Wizards Clamp Down in 4th, Beat Knicks 108-95

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The fire was there from the Knicks rookies, but the execution faltered in the fourth quarter against the Washington Wizards, who snapped their five-game losing streak behind 26 points from John Wall to hand New York a 108-95 defeat on the road.

As I stated in my Dallas game recap, I viewed this as a trap game. The Wizards were motivated after getting booed off the court in their last defeat. Although Allonzo Trier and Mitchell Robinson took the fight right to the Wizards, particularly Wall and Dwight Howard, this game showed the value of having All-Star level talent in crunch time.

 

SECOND HALF FIGHT: The first half was mostly fought on even terms with the Knicks trailing 50-58 at halftime. The third quarter started rough and the Wiz jumped out to a 13-point lead. The Knicks then powered back behind a 14-4 run powered by the efforts of Trier (9 pts), Robinson (10pts, 6 rebs) and Enes Kanter (18 pts, 12 rebs).

We got to see the fire in our rookies as Trier jawed with Wall after a hard foul and later forced him into a dribbling turnover, prompting cheers from Coach Fizdale. Robinson and Howard exchanged dunks on each other with each being liberal with shoves and elbows (Robinson later earned a tech for his mouth).

Early in the fourth, the Knicks’s were finally able to tie the game at 86 just in time for the starters to get back in.

THE COLLAPSE: Unfortunately for New York, everything fell apart. Tim Hardaway Jr., hobbled by a back injury on an earlier hard foul, couldn’t muster anything and had a quiet night of 7 points in 24 minutes. Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina combined for 9 turnovers. This gave Wall plenty of fast-break opportunities combined with his three-point shot falling (3/6). Add Bradley Beal chipping in 22 points and you had a hill too big for the young Knicks to overcome.

SLOPPY BALL-HANDLING: The Knicks committed a season-high 20 turnovers and shot only 19% from three. The turnovers and being held under 100 points was particularly humbling as the Wizards came into last night the league’s worst-ranked defensive team.

BEAL PRAISES TRIER: The league is starting to take notice of our rookies. Bradley Beal had this to say about Trier’s focus and potential.

The Knicks won’t have long to lick their wounds as they’re back in action Monday night against the Bulls. Closing thoughts:

  • Kevin Knox feels he’s ready to return after being sidelined seven games due to an ankle injury. Fizdale is more cautious, wanting to see him in 5 on 5 practice drills first. I’m thinking we won’t see him until the end of this week at the earliest.
  • Courtney Lee’s neck has not improved. I’d be shocked if we see him before December.

Trier and Robinson Lead Knicks to 118-106 Road Win Over Mavs

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Wonderful things happen when you move the ball. The Knicks got their first road win of the season last night in Dallas after tallying 26 assists and getting seven players in double figures for a comfortable 118-106 over the Mavericks.

This game was fun to watch and you can see these young players have sky-high confidence right now.

TRIER TAKES OVER: It feels like every game you have to ask the rhetorical question of how this kid went undrafted. He was a tour de force by scoring 14 points in the third quarter alone. And he does it on an assortment of moves while never shying away from contact.

A team-leading 23 points in 24 minutes on 8/10 shooting and 6/7 from the line. He’s averaging 10 points on 53% shooting for the season. I can see him upping that to 12-14 points at this pace. He’s still a bit careless at times with the ball (3 turnovers this game), but his offensive output is such a bench spark you can live with it.

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MITCH’S AMAZING LOB: Coach Fiz went on record this week saying Robinson’s defensive presence was the main reason he got the starting nod. This game showed how disruptive his length is to opposing teams. Outside of his one big block, he got three steals off pass deflections that stopped lobs and open layups. This lead to fastbreak opportunities in the third that seemed to demoralize the Mavs.

While his stat-line was impressive (13 pts, 10 rebs, 3 stls, 1 blk), the memorable play of the night was his 180 alley oop catch from Trier. I hope Rasheed Wallace continues working with the team as Mitch’s current glaring weakness is his boxing out on rebounds.


SHARING THE BALL: After a struggle-filled second quarter where New York was outscored 32-23, the Knicks were down 56-59 at halftime. Mario Henzonja deserves a mention here as his 11 point blitz in 9 minutes kept the Mavs from pulling away.

The fear of a flat third is always there for this team. Instead, the Knicks stormed out with excellent ball movement and bench contributions. Lance Thomas was the second part of the bench 1-2 punch this quarter when he scored all of his 10 points on 3/4 shooting. They outscored the Mavs 33-18 in the period.

It says a lot that Tim Hardaway Jr.’s performance was viewed as having a “quiet” night (18pts, 6 rebs, +10). Because of Trier and others like Damyean Dotson (11 pts, 8 rebs, +18) and Enes Kanter (13 pts, 5 rebs), Timmy wasn’t needed at all in the fourth.


MUDIAY’S BEST GAME: This might be his best performance as a Knick. He was vital to New York extending their lead early in the fourth behind a nifty fast-break dunk pass to Trier and hitting back to back mid-range jumpers. The stats aren’t eye-popping (6 pts, 4 asts), but he controlled the pace very well and kept the Mavs

sslower players off-balance on defense.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

  • Has anyone considered the crazy thought that Kevin Knox might not turn out to be our best rookie?
  • I hope the team doesn’t get comfortable because the struggling Wizards are next up. Washington got booed off their own floor last night so they’ll be highly motivated come Sunday.
  • Courtney Lee’s neck issues worry me. It’ll be hard to trade him and we don’t want to hurt our future cap space by stretching the last 2 years of his contract.
  • Dennis Smith Jr. sure looked frustrated with that hard-foul and step-over stunt he pulled on Ntilikina. Lord knows Frank still has a long ways to go. But getting another look at DSJ, particularly his defense and six turnovers, makes me more secure in our draft choice.

 

Iso Zo to the Rescue: Trier Lights Up Nets in 107-102 Win

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Let the Allonzo Trier hype begin! Fans got to see why Coach Fizdale is ok with iso plays for Trier as the rookie gunner went for 20 first half points and finished with an efficient 25 points on 8/14 shooting (8/8 from the line) in 26 minutes. Yes, it’s just one game and a preseason one at that. But on a team low with players who can create their own shots, Trier displayed why it’ll be hard to keep him stashed in the G-League.

The Knicks started very slow, going down 9-20 early. The ball wasn’t moving and the team was lethargic on defense. Trier became that offensive spark with his assortment of moves. His mid-range jumper was money and he got to the rim with an elusive first step. His teammates recognized he was on fire and rode the wave to take a small halftime lead.

Trier is on a two-way contract. This means should the Knicks want to add him to the 15-man roster, cuts need to be made. With Joakim Noah on the way out, NY might also take a hard look at removing Luke Kornet if Trier keeps this up.

KEEPING POISE: The Knicks had a comfortable 12-point lead early in the 4th when Fizdale cleared his bench. Of course, the bench players lead by Baker and Mudiay got too lax and allowed the Nets to crawl back in and narrow the lead to just two points in the final three minutes. From there, Damyean Dotson (4/4, 8 points) proved to be a stabilizing force by hitting two clutch mid-range jumpers.

On the defensive end, Baker had a key steal (his second of the evening) that lead to a Hicks fast-break dunk to put the Knicks in control for good.

One of the big question marks this years is how the young kids would respond in late game situations. Mistakes were made, but I was encouraged to see no one got down on themselves and the defensive intensity was high.

BEAST MODE: Enes Kanter went on a rampage last night, dropping 22 points and grabbing 20 rebounds in 27 minutes. For all his defensive woes, Kanter is a valuable piece when used correctly. I don’t believe we’ll be paying him the money he wants to keep him, but expect many more light-out nights like this during the year.

QUIET NIGHTS: Kevin Knox had a lowkey game, shooting 50% (3/6) and scoring 7 points. Mitchell Robinson didn’t light up the scoreboard either (2 points, 2 rebounds), but he had two sensational blocks. One came while stuffing a layup attempt. The second was even more impressive when he chased down a three-point attempt and managed to keep the ball inbounds. The league will learn so enough to respect this kid’s wingspan.

GUARD WATCH: Frank Ntilikina (9 points, 2 blocks) had some good moments. Early on he drove to the basket for an emphatic dunk. His defense included a strong block to prevent a layup which lead to a Trier three-point play.

Hardaway spent too much time camped out on the perimeter. He was 3/11 with his best moments coming when he decided to get in the paint. Mudiay was just awful all-around (1/5 and -10). Even with our roster I’m finding difficulty figuring out where he fits.

The Knicks conclude their preseason Friday night at home against the Pelicans.

Kevin Knox Selected to All NBA Summer League First Team

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After four Summer League games, Kevin Knox has achieved his first NBA milestone.

The Knicks rookie was the only team member selected to the Summer League’s All NBA First Team. He averaged 21 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal in 32 minutes per game.  Knox’s scoring average ranked fourth among all Summer League players.

The one glaring improvement area is the 35% field goal percentage, exacerbated by poor shot selection.

Overall, it was promising Summer League campaign and gives us a lot to forward to in preseason.

 

Knicks Waive Troy Williams

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In a shocking move, the Knicks have waived the rights to forward Troy Williams.

Williams was an energy spark off the bench in Summer League play, averaging 11 points (46% FG), 4 rebounds and 1 steal on 20 minutes per night.

Williams joined the Knicks in February via a 10-day contract. He signed a multi-year deal in March and played 17 games before a broken jaw ended his season. He averaged 6 points a game in 17 minutes

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Fizdale and company must have immense confidence in our frontcourt because I was sure Williams would be back. In Summer League, he was arguably our most consistent bench player and always picked up the tempo when he was on the floor. If I had to guess, Williams’ lack of shooting probably made him a liability.

 

Summer League: Knox Struggles and Robinson Dominates in Loss to Celtics

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The Knicks’s Summer League campaign hit another pothole with a 82-75 loss to the Celtics. While Kevin Knox had his worst shooting game to date, Mitchell Robinson gave Knicks fans a lot to cheer for as he was a terror in the paint (and even defensively on the perimeter.

Our loss to the Lakers gave us a preview of how bad this squad is without a competent point guard. Once again missing Ntilikina, the offense failed to get any consistency. this made Knox feel like he had to force the issue. He didn’t get many calls on his drives and he looked uncomfortable on post-up attempts. He went just 5/20 from the floor for 15 points. I like the idea of Knox trying to work in the paint, but I believe that won’t get consistent until he gets some “man strength” a few seasons in.

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Robinson had a loaded stat sheet with 17 points (8/10), 12 boards (7 offensive) and 6 blocks, including another close-out one on a three-pointer. The kid is just a ridiculous athlete. He caught a few flashy alley oops and was there to clean up missed layups and jumpers. Let’s also not overlook that he once again disrupted the passing lanes and snatched 3 steals.

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Allonzo Trier had a solid scoring and shooting night (17 points, 5/8) and got to the line (6/6). But most observers have been focusing on his “ball-hog” tendencies. I feel that’s been highly unfair over the last two games since he’s been forced to play out of position. Trier is clearly not a PG. However, it is reasonable to expect him to work on his playmaking and off-ball movement. I’m interested to see if he make the main roster. Even with his flaws, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Trier get the nod over a slumping Damyean Dotson.

The Knicks are back in action Friday afternoon (4:30 pm ET) on ESPN3 against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Summer League: Knox Goes Off for 29, But Knicks Fall to Lakers

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Kevin Knox had another impressive game last night in the Knicks’ 109-92 loss to the Lakers, scoring a game-high 29 points. Without Frank Ntilikina (groin), the Knicks had struggles with pace and executing plays. The team still showed real fight in coming back from 25 down and had a brief lead before running out of gas.

KNOX SETTLES INTO HIS BEST SCORING NIGHT:  Our prized rookie was looking shaky early on, going 0/6 in the first quarter. Without Knox’s offense, thr Lakers had a 53-42 halftime lead and extended it to 25 early in the third.

Then Knox exploded. He had a 16-point third quarter punctuated by two late three pointers to get New York within striking distance. By the fourth, the Knicks were able to get a brief 82-78 lead before falling apart defensively and allowing the Lakers to knock down three consecutive three-pointers and pull away.

“We were down — I wanted to make sure I did the best I can to help my team come back,’’ Knox said. “It was good feeling. My teammates did a great job finding me.

“Collectively it was a good team comeback. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the win.”

Knox went 5/7 from downtown and I’m already seeing visions of excellent floor spacing with Hardaway, KP and Ntilikina all being threats from behind the arc. Knox was 9/22 overall, but that’s mainly due to some ill-advised fourth quarter shots while attempting to get us back in the game. At one point, Knox had 27 points in 27 minutes on 17 attempts.

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GETTING MITCH BACK INTO TEAM BALL: Our other rook in Mitchell Robinson put up good individual numbers — 13 points (5/6), 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. But he also lodged a minus 33 on the floor, the highest between both clubs. At times his athleticism lets him get away with mistakes, like this impressive closeout block on a three-pointer.

But the Lakers and Jazz have shown being a freakish athlete can’t overcome good ball movement. Tightening up his help defense and rotations are the two main areas where Robinson will need to improve.

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ALLONZO TRIER UNDER CONTROL: ‘Zo is not a point guard. It was a lot to ask to put the ball in his hands so much with Ntilikina out. Surprisingly, he stayed under control and delivered his most balanced game to date: 21 points (8/13), 10 rebounds and 5 assists.

We’ll need all the scoring we can get this year so I’m hopeful Zo can bring this mentality to our bench unit.

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IS DOTSON OK?: For the second consecutive game, Damyean Dotson has looked terrible. In 29 minutes managed just 4 points (2/9) and was 0/3 from downtown. It’s still very early but going through a slump already is concerning. I can see Trier taking his spot if he continues to struggle in preseason.

The Knicks will enter the Summer League playoffs on Thursday afternoon (ESPN2, 4:30 p.m.) against the Celtics.

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.

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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.

Fizdale Praises Summer League Debuts of Knox and Mitchell

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Coach Fizdale echoed the widespread consensus that Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson exceeded expectations in their Summer League debuts yesterday against the Hawks. Fizdale lauded Knox’s decision-making and Robinson’s mix of aggressiveness and patience in picking his offensive spots. A final note to keep in mind is Fizdale’s defense of Frank Ntilikina, whose performance was largely panned for his lack of initiative on offense.

“I thought late he really attacked,” said Fizdale. “Be aggressive but I don’t want him getting to a point where he stops being who he is. I know everyone has this vision of what he should be. But he’s got some things he already does well that he brings to the table. I want him to keep those attributes while being aggressive.”

Kevin Knox’s 22 Points Leads Knicks Over Hawks in Summer League Debut

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There’s still time to apologize if you booed this man on draft night. Kevin Knox lived above the rim and displayed his talent in transition by scoring 22 points and leading the Knicks over the Trae Young-led Hawks 91-89. All eyes were on this game as it was not only the Summer League debut for these new Knicks, but also coach David Fizdale’s first chance to evaluate his young charges. As expected, they were far from perfect, but this squad has the athleticism and energy we’ve lacked for years.

WE HAVE A STUD!: For the Knicks’ very first basket, Kevin Knox went coast to coast for a thunderous dunk. It would be a recurring theme throughout the night as our prize rookie had an extra gear Atlanta couldn’t match.

His shooting was a struggle (1/7 from three-point range), but he managed to go 8/20 and most importantly, showed he can score in multiple ways when the jumper isn’t falling. Speaking of said jumper, his form is smooth so there’s no doubt he can become a formidable three-point shooter.

WE HAVE ANOTHER PAINT DEFENDER: With Kanter back and KP still out, I’ve had bad visions of open layups and constant PNR abuse. Those fears have been relieved by our other rookie in Mitchell Robinson. The 7’footer has freakish length which he used to great effect in the passing lanes and harassing penetrators. He notched a game-high four blocks, including a beautiful swat on a point-blank dunk.

The glaring problem with Mitchell’s game today is not even his fault — his teammates constantly missed him cutting to the basket for easy dunks. Nonetheless, he finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds (four offensive).

THE NEW JR?: Allonzo Trier might just be our new JR Smith and I mean that with all the good and bad it entails. Trier is a chucker and we’ll have nights where we want to strangle him. He was one of the guys not looking for Mitchell when the big man cut to the rim. Trier did prove valuable in the fourth with a few timely jumpers and icing the game at the free throw line.

Trier was only 5/12 from the field, but he ended up having a well-rounded game to the tune of 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.

SAME OLD FRANK?: The highlight videos we’ve seen over the last few weeks had us hopeful Frank Ntilikina (5 points, 5 assists, 2 steals) would level up this year. His first quarter was solid — we saw him giving Trae Young fits in the backcourt and forcing late shot-clock heaves.

Unfortunately, it went downhill from there. We saw the same problems from last year — picking up his dribble too early, indecisive about his shot and not running the offense smoothly (unexpected passes leading to turnovers).

If you’re holding out hope, you’ll say this was just one game and he’ll get better with Fizdale in his ear. On the glass half empty side, you’ll say Frank was out there struggling against lower competition.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It finally feels like we have a “modern” team! Our squad is filled with young, athletic guys with length to guard any position. How about Troy Williams being an energy spark all night (17 points)? He really kept us alive when the offense was struggling. It was nice to see Damyean Dotson in the huddle pushing everyone to step it up defensively. We have some work to do on that end, particularly when guarding the perimeter. Yes, there will be growing pains. But the Knicks finally have a clear vision for the future and aren’t chasing free agent pipe dreams.

I’m already psyched about tomorrow night’s game against Utah.