New York Knicks Young Guns Shine in Loss to Rockets

New York Knicks (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)
New York Knicks (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks picked up yet another lose, this time to the hands of the Houston Rockets. However, in the New York Knicks 112-123 loss their were a few young bright spots.

Against a Houston Rockets team that was playing without Russell Westbrook, James Harden played 33 minutes, as did RJ Barrett for the New York Knicks. The absences of Frank Ntilikina and Elfrid Payton were also a blessing in disguise.

We had a chance to see what Dennis Smith Jr. could do when he isn’t looking sides from the bench.

Overall Dennis Smith Jr had a good game. His quickness and low center of gravity took Harden out of his ‘shake and bake’ play style. Smith stripped him once and consistently got his hands on Harden’s low dribbles when the two were face up ending the game with 7 steals. However, he didn’t keep Harden in front of him when James kept moving forward.

Read the box score and rejoice. The third-year-guard the game with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assist shooting 41% from the field and 50% from deep. If Ntilikina’s chronic groin strain puts him out for the rest of the year, we will see if last night’s Dennis Smith Jr. is the real deal.

On this night, like so many others, Damyean Dotson brought his lunch pail attitude to the game. He was the only New York Knick capable of keeping Harden in front of him on multiple possessions.

Damyean was solid and consistent. At nearly 26, he is no longer a young gun, but he will be a steady role player for years to come.

In a rare cameo Allonzo Trier had nine points in 6 minutes of play. Like Dotson, Allonzo is aging out of the young guns category, having recently turned 24.

Unless there is a long-term Allonzo Trier strategy that is not apparent to us, he should be receiving 20 minutes a night so an accurate assessment of his value can be made.

Trier’s motor, attitude, and engagement have been far superior than Kevin Knox.  Trier is certainly one of the biggest offensive threat on the team. So why is he not playing?

The ‘Star of the Night’ was RJ Barrett. Again, read the box score and rejoice. But that is not the best part of his performance. RJ Barrett assumed the leadership of the New York Knicks.

Starting as the shooting guard, he became the point guard whenever Smith Jr. sat. One play, early in the game, offered a glimpse of Barrett’s basketball IQ.

He was charged with a TO and rightfully so, when he made a pass toward the baseline into empty space. Upon a second look, Portis had made a move toward that empty space. Barrett must have assumed Bobby was cutting to the hole and RJ made the pass.

Instead, Portis curled back toward the three-point line. Barrett made the play on instinct and anticipation. The play was there and Portis didn’t see it. Then Barrett tapped his chest and owned the TO. That is leadership.

Barrett’s second half TOs are a bit worrisome because he is taking gambles where the risk is greater than the reward. But for the future of the New York Knicks, last night’s performance by these four players should earn three of them more PT.

We saw what just one night of stability and consistent minutes did for Dennis Smith Jr. Shouldn’t the same be done for the other projects, prospects or whatever you want to call them, who are nailed to the bench or being wasted with sporadic PT?

Next. New York Knicks Can Steal Joe Harris In Free Agency. dark

Playing these young guys would answer questions about their long-term value and provide us with another reason to watch these last twenty-five games.