Kevin Knox impresses early, but Knicks lose to Atlanta

Well that was rough.

I get it. I get that you have conflicted feelings right now. We all watched Zion Williamson have his moment at the Garden, heard him after the game, saw him pay reverence to the locker of the one true unicorn.

Tonight, in all likelihood, gets the Knicks closer to a future reality where Zion is, as he alluded to, making MSG his home for 41 nights a year (and hopefully more).

I get all of that. But in the meantime, well…in the meantime, the reality sucks.

The Knicks have now completed the poop superfecta, losing to the only four teams in the NBA with a worse record than their own. Yes, it’s what this young team was expected to do, even more so because it’s missing Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier, two imperfect players who nonetheless play important roles for this skeleton crew. But at some point, the high morale David Fizdale has built up despite the losses is going to subside. Maybe that matters, maybe it doesn’t. It certainly can’t be fun for the parties involved.

If you’re looking for bright spots, there aren’t many. Kevin Knox lit the Garden ablaze with a first quarter (17 points) that once again reminded everyone why his ceiling could be an eventual top-five scorer in the league. If he can figure out some semblance of sustained effectiveness throughout an entire game, he is going to become a problem. If it happens this year, great, but as far as anyone should be concerned, he is already ahead of schedule.

Then there was Emmanuel Mudiay, who had yet another thirty-point night, his third in five games. This Mudiay thing appears to be real. He is becoming a problem for opposing teams to deal with on offense. How we can judge anyone’s defense on a team with so many bad defenders is a tough topic to handle right now, but he doesn’t appear to be a lost cause on that end of the floor. He hit 3-of-7 from deep tonight, further verifying that this needs to be taken seriously.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was, well…just about everyone else. Other than Vonleh, who has been a steadying presence all season long, the only other guy who stood out was for all the wrong reasons. Frank Ntilikina once again looks somewhat lost. He missed both of his shot attempts tonight, one of them badly, and got visibly frustrated with the refs after a couple of tough foul calls. Everyone seems to acknowledge he is back in his own head. As Steve Mills said today, it is up to the Knicks to help him find the light. Jump ship at your own risk, but I’m waiting the 20-year-old out until he gets right.

Perhaps most importantly, the Knicks, while quite bad and becoming impossibly challenged in closing games, have continued to pay hard. That might seem like a bogus silver lining, but for anyone who’s watched season after season go off the rails, it is not a basic prerequisite. For me at least, I can at least leave these evenings feeling mildly not terrible about where things stand.

Next up: Christmas Day, back at home, vs Milwaukee. Should be interesting, if nothing else.

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