119-104


Coming into Monday’s game against the Nets, the Knicks had effectively hit rock bottom. Just 24 hours before, the team had squandered a 19-point lead at home to the Pelicans. KP was in a shooting and confidence slump. Ntilikina had been MIA on offense the last week. And the team fell five games below .500 for the first time this year.

But nothing says bounce-bank like seeing the Nets on the schedule. The team delivered a high-level performance that saw both Porzingis and Ntilikina have strong games, and the bench contributed 70 points for an easy 119-104 victory in Brooklyn. With a seven-game road trip looming, this was a much-needed confidence-booster for a team facing their most important stretch of the season.

PORZINGIS WAKES UP: Before Monday’s game, KP claimed to have had an epiphany. He acknowledged that he’s been forcing up too many shots in an effort to live up to his billing as the “first option.” He now realizes that to be the leader goes beyond scoring. Against the Nets, he focused on letting the game come to him and making the “right play.”

This approach resulted in one of his best shooting games of the season (8/14, 26 points). He was also a terror on defense, grabbing 9 rebounds and two blocks. He appeared relaxed and did everything in the flow of the offense. And the biggest thing for me was he appears to have his stamina back.

NTILIKINA SHOWS LIFE: With Jarrett Jack having logged heavy minutes the night before, it was up to Ntilikina to handle the PG load. The rookie responded by nearly dropping a triple-double (10 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds). We’ve been begging for him to look for his jumper and he did, which allowed for more floor spacing and better ball movement. There were still a few times where he passed up shots when driving into the lane, but we have to trust that’ll come with more experience.

BENCH MOB: Every bench player aside from Joakim Noah saw the floor and contributed. New signee Trey Burke hit his first jumper as a Knick and managed to dish out two assists in eight minutes. Even with the limited time, you could see his ability to get to the rim will prove very valuable when the offense breaks down.

The Nets’s leaky defense had Michael Beasley looking like Shawn Kemp in the fourth quarter. After a slow start (3/8), Beasly started abusing Brooklyn in the post and scored with several dunks, including a putback on his own miss. In 29 minutes, he was 10/18 from the floor with 23 points and 10 rebounds. The other big contributors were Kyle O’Quinn (11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) and Doug McDermott (13 points).

New York begins their road-trip on Wednesday night against the Grizzlies.




Jack Nails Floater, Knicks Hold Off Mavs

New York Knicks v Dallas Mavericks
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

With the scored tied at 92 late in the fourth, it looked like our beloved Knicks were setting us up for another heartbreaker. Ahead 90-77 with 4:48 remaining, New York gave up a 15-2 run and were desperate to regain the momentum. The refs had swallowed their whistles and allowed the Mavs to administer prison ball tactics. Who would be our savior?

Look no further than Jarrett Jack. On the day when his contract was guaranteed for the rest of the season, Jack would use a Porzingis screen to come down a wide open lane to hit a floater to take the lead for good at 94-92. I give Jack a lot of grief on the defensive end, but on this night he was a key contributor, notching 12 points and 8 assists.

NTILIKINA LOCKS IN: The narrative of this game centered around the matchup between Frank and the man the Mavs selected right after him in the draft, Dennis Smith Jr. It was pretty anti-climatic as the two rarely matched up. However, Frank’s stat line in 25 minutes shows how versatile his contributions were (7 pts, 7 rebs, 5 asts, 2 blks). Wait until this kid develops a consistent jump shot. Matter of fact, I hope he was paying close attention to Jack’s floater. He sorely needs that in his repertoire.

PORZINGIS WAKES UP: It appears playing in front his idol Dirk Nowitzki is exactly what the doctor ordered for KP’s recent woes. The league’s favorite unicorn scored 29 points, grabbed 8 boards, and was a perfect 8/8 from the line. But there was a persistent problem on Sunday. KP only shot 9/25, and a big part of that was the refs allowed the Mavs, mainly Wes Matthews, to get very physical without a worry about fouls.

I feel like the word is out that KP is a “soft” player who can’t generate consistent offense under physical play. There is some truth to that as KP hasn’t yet shown the ability to score consistently when guys get up under him. It’s something he needs to counter by working the refs and making quicker decisions with the ball. His late isos on the block and perimeter become easier to guard in crunch time. Luckily, we won’t have to see much more of that when Hardaway is back next week (fingers crossed…).