Monday night was a tale of two halves for the Knicks. They came out playing loosy-goosy, as they say, defending just well enough and scoring mostly at will, and went into halftime with a 66-59 lead. Then the Knicks stopped playing defense, and ultimately lost 128-110.
Well, they attempted to play defense…they just did it really, really poorly. There was a spark missing on that end, and it didn’t take long to realize that with a little bit of effort, they could basically get anything they wanted against New York. There was no one player to blame for the defensive woes, although at the same time, no one stood out either.
There were, of course, a few vaguely bright spots, but none brighter than the most improbable of success stories this season…
- Emmanuel Mudiay had his second 30-point game in as many outings finishing with 12 on 21 shooting, including 2-6 from deep. Offensively, he is playing like one of the better point guards in basketball. He seems to have achieved the balance between guiding the offense and looking for his own shots. He pushes the pace whenever he gets an opportunity. Defensively, obviously work to be done, but he has without question injected himself into the conversation about the Knicks future.
- Kevin Knox started off hot, netting 13 first quarter points, but finished with only 17 on 16 shots to go with only four rebounds. He was aggressive early and seemed to fade after that. You’re guess is as good as mine as to why.
- Frank Ntilikina, on the other hand, was aggressive for the whole game. The only problem was that the shots weren’t falling. He finished 3-of-11 for nine points. Despite the stat line, you had to be at least a little encouraged by the assertiveness he showed on both ends (of the Knicks many defensive culprits tonight, he was not one of them). Despite sharing his minutes with both Mudiay and Burke, he had control of the offense for much of the time he was on the floor, and perhaps more importantly, was active off the ball, which will be key for his development.
- Courtney Lee had an ok little audition as the starting shooting guard, getting 12 points on eight shots. Hopefully someone in the league with a need for shooting and no designs on having cap space this summer was watching.
- Lee was starting because Tim Hardaway Jr. was out with a bum heel. Ironically, the Knicks had maybe their worst defensive effort of the season despite being without perhaps their worst defensive player. Not sure what to make of that.
- Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier, and Damyean Dotson also missed tonight’s game.
- Trey Burke was 2-for-9 from the field and still looks out of sorts. Gold star if you can cogently phrase what role he should have on this team moving forward.
- That’s it. Everyone else was pretty bad. Or really bad. Somewhere in that gray area.
Knicks will look to rebound against the last team that truly whooped their butts, the Philadelphia 76ers, on Wednesday night. It will be very interesting how they respond.