An ugly one last night in South Beach, where the Knicks squandered a heroic game-tying triple from Doug McDermott to drop to 0-2 on their current road trip. The game itself was marked by sloppiness and fatigue (and an all-time Courtney Lee performance) and represented one more example of the Knicks’ not being able to handle an equally-matched opponent on the road. 2018 has begun, Kristaps Porzingis is exhausted, and the bloom is officially off the rose. Let the slide begin!
This was a very winnable game for New York. As gassed as the Knicks looked, Miami had a thoroughly unimpressive performance, shooting 40% from the field and getting repeatedly stuffed at the basket. For as bad as Porzingis was on offense, he finished the game with 3 blocks and acted as a major deterrent under the rim for the Heat’s cadre of undersized, shifty guards. In fact, when Miami’s 3 point shooting dried up in the 2nd half, this team flat out could not score. Clyde remarked that they came into this game averaging the 3rd least points per game in the league and they backed that up big-time, failing to hit the century mark during regulation.
And, while that might have been more symptomatic of Miami’s struggles than any kind of Knick defense we have to give a shout-out to the Baker Boy. Coming off the bench, looking like some kind of Halloween pre-pubescent trick-or-treater, Ron Baker gave New York some huge minutes, fighting over screens and doing his best to lock down long-range sniper Wayne Ellington. Ellington was featured on one of Zach Lowe’s Friday features and did not disappoint in this game, running around screens and showcasing his green light to bomb away from deep. He both made and attempted (!!!) more threes than the entire Knicks team and seemed to be the focal point of their entire second-unit offense. Hornacek tried a few different defenders on him before rightly realizing that Baker’s unique blend of crazy-arm-flailing intensity and willing to smash himself through screens on defense was the best counter to this wily gunner. Ellington may have still gotten the best of the matchup, with a team-high 24 points, but credit Horny for realizing who his best counter was and matching up their minutes tit-for-tat in the second half.
Outside of Lee’s aggressiveness, though, the Knicks’ just couldn’t get anything going on offense. To be fair, Courtney was incredible with a game-high 24 points on 56% shooting, answering Porzingis’ pleas for more help scoring the ball and doing his best to fill-in at least for one game for the injured Hardaway. However, even when he’s cooking Lee is not the kind of player who’s ever really going to draw a double-team or set up the other Knicks. The Heat seemed fairly content to let him go one-on-one, while they threw frequent double teams whenever KP or Kanter had the ball in the post. The whole game, and particularly the home-stretch, really highlighted the Knicks’ lack of a point guard who can just go get a bucket in isolation when the play breaks down. Dragic may not have been fantastic, but he did enough to leave me jealous and bitter. Hopefully Trae Young falls in the draft a little.
And that’s where we’re headed folks. For how much fun the start to the season has been, it’s grim reality-time. Porzingis is hitting his yearly mid-season slump, there’s still no substantive news on Hardaway’s return, and one of the league’s worst road teams is embarking on a January with just three home games remaining. This team can still be incredibly fun to watch (not in this game, sure), but they’re still another year of development, and another blue-chip prospect away from truly competing for a playoff spot. Let’s lower those expectations and settle in for the long-haul. It’s not all bad.
Other Notes for this Game:
This was somewhat of a homecoming for Michael Beasley, who was drafted second overall by the Heat and got his fair share of cheers from the crowd. He definitely seemed affected by it, sometimes trying a little too hard to force the action, but he had a memorable game, punctuated by some clutch free-throws and returning from a gruesome sprained ankle for the clutch, overtime forcing possession. Coming into this one, he has somehow led the Knicks in scoring in 6 of their last 10 outings.
Tim Hardaway, Jr. was looking very sharp cheering on the team while wearing a unicorn pin on his blazer (yes!). God we need this guy back.
Kanter and Whiteside had very small roles in this game, as both teams decided to go small to close out. This ended up biting the Knicks in the ass a little as the Heat got some huge offensive rebounds to buoy their stagnant offense down the stretch. You’d think a 7’3″ guy would be able to pull down some contested boards…
On to the Mavericks! And a point guard matchup to show the fans what could have been.