The New York Knicks lost yet again, falling to the Philadelphia 76ers for the second time this season. What were the grades and reactions to this game?
With a 101-95 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night, the New York Knicks are now 21-80 in the organization’s last 101 games. Caution must always be exercised when watching a Knicks game, because, as the last 101 games indicate, getting one’s hopes up is often cause for ample disappointment.
For the first 24 minutes of Friday’s game, however, things felt different. Things did not look as they normally have thus far this season: shots were falling, defense was being played, guys were hustling, and, most importantly, the ball was moving.
The Knicks ran out to a 51-39 lead at the half. As often is the case, things were too good to be true. Stop if you have heard this before (as recently as last Wednesday), but the Sixers overcame a sizable first-half deficit to hand the Knicks another loss.
Despite a game where the Knicks glimpses of cohesion and basketball acumen, the Sixers were still able to exploit a lot of the Knicks’ weaknesses. Facing a shorthanded Sixers team without the likes of starters Al Horford and Josh Richardson, the Knicks still committed 33 personal fouls, and on the other end of the court, shot a putrid 57.6 percent from the free throw line.
The turning point in the game came right before halftime, when Dennis Smith Jr. air-balled a free throw, and then the Sixers came down and scored with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. From there on out, it became clear that the Sixers were on the attack.
Overall, the Knicks did make important strides in this game. Experience in close games against good teams is essential for the younger guys on the roster. The offense looked the best it has all season, and sets were run with regularity to get the ball in the hands of the Knicks best scorers. The team did not quit, with young guys and veterans battling fearlessly together
As for the grades:
This should be considered Randle’s most important offensive game as a Knick. While his best game was his 30-point performance against the Cavaliers, this was the game where he showed how he can be valuable as a scorer and still get people involved.
The Sixers deployed a double-teaming scheme every time Randle got the ball, but he stayed calm, making tons of smart plays that resulted in getting guys open shots. He led the team in scoring and tied for the team-high in assists. For the offense to have any hope going forward, Randle needs to be featured like he was Friday with fewer isolations and more shots in the flow of the offense. A few defensive lapses were costly, but overall, his performance on his 25th birthday was still impressive.
This was an assertive game for Ntilikina, in which he took a season-high 14 field goal attempts. While this game was far from perfect for him, this is the type of confidence on offense that the Knicks have longed to see out of Ntilikina for the better part of three years. His offensive prowess during this game was highlighted with a tough layup over Joel Embiid with under two minutes to go in the game, a shot that most would have been shocked to see him take last year. Another silver lining for Ntilikina on the night: he seems to have developed a nice chemistry with Mitchell Robinson, who he hit for a beautiful alley-oop in the fourth quarter.
MARCUS MORRIS SR.
Morris Sr. continues to be a human incinerator from three-point range, canning three of his four attempts from three-point range on the night. He continues to be the Knicks most reliable option in a pinch, and he finished the night with 20 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. Hopefully Coach David Fizdale is able to find ways to utilize Morris’ hot streak.
A set that heavily featured Morris involved Robinson setting a down-screen for Morris, but instead of having him look to shoot, Morris then was the pick-and-roll ball handler with Robinson setting another screen, which was strange. Look out for more sets looking to leverage Morris’ shooting going forward.
This kid does not back down from anything. While Barrett only finished the game with 18 points despite scoring 10 points in the first, the way in which he played in the fourth quarter was beautiful to behold. The late game offense essentially consisted of Barrett being isolated out on the right wing so that he could attack the middle with his left. That was it. Those were the plays that were run.
The isolations for the 19-year old were highlighted by back-to-back buckets on which Barrett went straight into the chest of the perennial defense player of the year candidate, 7-feet tall Joel Embiid. It’s exciting to think that this guy will be wearing a Knicks uniform for a long time.
Gibson did well in limited playing time. He started the game covering Joel Embiid and held him to one basket in the first quarter. More impressively, Gibson forced Embiid to take his first five shots from outside of the paint. Fizdale continues to keep Gibson in the starting lineup but ends up playing Mitchell Robinson more minutes. As the losses pile up, that may be subject to change, but Taj will likely continue to provide value no matter what role he is featured in.
Usually a help off the bench, Portis did not bring much to the table. A stat line of 2 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal is not much to show for the 13 minutes Portis played. Hopefully this was only due to overindulgence on turkey yesterday and not a sign of diminishing value from Portis.
Robinson fouled out of his third game this season. Before getting called for his sixth foul with 2:33 to go in the game, Robinson had a decent 29 minutes of action. When Embiid subbed back in at the end of the first, it became clear that he wanted to punish Robinson in the lane.
Robinson did not back down, playing tough basketball the whole night. What left room to be desired was his free throw shooting, an unusually poor 1-6 on the night.
DENNIS SMITH JR.
Smith Jr. continues to show flashes but has yet to put it together this season. Although he makes the right reads, execution has been lacking, highlighted by his 3 turnovers and only 2 assists in 13 minutes. If Smith Jr. can get his groove going, he could be special, but tonight was not his night.
Ellington’s main value on the Knicks stems from his ability to shoot. He scored 0 points tonight. If Ellington does not score, what value is he actually providing out there? Ellington played 12 minutes while 20-year-old Kevin Knox received the first DNP-Coach’s Decision of his career.
Dotson provided solid minutes off the bench, scoring two useful baskets down the stretch. He did, however, post a team-low in plus/minus at -19. Dotson remains in the rotation, fulfilling his role as an energizer of the bench who can score, adding 10 points.
The New York Knicks are home for the Boston Celtics this Sunday, Dec. 1, as the team tries to avoid being swept by its Atlantic Division opponents all in one week.