[Video] Porzingis’ Comeback: Episode 2

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On the second episode of Kristap Porzingis’ Comeback series, we catch up with New York’s favorite unicorn post-surgery. There’s a lot of promising quotes, such as the doctor stating our star has the best prognosis for full recovery due to no other ligament damage. Also, note the doctor telling Knicks President Steve Mills the importance of working on KP’s overall strength and body mechanics to diminish the likelihood of another severe injury.

To achieve that goal, we get a thorough look at KP’s physical therapy. It’s tough keeping the rest of his body strong while not overworking the repaired ACL, but it appears KP has found that delicate balance. And on the food front, we get a breakdown of his high protein, low carb diet.

Based on how he’s progressing, don’t be surprised to see KP back by January or February.

[Photo] Long Road Back: Porzingis Walking After ACL Surgery

Kristaps Porzingis’s journey back to health is off to a good start. The Knicks star posted a photo on Instagram showing him walking with a protective brace around his surgically repaired left knee. Porzingis is barely a week removed from ACL surgery, but it’s good to see him locked in on the 9-12 month recovery time ahead of him.

Frankly, this entire timeframe is going to be filled with stress for us Knicks fans. There’s never been a player with KP’s height, style, and talent that’s suffered an ACL tear. We have no idea if he’ll come back without missing a beat or diminished physically. All we can hope for is that his youth lends to a full recovery.

 

Season Sweep: Kanter and Porzingis Dominate Nets 111-95

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If only we could play the Nets the rest of the season. Riding monster efforts from Kristaps Porzingis (28 pts, 6/8 from 3) and Enes Kanter (20pts 20 rebs, 5 asts), the Knicks completed a 4-game season sweep of the Nets 111-95. After falling behind 3-0 in the opening minute, the Knicks never trailed and go whatever they wanted on offense.

KP’s CAREER NIGHT: Porzingis set a personal record with six three-pointers. The Nets were a step-slow in respecting the Unicorn’s range and he never lost his early rhythm. With Kanter dominating the post, this gave the offense a potent inside-outside punch that kept the floor spread.

PROTECT KANTER AT ALL COSTS: Listen, I want all talk of trading this guy to stop. Defensive issues aside, he’s one of the more talented big men we’ve had in years. His offensive rebounding (5) sucked the life out of Brooklyn when they attempted to make runs. Going 8/10 from the floor and looking for teammates (5 assists) makes this one of Kanter’s best games of the season.

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DEFENSIVE EFFORT: Although Brooklyn was held to 42% shooting, there was still glaring issues that can’t happen against credible teams. The Nets got multiple open threes but couldn’t convert. It was more alarming that several opportunities like this came in the fourth quarter when the Knicks’s 25-point lead had been slashed to 10.

On the positive side, the Knicks were after it when it came to passing lanes and preventing drives. Frank Ntilikina looked solid at two-guard with Trey Bruke manning the point. Frankie was a +10 off the bench with 8 points, 5 assists and one steal.

The Knicks return tonight with a tough road game against the Celtics.

 

Kanter, KP and Burke Show Out as Knicks Cruise Past Suns

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Give Enes Kanter an inch and he’ll take a mile’s worth of space in your head. Devin Booker found that out last night as he let Kanter goad him into a second tech while his Suns were outhustled at home 107-85. After three games that saw us give up over 120 points, it was a great change of pace to see the team playing with some fire and demoralizing another squad. We can also expect this game to start the rumblings for a new starting point guard.

KANTER GOES OFF: With Phoenix missing their best defender in Tyson Chandler, Kanter was able to dominate. Greg Monroe is not known for his defense nor rebounding and couldn’t do anything with Kanter, who led the team with 20 points and 10 rebounds. He was active in rolling to the basket and got several easy layups and dunks. But his biggest play came with four minutes remaining in the third when he blocked Devin Booker. He let Booker know about it and the Suns guard, who was already was struggling on 4/12 shooting, shoved Kanter in frustration.

Booker had received a tech earlier in the game for a flagrant 1 on Tim Hardaway, who he pushed in the back on a fast break. The Kanter shove proved costly as Booker was tossed with his second tech. Without Booker, the Suns offense got even more anemic and the Knicks lead was 81-67 entering the fourth.

TREY BURKE BUILDS HIS CASE: There might be something to Trey Burke’s physically resembling the second coming of Allen Iverson. He scored 15 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, looking unstoppable at mid-range and getting to the basket. The pace picked up considerably with his floor presence and the Suns were prevented from the quick double-teams on KP and others we see when Jarrett Jack is in the lineup.

I’m not ready to jump the gun just yet on Burke starting. However, if he keeps this up for five more games, Coach Hornacek has a no-brainer of a decision to make.

 

QUIET BUT EFFECTIVE KP: Porzingis didn’t have a monster game, but the Unicorn was impactful on both ends. He shot an efficient 6/11 from the floor, prowled the paint with three blocks, and broke the game open in the third on a fast break dunk that made it 67-51. I’ve noticed that KP plays more relaxed when others have their offense going. I was impressed to see him quickly passing out to reset the offense when good post-up positioning wasn’t there.

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STARTERS GET IT DONE: Four starters hit double figures and everyone had monster plus-minus numbers: Lee +27, Jack +23, Kanter +22, Hardaway +19, and KP +15. The third quarter, where the Knicks outscored the Suns 28-18, essentially put the game out of reach.

THE ROAD TRIP ENDS: Going in, most of us believed this extended road trip would decide the season. That’s not quite the case since our 3-4 record keeps us in limbo. The playoffs are still within reach but so is a high draft pick. No matter which direction we go, my concern remains that are young guys (KP, Frank, Dotson etc.) continue to develop and not get stagnant at the expense to playing time for guys who aren’t in our long-term future.

The Knicks are back at MSG on Tuesday January 30 against the Nets.

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

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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

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(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…).

 

Rusty KP? No Problem! Lee’s 24 Lifts Knicks Over Grizzlies

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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.

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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.

 

Porzingis and Hardaway Jr. Both Drop 30+, Stomp Cavs 114-95

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Eastern Conference Finals here we come! Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself, but every fan of the blue and orange has to be encouraged by the total team effort last night that lead to a shocking 114-95 win on the road over the Cavs. We saw everything you want to see from a young squad trying to find an identity: poise, scrappy defense, ball movement and hustle.

Will it be this good every game? No, but consistent effort like this will put them in position to be competitive every night.

KP and THJ PUT IN WORK: Porzingis and Hardaway went off to historic proportions. Porzingis had another 30-point game (first in franchise history to start the season with four 30+ point games out of five) and neutralize Tristan Thompson by getting him in foul trouble. Although most of KP’s damage was done in the first half, he had a few timely defensive stops in the fourth (including a block on D-Rose), and a three-pointer to push the Knick lead to 13 with less than three minutes remaining.

Hardaway came into this game shooting an abysmal 28%. Early on, the struggle continued until Tim just exploded from the perimeter. He was red hot behind the line (3/6, 50%). And once the close-outs came, Tim went aggressively into the lane to hit layups or fouls. When the smoke cleared, Hardaway finished with 34 points (11/19) and a +22 when on the floor.

We can thank these two for the reason the Knicks had a 29-19 lead after one quarter, and lead by as much a 19 late in the third.

***

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LOCKDOWN: Unlike the first home game against Detroit, the Knicks didn’t fall apart when the Cavs made a second-half run. They slashed a 19-point lead to six before the Knicks exploded on a 27-7 run to break Cleveland’s spirit. Here the supporting cast shined. Frank Ntilikina struggled with his shot (2/5), but used his length for deflections, steals (2) and pushing the ball to keep teammates involved.

Courtnet Lee had his own milestone with his first double double (15 points, 10 rebounds) of his career. In fact, four of the five starters hit double figures. And the one who didn’t, Jarrett Jack, was the catalyst for the ball movement with nine assists.

The Knicks won’t get to rest on their laurels. They face the scrappy Nuggets at home tomorrow night to complete the back to back. Letdown or another momentum-builder?

[Video] More 4th Quarter Failings: Jazz 108, Knicks 101

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We’ve come to the point in the season where most Knick fans have accepted we’re a bad team. You either continue to watch games out of habit, to see if our younger players further develop, or hope we’ll continue to lose to gain better draft position. You can put me in all categories as we limp to the end of the season having dropped six of our last seven.

KP GETS CLUTCH MINUTES: Porzingis got in foul trouble AGAIN (5), but managed to stay on the court and get to be the offensive focal point in the fourth. We desperately need him to get confidence and use his length to space the floor for others. While he had a strong offensive night (24 points), he struggled defensively dealing with the strength of Rudy Gobert, who posted a career-high 35 points and grabbed 13 boards (11 on the offensive glass).

ROSE STOPPED BY INJURY: D-Rose was having a good night (17 points, 6 points) until a right foot injury took him out in the third. He would not return, and luckily x-rays came back negative.

The rest of the team seemed to be just going through the motions. There wasn’t any flow to the offense late in the fourth, and that allowed Utah to outscore New York 36-26 in the fourth.

The tank…er…season continues on tonight with the Knicks visiting the Trailblazers.

 

[Video] Too Much Firepower: Warriors 112, Knicks 105

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The Knicks didn’t lay down yesterday afternoon for the Warriors. They fought hard and kept it close until the sheer depth and talent of the Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter behind timely shots from Klay Thompson (29 points) and Steph Curry (31 points) to hand NY their second consecutive loss. Even with Durant out, no one gave us much of a chance to pull this off. However, the game did have some positives for our younger players.

PORZINGIS FIGHTS THROUGH ADVERSITY: KP struggled at times to get his shot from the Warriors’ physical play, but he never looked discouraged and kept fighting. For that reason, he managed a double double with 24 points and 15 rebounds. This is significant progress because last year Draymond Green completely locked him up. The rebounding is most promising considering at times he was boxing out a bruiser like David West to get them.

BAKER AND HOLIDAY: These two combined for 19 points on 54% shooting off the bench. They were pivotal in keeping the game close once the starters sat. In his 23 minutes, Baker was a +10.

D-ROSE LEADS THE WAY: As has been the trend this season, Derrick Rose gets up for marquee PG matchups. The refs gave up him fair shake on calls, resulting in him going 10/11 from the charity stripe. Overall, Rose finished with 28 points. Unfortunately, the reason we normally lose when Rose leads all scorers is that the offensive flow sucks and others are frozen out. In this case, Melo only managed 15 points on 6/12 shooting and Lance Thomas, who’s played well as a starter in recent games, was held scoreless over 27 minutes.

4th QUARTER EXECUTION: With 5:56 left in the game, New York was only down 97-93. But the Warriors showed why they’re the odds-on favorite to win the title. Thompson and Curry had some dagger three-pointers coupled with Green getting to the line. Golden State also tightened up their defense to force turnovers.