The Knicks lost a game that anyone in the world could have predicted they would lose (on the road, in a tough place to play, to a much better team that needs every win in a do-or-die Western Conference); but the way they went about getting to their 111-101 loss was perhaps a bit surprising.
Of primary importance, the Knicks hung around for almost all of this one. They did so with generally gritty (although certainly imperfect) defense, a first half in which they lived at the foul line, and a few spurts of hot three-point shooting in a second half in which they largely couldn’t buy a bucket. That said, the Knicks didn’t do any of the things you usually see from a team that keeps a game competitive against a superior opponent. They shot 30% from deep and 40% overall, and gave up every big offensive rebound when it really mattered. Portland, meanwhile, hit every three it seemed they needed to hit.
As Clyde would say, the only real Knicks with the knack were two players who have been much maligned of late, Mario Hezonja and Enes Kanter. They shot a combined 13-for-22 and had 14 and 18 points, respectively, with Kanter chipping in 14 boards, including six on the offensive glass, all of which were meaningful in keeping the Knicks close. We need to see a lot more of this from Mario to get excited that it’s something legit, and Fiz may just give him the chance.
The only other Knicks remotely worth the cost of their plane tickets were Noah Vonleh, who has just continued his season of quiet brilliance, and Emmanuel Mudiay. Mudiay once again didn’t shoot it well, finishing 7-of-17 for 17 points, but he continues to scratch the surface of being a really useful point guard on offense. He finished with 8 assists after netting 15 dimes over the last two games combined. He continues to intrigue.
Everyone else vacillated between “not impactful” and “terrible.” Leading the latter train was Tim Hardaway Jr., who, for what seems like the 20th time this year, couldn’t buy a basket. He finished 2-for-12 and 1-of-7 from deep. Yeah. His shot selection continues to be an issue, but this seems like him missing open looks more than anything else.
Not to be outdone, Trey Burke was 3-for-9, which included several possessions that made Knicks fans cringe. The shots that were falling last year are no longer going down. It’s as simple as that. No one else did anything of note.
Overall, another game where the Knicks showed up and played hard, which, 40 games into a lottery-bound season, isn’t meaningless. Tomorrow night, they take their annual (thank God it only happens once) visit to Golden State. That should be interesting.