Aaaaaand we’re back!
In a night that started with a little fun intrigue – a bittersweet Carmelo Anthony reunion and he and Porzingis going head to head at the power forward position – any kind of Knicks’ optimism was quickly (and completely) obliterated. What looked like a competitive game through a quarter and a half was exposed as the Thunder simply missing a ton of open shots to keep the score close while the Knicks took it upon themselves to run up a truly massive turnover count.
25 to be exact. Which would be nearly 10 more than any team averaged last season (and more than twice as many as a top 5 unit). Not only that, but it was the kind of turnovers that made this so infuriating. Wild passes all over the gym, failures to simply enter the ball into the post, a nightmare 3 or 4 traveling violations by Kanter alone as he got repeatedly stonewalled trying to establish a pivot against former teammate Steven Adams. Hell, there was a period of the game in the second half where Ron Baker looked like a puppeteer was controlling the young “point guard”, forcing him to flail his limbs and tube-man all over the court, coughing up passes he had just stolen, hitting himself in the face with the ball (yup) and going an ice cold 0-4 stretch from the line. Any time he and Lance Thomas were on the court together was like getting sucked into some kind of particular offensive hell.
Of course the bright spot for this team starts and ends with Porzingis. The young forward was masterful tonight, knocking down his threes, getting up for rebounds, and taking everyone from Patrick Patterson to Paul George off the dribble. His highlight play of the night was easily that one-on-one block on Carmelo, but finishing with 31 and 12 certainly doesn’t look too bad either. He still needs to get better at recognizing how to pass out of the double team, or really pass the ball at all (though his one assist of the game down the stretch was a beaut), but it was more than an encouraging resume builder for a young player trying to take on the role of a featured scorer.
And the Knicks needed every bit of scoring from him they could get. Paul George completely neutralized Hardaway for the minutes the two were on the court together; his defense and the two quick fouls Tim picked up pretty much turned him into the invisible man for most of the night. Kanter was absolute garbage and completely outplayed by Adams while Michael Beasley left from a pretty nasty ankle sprain almost immediately after checking in (crazy that we actually need Beasley’s shot creation in a BIG WAY on some of these toothless second units). With a mindblowing 10 minutes combined for Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez, this team was about as close to a one-trick pony as you could get tonight.
I don’t want to take anything away from the Thunder, who generally played well and would’ve run up the score a lot more if they had connected on some of their threes. Russell Westbrook was brilliant in notching his first triple-double of the season, Paul George looked great on both sides of the ball, and Melo finally started coming into his own in the second half. As an aside, I loved seeing he and KP dap it up after the game and missed how much you could hear his old-man-voice yelling under the basket for rebounds. I’m glad he’s finally on a team with a chance to make some serious noise. And not just in beating the Knicks, who are going to lose a lot of games like this.
New York just really doesn’t have a point guard or a ton of players who can get their own shot, which is going to lead to a ton of turnovers. They’re undisciplined with their halfcourt defense, miserable with their transition defense, and were just generally hard to watch for a few periods during this game (going on an abysmal 6 minute score-less streak at one point). This one might have been a particularly depressing start to the season, but if Porzingis is going to keep looking like this you have to take your victories where you can get them.
Anyway, on to Saturday. On to the Pistons. And on to the Garden for the Home Opener!