Hernangomez and Porzingis Lead Knicks Comeback Over Nets

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With the starters shooting a combined 30% from the field and staring at a 10-point deficit early in the fourth, the Knicks had every reason to quit. But it was the bench, powered by a huge double double from Willy Hernangomez and a historic night from Sasha Vujacic, that helped Kristaps Porzingis show his potential as a closer in the Knicks’ 95-90 victory in Brooklyn.

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WHY ISN’T HERNANGOMEZ STARTING?: This kid continues to show his value every night on both sides of the floor. He helped hold Brook Lopez to 10 points by making the Nets star work on defense. On offense, Willy had some sweet fourth quarter plays, including a tip-in on a wild perimeter pass from KP, and a driving layup on Lopez that made 86-80 with under two minutes to go.

His most impressive play came with 1:09 remaining and the Knicks clinging to a 87-84 lead. Willy got an offensive rebound off a miss, was blocked, then gathered himself again for a tough layup. He gave a war cry and flexed. Our rook is becoming a man right before our eyes. Willy finished with 16 points and 16 boards (7 on the offensive glass).

KP IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT: With Melo having no legs and shooting terribly, Coach Hornacek made the wise decision to go with the bench and Porzingis to lead the comeback. It paid off with KP also having a double double (19 points, 12 boards) and some timely buckets. When the Knicks were down 10 early in the fourth, 66-76, KP hit two jumpers that ignited a 10-0 run. The chemistry with his BFF Hernangomez was great in keeping the Nets from their earlier feasting in the paint.

KP’s biggest play was a dagger three-pointer that made it 92-86 with 53 seconds remaining.

If we’ve learned one thing this season, it’s that the veterans struggle immensely on back to backs. For the rest of the season, I’d like to see Melo rest on those second nights while Porzingis gets acclimated to being the first option for full games.

Y’ALL MUST’VE FORGOT ABOUT SASHA!: Give Vujacic some credit; the man stays ready. We needed a spark and it came from Sasha, who became the first man in Knicks history to have two 4-point plays. The latter was part of the 10-0 fourth quarter run that got NY back in it. 12 points in 22 minutes is an excellent night’s work..

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DEAD STARTERS: From the opening tip, the energy and decision-making was abysmal from our starting five. There was no semblance of play calling — passes went nowhere along the perimeter until Melo had to heave a long jumper with the shot-clock expiring. They tallied six turnovers, shot 29% from the field, and scored just 15 points in the first quarter to the Nets’ 27.

It got no better as the game went on. Combined, the starters shot 18/57 (30%). Carmelo Anthony had one of his worst games this season, shooting a horrific 6/22 (15 points). Considering his strong play as of late, we can likely attribute this to fatigue from playing his third game in four nights.

Despite Anthony’s futility, the worst among the starters goes to Brandon Jennings, who shot a putrid 9% from the field (1/11). To his credit, he did manage 10 assists, many of them when matched with the bench.

 

 

[Video] Rose and Motivated Knicks Bench Down Celtics 117-106

 

 

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Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images

Amid rumors of Carmelo Anthony’s future in New York, the Knicks played their most efficient and focused game of the year in outrebounding and locking down the Celtics in crunch time to take an impressive 117-106 win in Boston.

If I told you coming in that the Celtics would commit just 3 turnovers and Isaiah Thomas have 39 points, I’m sure you’d pencil in a Boston win. But those stats weren’t enough to overcome a massive 55 points from New York’s bench and a 57-33 rebounding edge.

HERNANGOMEZ: Our rook was a man on fire tonight. He matched his career high with 17 points and grabbed 11 boards in 20 minutes. He thoroughly outplayed Al Horford (5 points, 2-14), most noticeably on a fake-out dunk for a three-point play. Steel sharpens steel, so I’m expecting Kyle O’Quinn, who only played 10 minutes due to Willy’s dominance, to return the favor tomorrow night.

3-WAY BENCH GUARD ATTACK: Coach Hornacek may be onto something having Courtney Lee come off the bench. He was close to a triple-double with 9 points, 8 boards and 7 assists (career high). His most timely hoop of the night came when Horford sagged off him in transition and nailed a fourth-quarter trey that extended the Knicks lead to 103-96.

Justin Holiday put in work as well. He had a team-best +23 and had his own timely three when the Celtics had cut it to one in the fourth-quarter. After that shot, the Boston would get no closer. He finished with 13 points and 5 boards.

And the final weapon in the trio was Brandon Jennings. 11 points, 5 assists and just one turnover. He played a strong role and penetrating and finding Hernangomez, who scored 10 points in the second quarter to put the Knicks up for good.

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THE UNSUNG: In my opinion, Mindaugas Kuzmiskas has proven to be a more versatile and valuable player to this team than Lance Thomas. Kuz shot 50% from the field, scored 17 points and grabbed 6 boards. While Thomas is a capable three-point shooter, he’s awful off the dribble and can’t finish, two things the rookie can do effectively to space the floor.

Mason Plumlee got his first start in Joakim Noah’s absence. His numbers won’t jump out at you (5 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks), but the man had a solid game. He boxed out, altered shots (especially on Thomas in the fourth) and set strong screens.

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ROSE TAKES OVER: With Melo having an erratic shooting night (13 points, 5/14) and no Porzingis, it was on Derrick Rose to carry the load. You can tell playing Thomas motivated him, but Rose played under control and picked his spots. His mid-range jumper was unstoppable. And he got whatever he wanted on drives.

Making Thomas work on defense slowed him down in the fourth and Rose outscored him 12-8 in the quarter. Our PG finished with 30 points, equaling his season-high as a Knick, and pulled down 10 boards to go with 5 assists.

The Knicks are right back in action tomorrow night against the Wizards.

Knicks Bench Closes Out Magic 106-95

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Photo Credit: USA Today Images

It was a sloppy game filled with haphazard play, but the Knicks made key passes and shots when it mattered to take a comfortable 106-95 win over the Magic.

This isn’t a game you’ll see many highlight packages on. Carmelo Anthony only had 15 points on 5/17 shooting. Porzingis was 5/11 for just 11 points.

The bench was where this game was won. Brandon Jennings’ play proved contagious and had the Knicks bursting with energy. He dished for 12 assists in 22 minutes with Willy Hernangomez as the main target. The rookie hit five straight field goals during the fourth quarter and finished with 15 points and 5 rebounds. Kyle O’Quinn had another monster night with 14 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocks. The bearded Queens native was a one man army that outrebounded the combined efforts of Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic.

Derrick Rose had a weird night. Biyombo blocked no less than four of his shots in the first half. He wasn’t particularly aggressive in pushing the issue in the second half. And yet, when you look checked the scoreboard, he was finished with 19 points in 26 minutes.

A scary moment came early in the the fourth when Porzingis fell awkwardly off a missed layup. He limped off the court, but luckily suffered just a right knee contusion and was eligible to return.

Tonight’s win continues the Knicks’ dominance at home, where they’ve won 10 of their last 12. However, it shouldn’t be lost on us that the Knicks face a reality check against the Celtics on Christmas Day. Boston is #1 in our division and New York has not won a nationally televised game this season.

 

 

[Video] 2nd Half Lockdown: Knicks Come Alive, Take Down Nets 110-96

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Photo Credit: USA Today

What a difference a halftime makes. Coming off the disappointing loss to the Jazz on Sunday, and a tough stretch of games coming against division rivals Boston and Toronto, tonight’s game against the Nets was the proverbial “must-win.” With a 2-4 record, the Knicks couldn’t afford to dig themselves an early hole in the win-loss column. Despite the slow start, a 3rd quarter scoring barrage from Carmelo Anthony (22 points) coupled with excellent passing from Brandon Jennings (11 assists) and offense from Kristaps Porzingis (21 points) powered New York to a 110-96 victory at Madison Square Garden.

TRASH EARLY DEFENSE: We don’t carry the dubious distinction of having the worst defense in the league for nothing. The Nets came out smoking from behind the arc with 5 three pointers in the first and backup Justin Hamilton burning us for 15 points. The Knicks shot an abysmal 28% with Melo’s 0/4 start being the main culprit. Down 29-19 after 12 minutes, the Knicks’s bench was also outscored 16-7.

SLOWLY RIGHTING THE SHIP: The second quarter was sloppy (5 Knick turnovers by the 7:52 mark), but sheer effort pulled New York within striking distance. The ball started moving due to Joakim Noah’s passing, and Melo found his offense by via two three pointers that slashed the deficit to three, 53-50. Although the Nets held the lead at halftime, the Knicks kept the fouling and free throw opportunities in check (7 personal fouls, 9 Net free throws).

MELO’S 14 STRAIGHT: Early on, the third quarter was a mixed bag. Derrick Rose (14 points) scored 6 points to narrow the deficit to 59-58, but then the Knicks had one of their bouts of ineptitude and failed to score for the next three minutes. Brooklyn went on a 8-0 run to extend their lead to 67-58.

Then Melo woke up. His did most of his damage on mid-range jumpers, scoring 14 straight points to get New York a 70-69 lead headed into the fourth.

THE EURO LINEUP: The early fourth quarter lineup is where Coach Hornacek has had issues. But tonight, he staggered the starter minutes to allow Porzingis to run with Jennings, Vujacic, Hernangomez and Kuzmiskas. Sasha kicked off the fourth with a three pointer and would be a +23 despite a two bonehead turnovers. Jennings shot poorly (1-6), but was the arguably the catalyst for this victory with his passing. He found Porzingis twice for open three-pointers and as a trailer on a dunk turned three point play. That capped a 20-7 run that put New York up 92-78 and essentially iced the game.

PROMISING DEVELOPMENTS: Porzingis’ 21 points marked the first time in his career where he’s had three consecutive 20-point games. The scary thing is he still hasn’t developed a go-to move in isolation, so he’s dependent on screens and moving off-ball for his opportunities. If he keeps moving at this pace, those moves will gradually come and he’ll be ready to become the first option on offense within 2-3 years.

Willy Hernangomez had his best game as Knick — 14 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. He excelled with the second unit manned by Jennings and not surprisingly showed great chemistry with old teammate Porzingis. Hernangomez’s skill with the pick and roll gives him immense upside over Kyle O’Quinn when it comes to playing time decisions.

Today’s win marked the first game this season where the Knicks held an opponent under 100 points. Yes, one of Nets’ key pieces in Jeremy Lin wasn’t playing, but business was handled against a team short on talent. After a first half which saw them shoot 55%, the Nets could only manage 41 points in the second half and had a  stretch of missing 14 straight shots.

The Knicks are back in action this Friday against the Celtics.