The Knicks extended their win streak to a season-best three games with a come from behind road victory against the always tough Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.
The Knicks had every reason to pack it in when they went down 13 points early in the third quarter. Instead, they began chipping away at the Grizzlies’s defense behind a massive effort from Enes Kanter, who dominated the boards with a career-high 26 rebounds to go along with 21 points. Kanter’s efforts were an integral part of a 25-5 run to get the Knicks in front headed into the fourth quarter.
Tim Hardaway would chip in 22 points, including a late clutch three-pointer that gave New York a one-point lead with 2:20 left. Others found different ways to contribute. Although Trey Burke didn’t shoot well (3/15, 15 points), but he hit clutch shots down the stretch and secured a key steal that lead to a Mudiay And-1 dunk to put the Knicks up three with 1:35 remaining.
What I’ve enjoyed most about these wins is the young guns finding ways to win as opposed to the myriad of ways they stumbled into losses during the six-game losing streak. You can see the confidence building every game in guys like Burke and Mudiay.
Coach Fizdale tried to downplay the importance of this game, but we all know he took immense satisfaction in beating the team that fired him. Think he and Marc Gasol exchanged any pleasantries after the game?
Next up is another road test on Tuesday against Blake Griffin and the Pistons.
Emmanuel Mudiay continued his excellent play last night in helping the Knicks take a hard-fought road win over the Memphis Grizzlies. His most dazzling play happened with under two minutes left when he converted a Trey Burke steal into a monstrous And-1 slam over Garrett Temple. Note the contrast between the Knicks and Grizzlies announce teams.
A few factors made this dunk extra sweet. Garrett Temple fouled out on the play and it put the Knicks up 96-93 with 1:35 remaining. It also took some of the fight out of Memphis. And Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s reactions were the proverbial cherries on top. These are the momentum plays a young team has to learn to execute to pull out close games. We’re slowly getting there…
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.
Late pass on this review, but before tonight’s game against Detroit I had to drop some thoughts on our impressive 111-104 home opener win over the Grizzlies last weekend. After being embarrassed by Cleveland on national TV, I was interested to see how our squad would perform. Although it’s early, the mentality I saw on the court leads me to say with confidence this might be our most mentally strong team since the late 90s.
BLEW THE LEAD, BUT NEVER GAVE IT UP: Despite building a near 20-point lead in the first half, the Grizzlies slowly got themselves back in it by making it a plodding, half-court game where Marc Gasol and others feasted at the foul line. Like Knicks teams in recent years, there was a lot of complaining to the refs (particularly Melo, who earned himself a technical). But unlike our former teams, we held firm and put the game away in the fourth. Rose’s playmaking combined with Noah’s interior defense proved to be the difference maker in the fourth.
KP and Melo = 41 POINTS: We waited all last season for these two to put up big numbers simultaneously. We got it with Porzingis dropping 21 points on an efficient 7/11, and Melo going for 20 despite getting mauled in the paint and refs swallowing their whistles. That is the main reason for his 5/15 field goal performance, but Melo made up for it by going 9/12 in free throws.
NOAH IS OUR HEART AND SOUL: This man was fired up from the opening tip and his energy proved contagious. His post presence was a big factor in holding Gasol to 5/15 from the field, and he cooled off a heating up Zack Randolph in the fourth. His stat sheet (6 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists) shows the versatility Noah brought. His passing was crucial in getting others like Courtney Lee (16 points) off to quick starts.
Barring no serious injuries, it’s hard for me to imagine this team not making the playoffs.
The Knicks celebrated their 70th home season opener with a hard-fought 111-104 victory tonight over the Memphis Grizzlies. Derrick Rose finished with 13 points and provided several dazzling highlights with his drives to the hoop. Unquestionably, the best play featured Rose crossing up Mike Conley. Remember the talk earlier this year about whether we should have made a big money offer for Conley? Haaaaa
League sources have confirmed that Memphis Grizzlies guard Matt Barnes will serve a two-game suspension for an October fistfight with Knicks coach Derek Fisher at the Southern California home of Barnes’ estranged wife.
Fisher, who had reportedly been dating Barnes’ estranged wife Gloria Govan for several months, made a visit to the home while Barnes’ young children were present. One of the children notified Barnes, who raced to the home and confronted Fisher.
This was touted as a matchup between the teams with the two best records in the league. For the first two quarters, both teams executed plays and shot well. New York was shooting over 60% and making key steals, but still couldn’t get more than a 2-3 point lead due to giving up too much second-chance points on the offensive board. Melo was having to work extremely hard on defense, contending with Zach Randolph and Marc, Gasol who both outweighed him by 30-40 pounds. But as he’s shown over the winning streak, Melo made the right passes to guys like Kidd and Brewer for open shots. Unfortunately, Melo had to sit after getting two fouls, as did the Grizzlies’ Rudy Gay, leaving it a tight game of 29-25 in favor of Memphis after one.
Rasheed Wallace went to work in the post in the second, hopefully a sign of future things to come. That forced double teams and allowed for guys like JR Smith to get going with outside jumpers. Unfortunately for NY, Memphis’ outside shooters were hot, in particular their point guard Bayless. Matters would get chippy with him when a JR elbow and Bayless shove resulted in double technicals. The hard play continued and Melo began to complain too much about the lack of calls for him inside. The Grizzlies scrambled hard for every loose ball and even a Knicks block from Rasheed Wallace went in the Grizz’s favor, as the loose ball went to Mike Conley who hit a three to give them a 54-49 halftime lead.
Then disaster struck in the third. Melo caught a suspect third foul early and less than two minutes later got another while being tangled up with Marc Gasol. Melo got irate and earned a technical before hitting the bench. Tyson Chandler got his fourth foul and the team just became unglued. Think the playoffs last year in game 1 where the Heat got a bunch of fouls and ran the Knicks out of the building. This was very similar as the Grizzlies went on a ridiculous 19-1 run and ended up outscoring the Knicks 31-18 for the quarter. Chandler got his fifth foul, coach Woodson his own technical and next thing you know the score was 74-56 Grizzlies.
Chandler’s foul trouble forced Woodson to do something he should have done from the outset; put Kurt Thomas on Randolph. Immediately, Randolph had a much tougher time scoring and had to work harder in the paint for rebounds. Unfortunatly, the damage had been done. Although the Knicks rallied to pull as close as 8 points in the fourth, a few quick Grizzlies scores off pick and rolls effectively iced the game to give the Knicks their first defeat.
You’d think we would have had a good shot of winning having shot 51%, but having our best players in foul trouble and Woodson being stubborn with the lineup sealed our fate. Thankfully, Woodson is already on record stating some of his substitutions hurt us down the stretch. This game is a clear example that while Melo has had success at the 4 spot, that can become a weakness against a team like the Grizzlies and we have to adjust accordingly.
Melo’s been great this year, but the one glaring flaw he needs to get in check continues to be the ref complaining. He’s going to start to get, if he hasn’t already, a reputation with the refs and the techs will start coming quicker. Our team follows his lead; when he became irate and unfocused in the third, the rest of the team followed suit. I’m sure his patience wasn’t helped matters by getting banged around by Randolph and Gasol, but he needs to check this behavior ASAP.
It’s back home on Sunday to face the Pacers. All in all, it was a good road trip going 2-1. Let’s hope we don’t see Melo trying to guard Roy Hibbert tomorrow.