Tuesday, November 29, 2016

QUICKCAP: New York Knicks vs Washington Wizards (11/17/16)

As per their lighting-quick leader point guard John Wall, the Washington Wizards raced out to an early lead and a barrage of 3-pointers allowed them to extend their lead to 27 points in the 3rd quarter as the home team defeated the visiting New York Knicks 119-112, who like themselves were playing on the second half of a back to back.

Let's not dwell on this one for too long other than to point out a few positives from a situation which was mostly negative. Back to backs aside, the hope that the Knicks would be able to put on a strong showing on the road after an emotional victory at home the night before were quickly dashed as the Wizards hit three after three and were basically offered valet service for any drive into the Knicks paint as they seemingly scored at will. That being said, even after falling behind by almost 30 points the Knicks did not succumb. 

Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings once again answered the toll scoring 27 and 17 points respectively. They were able to spearhead a comeback of epic proportions, as the Knicks offense blew up for 47 points in the fourth quarter. However they fell short in their quest to tie or take the lead in the final frames of the quarter. 

Give credit to coach Jeff Hornacek for leaving his starters in the contest despite the deficit and the fact that this was their second games in as many nights, if not just to see them get back in contention and to see what different line-ups could provide after the Knicks initial lackluster effort.

Rose, as mentioned before, put forth a season-high output in points and even caught a powerful two-handed dunk on the break over and around a helpless Wizards defender. 

These may seem like few and inconsequential positives, but in the construction process that is season's version of the Knicks, these positives will suffice in forming their own part of the foundation that they so desperately need.

Monday, November 28, 2016

QUICKCAP: Oklahoma City Thunder vs New York Knicks (11/28/16)

The Russell Westbrook show, a season-long performance in its early stages, literally hit the big stage tonight as the Oklahoma City Thunder played to rave reviews, albeit Off Broadway in the World's Most Famous Arena. The Thunder, along with the uncanny yeoman's effort which Westbrook routinely supplies usually in the form of triple-doubles (as he did tonight), defeated the New York Knicks 112-103. Turning what was an 11-point 1st quarter deficit into a "knock 'em down, drag 'em out" beatdown.

The Knicks, as mentioned before, squandered an early lead by allowing Westbrook his usual forays into the paint. Wrecking havoc to the tune of his 8th triple double of the season as he finished with a line of 27 points, 18 rebounds, and 14 assists, along with contributions from Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, who scored 27 points and 14 points respectively. The Knicks seemingly could not, nor did not want to, provide the effort defensively that was needed to support their offensive output.

The objective to winning in any sport is to outscore your opponent, especially in basketball. This, however, does not mean that in order to be victorious that it is all about scoring points. Defense matters. Keeping your opponent from scoring as much as you do ultimately is the deciding factor between wins and losses. The ancillary components of the game come into play as well in support of the success of teams in the form of taking care of the ball via not turning the ball over. Securing rebounds on the defensive side of the court matter as well. These seemingly minute, but critical, aspects of the game have always played a hand in how any team on any given night will fare against another team. Handle these functions of the game and you will find yourself if not at the very least in contention in most contents. Excel at these functions of the game and you will find your team at the top of the standings, year in and year out. And yet, in the effort to be a more cohesive unit, these are some of the issues that continue to plague Knicks.

Seventeen games in, with a record of 8-9, after seemingly finding their way and their identity in propelling themselves to an 8-7 record, the Knicks have now lost two in a row. No the sky is not falling, as the need to panic this early into the season reeks of the desperation which has emanated from the bowels of Madison Square Garden for what feels like the last decade or so (minus lackluster playoff appearances from 2010-2012), but the signs are alarming enough. Are they harbingers of what might finally do in this version of the Knicks? Or is this something that can be corrected by alot of tape? No, not the tape that is used to stabilize joints and limbs, although that would seem helpful as the Knicks looked as disjointed and wobbly as ever on both sides of the floor, but tape as in watching film and figuring out exactly what will be the Knicks approach to defending (pick and rolls especially) and not being out-hustled and out-worked on the defensive glass. Also up for review: What to do offensively in the waning moments of games when possessions are crucial and the conversion of shot attempts can decide a game, whether ahead or behind.

The Knicks for now continue to be a work in progress. Pieces of the puzzle to their identity continue to be put into place. Tonight Russell Westbrook and the Thunder knocked most of those pieces out of place.

[Editor's Note: This piece originally was intended to appear during the New York Knicks 2016-2017 campaign.]

Thursday, November 17, 2016

QUICKCAP: Dallas Mavericks vs New York Knicks (11/14/16)

The New York Knicks bested the Dallas Mavericks Monday night 93-77, upping their sub-.500 record to a count of 4 wins and 6 losses. Ten games into the season it would stand to reason that they are far from near they want to be; hopefully 20 to 30 games into the season this will not be their narrative. Playing another team in recent days devoid of two of its starters, a team who themselves has been putting on a poor display, the Knicks did what they were expected to do, and put a reeling Mavericks team out of its misery.

After an ugly start by a seemingly disinterested first team, the Knicks looked to their second unit to bail them out of an ugly first quarter in which they shot poorly from the field and seemed to resume the same porous defense that has been their calling card in their previous two losses. To be fair, both teams seemed hard-pressed to even be able to hit the side of a barn on most of their attempts, initially turning the game into a barely watchable contest as both teams aimed to find cohesion.

The second-half turned into a much better deal for the Knicks, with contributions from the unlikeliest of sources. Such as shooting-guard Justin Holiday, who continues to show flashes on both ends of the court and is making it difficult for coach Jeff Hornacek to keep him on the bench. Holiday started the second-half, and the length and energy which he provided helped to add another dimension to the usual contributions from Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.

An ugly win it may have been from an aesthetic point of view, however a loss under the aforementioned terms would have painted a much uglier picture than the one the Knicks are currently attempting to create of themselves. We will just have to see if this is the beginning of their version of a masterpiece.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

QUICKCAP: New York Knicks vs Toronto Raptors (11/12/16)

The Toronto Raptors beat the New York Knicks 118-107 tonight, and although the game was played north of the border, leagues away from the southern regions of this great country, the New York Knicks still found a way to pay a repeat visit to ATL. ATL in this case being: another tough loss.

Once again they played hard, and maybe even a bit smarter than the way they did last night in Boston, however they found themselves still falling victim to the same deficiencies that have been ailing them so far in the infancy of this season. Most notably on the defensive side of the basketball court.

Yes it is still early. Very early. And time will only tell if the trends which have made themselves visible so early on will be prevalent throughout the season. However the way that the Knicks have been playing defensively is a bit alarming. Numbers can be analyzed as much as possible to reflect the Knicks ineptitude in the defensive department, but in this case they eye-test is probably the one in which they are failing the most. To see them allow teams to come and go as the please is to know that a step-up in that area is direly needed.

Picking up on the notion that every quality team in the NBA has an identity and that teams on the cusp of being quality teams have to find their identity, standing at a record of 3-6, no where near being into the quarter or mid-point of the season, one expects that the Knicks should be closer to that realization 25 to 40 games into the season. Will they be a quality team just on paper or will they be a quality team on the floor as well? Once again, time will tell. Until then a stop or two on the defensive end with the game in the balance won't hurt. In fact, it will help.

QUICKCAP: New York Knicks vs Boston Celtics (11/11/16)

The New York Knicks let a prime opportunity to beat the Boston Celtics get away from them last night succumbing 115-87. Despite playing in front of a hostile crowd at TD Garden, but with the added bonus of the Celtics being short two regulars in Al Horford and Jae Crowder, they most certainly could have won. 

The game itself was officiated in a subpar and inconsistent manner, however the Knicks did not lose because of that. Carmelo Anthony being ejected toward the late minutes of the 3rd quarter did not help either, but even after his dismissal from the contest the Knicks still had a chance.

The deciding factor was the Celtics grit and toughness. They controlled the game from start to finish. The Knicks out-rebounded the Celtics on the offensive glass quite decidedly, but turnovers negated those  advantages. The Celtics just wanted it more and it showed; and this is not to say that the Knicks did not play hard because they did, they just weren't smart enough at times.

You have to take care of the ball! The Celtics make you work hard for everything and you can't make it easy for them by giving them extra possessions. Charles Barkley on TNT Thursday night said it best: "The good teams in the NBA have an identity." The Celtics without a doubt have theirs, the Knicks on the other hand are still searching for their own.