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.

Foul Happy Knicks Screw Themselves Against Jazz


It was all good in the first quarter. Kristaps Porzingis (28 points) was cooking with his shot (4/5) and had 11 points. Carmelo Anthony (28 points) was picking spots and also had a scorching 4/5 start, leading to the duo accounting for 24 of the Knicks’s first 26 points, and a 30-20 first quarter lead.

Then the BS started. The game literally came to a grinding halt in the second quarter. The Knicks could not stop fouling. The Jazz knocked down 15 free throws in the quarter and were only down 54-49 despite shooting 38% from the field and the Knicks 51%. Exacerbating the problem was Porzingis got in foul trouble and had his rhythm broke. He wouldn’t score again until midway through the third quarter.

The Knicks had a scrappy third quarter as the Jazz found their offense. Utah briefly took a 62-60 lead, but a quick Courtney Lee (10 points) three put New York back in front. The Knicks clung to a 80-78 lead headed into the fourth.

The starters fought tooth and nail to hold the lead and had to sit to start the fourth.This proved disastrous as the bench unit couldn’t score and the Jazz promptly reeled off a 9-0 run to start the quarter and go up 87-80.

Then our defensive woes came back to bite us. A couple of strong Derrick Rose (18 points) drives would get the Knicks to within five (100-95), but we couldn’t hold defensively. Either Rodney Hood, who had 10 points in the fourth, would hit a timely three, or the Jazz would find an open mid-range jumper after breaking down our switching defense. The Jazz would have a 36-point fourth quarter and hand New York their second straight defeat at Madison Square Garden.


100 points or more given up in every game this season. This defense is so bad, it makes me long for the days of Mike Woodson and Mike D’Antoni. Seriously, is it that hard to not play defense with your hands? Sure, Hornacek deserves some of the blame, but outside of KP this is a team composed of experienced players. They need to take some pride in fighting over screens and not being so dependent on a switch to bail them out (and in turn create more mismatches). Even the switching under Woodson wasn’t this bad.

Our defense was a godsend for the returning Gordon Hayward, who put up 28 points with HALF of them coming from the free throw line!

We have three days until we face the Nets on Wednesday. Our practices better consist of pick and roll defense drills and fighting over screens.

[Video] Melo’s 30 pts, 9 asts Lead Knicks to OT Win Over Jazz



For the second straight game, the Knicks went into overtime, executed better, and defeated a scrappy foe. Last night it was the Utah Jazz, lead by Gordon Hayward’s 27 points and Rodney Hood’s 27 points, that refused to go away until New York edged the OT scoring battle 19-12 to pull out a 118-111 victory.

Yes, New York made it harder than necessary. But these were the type of games we lost regularly last year. We’re now seeing a poise and clutch factor that will be essential to our playoff hopes.

2ND QUARTER DROUGHT AND PLAYING FROM BEHIND: New York went over five minutes in the second without scoring a single point, allowing the Jazz to put together a 13-0 run and go into halftime with a 48-37 lead. Until late in the fourth, the Knicks were playing catch up and struggling to contain the Jazz’s outside shooting (44% from three-point range).

MELO LEADS THE CHARGE: Our leader scored 22 of his game-high 30 points in the second half. Melo did most of his damage in the paint, including several late dunks and nifty passes (9 assists) to keep other guys involved. He hit Williams (18 points), Afflalo (14 points) and Galloway (9 points) during crucial fourth quarter possessions for three-pointers.

And remember Melo did this in his second game back from an ankle sprain and just one game removed from logging 49 minutes in double OT against the Sixers.


ROBIN LOPEZ OWNS THE PAINT: Rolo delivered a marvelous stat line of 22 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. He battled tooth n’ nail the entire night and made sure driving guards got nothing easy at the rim.

PORZINGIS’ LEARNING CURVE: Our star rookie was had to sit in overtime after fouling out via a bonehead foul on Gordon Hayward’s three point attempt. The foul was especially costly as it came with 9 seconds left and New York leading 99-96. Hayward sunk his free throws and the Knicks had to end matters in overtime.

“There were a couple of unnecessary fouls for me that I can avoid and I’ve got to learn from those,” Porzingis told ESPN. “I’ve got to learn from my mistakes. It’s frustrating to sit on the bench and in overtime.”


BACK AT .500, BUT FOR HOW LONG?: The Knicks sit at 22-22 and just a half game behind Boston for the final playoff spot. Should New York put together a win streak, jumping as high as fifth isn’t impossible with Indiana holding just a two-game lead.

But let’s temper excitement. In recent weeks, the Knicks have gone on losing streaks every time they’ve hit .500. Getting over the hump won’t be easy as the Clippers come to town on Friday.


Rock Bottom: Jazz Beat Knicks 106-85, Hand New York 3rd Straight Loss

Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Remember when we were right at .500 a few days ago and seemed ready to fight for playoff contention? Right now the team is playing as bad as last year’s squad. Coming off two losses, you’d think New York would play with urgency. Instead they came out completely flat, mustering just 11 points (5/23, 22%) and falling behind by 18 points at the end of the first quarter.

The embarrassment continued throughout the night. At halftime the score was 60-35. There was a faux run late in the game, but Jazz never let the Knicks get the lead into single digits.

Why did we look so bad? Let’s start with our leader, Carmelo Anthony. He hasn’t looked right in about a week now, and we can speculate whether that’s due to lingering effects of the strep throat illness, banging knees with Giannis Antetokoumpo or a combination of both. He has no lift on his jumpshot nor lateral movement. He mustered just 12 points on 3/11 shooting. The only good thing to say is he played just 25 minutes and should be sufficiently rested. But if he isn’t right physically, I’d rather him sit than aggravate any ailments.

Our second scoring option in rookie Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t much better. He seemed lost trying to cope with the Jazz’s small ball and got yanked after scoring just 4 points (2/8) in 13 minutes of play. I disagreed with Fisher shutting him down like that. When it became clear the game was out of reach, Porzingis should have gotten some time just to learn.

Arron Affalo had been a big help in recent games, but he was also absent in mustering 4 points (2/5) in 21 minutes.

Finally, the Knicks’ defensive switching was again exploited. The constant mismatches allowed the Jazz’s frontline to abuse our guards with easy baskets. Did Fisher find Mike Woodson’s playbook somewhere around the Knicks office? This needs to stop… NOW.

On the Jazz’s side, their lineup outscored the Knicks starters 58-31, powered by Gordon Hayward (24 points) and Derrick Favors (20 points).

Fisher wasn’t forthcoming about adjustment details, but he did mention changing the starting lineup.

Something has to give.

[Video] Melo the Facilitator: Knicks 104, Jazz 81


Phil Jackson hasn’t even got here yet and the team is already playing better. In all seriousness, the Knicks vowed to build on their Timberwolves win and did just that in completely dominating the Utah Jazz for a 108-81 blowout victory. There were several key contributions, namely Melo’s season-high 8 assists, that made this game an easy one almost from the opening tip.

CAREER-HIGH START: The Knick burst out the gate with 39 points in the first quarter (season-high) on 70%shooting. As usual, Carmelo Anthony lead the barrage with 18 points, including a nifty four-point play. More impressive than his scoring, Melo made sure to move the ball quickly out of double teams and fed the hot hand (JR Smith). This lead to everyone being more active on defense as the Jazz were held to 22 points.

NO LET UP: The second unit of Prigioni, Hardaway Jr., Tyler, Clark, and Shumpert gave up an 11-4 run to start the second. Luckily, the Knicks had built a decent cushion. Once Melo, Stat and Chandler returned, the domination resumed. Stoudemire showed defensive competency in drawing a charge on Richard Jefferson and blocking Derrick Favors at the rim. Felton was finding Chandler at will for alley oops. And Melo had a constant smirk on his face over the fact Jefferson was trying to guard him. When the halftime buzzer sounded, the Knicks had a 60-41 score lead by Melo’s 22 points and 5 assists.

EXTENDED GARBAGE TIME: The Jazz hung around for the early part of the third but never got it to single digits. Melo continued torching Jefferson, and Chandler ran amuck with dunks and controlled the boards (16 points, 11 rebounds). Outside of Felton, every starter hit double figures. They were allowed to rest all of the fourth with the bench holding the lead and young guys like Aldrich and Tyler getting much-needed burn.

FAVORABLE RESULTS: The Knicks are going to need some help to make the playoffs and they got it from everyone last night. The teams in front of them (Pistons, Cavaliers, Hawks) all lost, and New York can jump in front of the Cavs with a win tonight.

We’re not dead yet, people.




Hallejuah! Knicks End 4-Game Skid with Grind Out Win Over Jazz 90-83


Hooray, the West Coast trip from Hell has ended! Thank God for the Jazz. They were the team we last won against over a week ago, and the Knicks got some welcomed relief facing them again last night and grinding out a 90-83 victory in Utah. Without Melo or Tyson, it didn’t come easy, but the Knicks fought through their offensive droughts and won this game on the defensive end.

SOLID DEFENSE, SUBPAR OFFENSE IN THE FIRST HALF: One of the trends on this road trip has been the Knicks coming out fighting hard, only to start slowly falling apart due to the offense having no one being able to consistently get their own shots.

With last night’s game, the Knicks were able to hang tough due to their defense and the sloppy play of the Jazz, who had 5 turnovers in the first quarter. That, coupled with Raymond Felton (9 points) and Chris Copeland (7 points) contributing, allowed the Knicks to have a small 23-21 lead.

The second quarter saw the age of the Knicks frontcourt working against them with Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin picking up a lot of early fouls. The Jazz were inconsistent at the line, but the Knicks shooting dipped to 42% and buckets were hard to come by in the final minutes. A few too many iso Chris Copeland plays lead to the Jazz going on a 8-0 run punctuated by an buzzer-beating jumper by Mo Williams to get them a halftime 44-42 lead.

TOOTH N’ NAIL 3RD: The Knicks really fought hard in the third quarter. This was great to see aS this West Coast losing streak has displayed bad thirds. JR Smith had a great quarter with 10 points and Jazz bigs like Derrick Favors did the Knicks a solid by bricking free throws. It was up and down, but for the Knicks to have a 66-63 lead going into the fourth was massive progress.

KURT THOMAS AND FELTON CLOSE THE SHOW: When you look at Kurt Thomas’s stat line (6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks), it doesn’t begin to show how important he was last night. Old man Kurt gave the Jazz bigs fits, causing deflections and being able to hold his ground and keep them from truly taking advantage of the size and youth mismatches. In addition, Thomas gave good screens on offense that lead to a key JR Smith trey to extend the Knicks lead to 78-72.

Felton stepped up his game too by being aggressive taking it to the rim and hitting outside jumpers. He had 7 points in the quarter and even found Kurt Thomas rolling to the rim for an easy layup.

The Jazz refused to go away (Mo Williams had 5 straight points to get the Jazz to within 81-84), but the Knicks met every run with either a key basket or free throws.

In other needed good news, Carmelo Anthony’s knee is feeling better and Tyson Chandler is also on the mend. If all goes well, we should have both back by the end of the week. And in the meantime, the schedule is less taxing in the coming days. Next up, the Knicks go for another sweep when they face the Magic on Wednesday.