No Elf No Problem

Knick fans got a glimpse Thursday night of what the team would look like without Elfrid Payton in the rotation. I like many fans have been frustrated by the amount of opportunities the team keeps giving Elf. In my last article, “Is Elfrid Payton starting still an issue?“, we explained why Thibs is intrigued by Payton, but also why the team is better without him.

Even though the Kings are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, scoring 140 points in a game is unheard of, especially for a Tom Thibodeau team. The Knicks are currently averaging 104.7 points per game, 29th in NBA, only Cleveland scores less.

While Thursday night might have been an aberration, the way they got their points wasn’t. Even though Derrick Rose isn’t a good outside shooter, defenses still respect him more than Elf. His gravity was on display as he pulled multiple defenders to him which opened up scoring opportunities for his teammates. Below you see 3 Kings converge on D-Rose, which leaves R.J. open for an open 3.

True team effort

The other thing that was great from last night is that everyone contributed, it just wasn’t Randle. D-Rose was on fire, so was Alec Burks, and Quickley.

We also can’t forget the contributions from the young players. While Obi didn’t score much, he held his own on defense and didn’t try to force anything on offense. He was always looking for the open man. Of course there was IQ, who broke out of his mini-slump and led the team in scoring with 25 points in 20 minutes, silencing the Haliburton stans. What was really impressive is how he attacked the rim and found a way to get to the line for 12 free throws, which scored on all. Having a ball handler that is a 94% free throw shooter makes the game so much easier for the Knicks.

Better call Frank

The other benefit of Elf sitting out was that Frank finally got to play. While there are still fans that don’t believe in Frank. But there is no denying that the team is better when he plays. When Frank is paired with IQ, the point of attack defense is substantially better. Great defense leads to easy offense. Frank also hit some jumpers and a driving layup. So, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, don’t forget about Frank.  When Frank has played this season, the Knicks have won.

Looking ahead…

While it was just one game it was validation for what many Knick fans like myself have been begging for, a rotation without Elf. Now that Derrick Rose is here, he don’t need to play Elf. Would be interesting to see what happens Saturday night against the Pacers if Elf misses that game as well.

But regardless, Knick fans have a lot to be excited about as we approach the mid-point in the season. Knicks are in 6th place and only a 0.5 game out of the 4th seed.


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