Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images
Last game, the Knicks were rightly trashed for a despicable effort against the Lakers. Tonight, the effort was there, but a few miscues in the final four minutes allowed the Clippers sans Chris Paul to pull out an 119-115 at Madison Square Garden.
Yes, outside of Charles Oakley’s arrest there was an exciting game that took place.
BIG THREE LOCKED IN: This was one of the rare times that Melo, Rose and KP all played well. All three scored 20 or more and shot at least 50%. Melo lead the way with 28 points and 9 boards. At times, he was engaged in an intense duel with Blake Griffin, who had a first quarter rampage with 18 points and finished with 32. Melo kept his heat-check shots to a minimum and played well in the flow of the offense.
What I liked most about his game is he got to the rim and in most cases finished, got fouled or kicked out. The 1 assist doesn’t reflect it, but he had a few hockey assists and it kept everyone involved.
We got our best game since D-Rose’s return with 20 points, 7 boards and 8 assists on 63% shooting. The most surprising thing about it was he did a lot of his damage on mid-range jumpers from all over the court. That was pivotal in keeping the floor spaced as the defense couldn’t pack the paint for his drives. And for the first time in what feels like ages, you saw Rose actively looking to pass to KP and others.
Looking to keep Porzingis involved did wonders for the kid’s confidence. He didn’t feel the need to defer to the vets and attacked the Clippers defense from the perimeter and inside with cuts to the rim. The three-pointer was there (4/7) and he finished with 27 points, 6 boards and 2 steals. The two glaring issues were the unwise personal fouls (5) and being unable to keep Deandre Jordan off the boards.
KP didn’t foul out, so in a twisted way that can be seen as progress. But if we had him for the stretches he had to sit, the game might have turned out differently. As for getting muscled in the paint by Jordan, that is something that only time can correct. However, it’s a good indicator that we are still a few years away before KP can consistently battle at the center position.
DEFENSE AND BENCH: So as good as the Big Three played, how did we lose? First, the defense simply couldn’t sustain their energy and focus. After outscoring the Clippers 95-88 over the first three quarters, the Clippers stormed back to outscore the Knicks 31-20 over the final 12 minutes. Former Knick Jamal Crawford burned us for 20 points (nine in the fourth) off the bench and even Deandre Jordan hit four straight free throws.
The other area that killed us was a lack of bench scoring. In recent games, we could count on a great showing from some combination of Jennings, O’Quinn, Holiday or Hernangomez. But last night they were overwhelmed and outscored 36-18. The highest Knicks bench contributors were Hernangomez and Holiday, who scored 5 points apiece on a combined 2/9 shooting.
The Knicks are home again on Friday to face the Nuggets.