Photo Credit: Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports
Knicks lose, but young Knicks shine
Last night, the New York Knicks suffered a 119-107 defeat to the Charlotte Hornets at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. With that loss, the Knicks have lost four games in a row and sit at the bottom of the Atlantic Division with an 8-20 record. The result wasn’t desirable, but the performance of the young Knicks players was.
Hornets picked on Enes Kanter on the pick-and-roll
When a team loses, it’s easy for analysts to break down why a team loses. Charlotte attacked Enes Kanter on the pick-and-roll on almost every opportunity on offense. Hornets big man Cody Zeller, who isn’t known for his deep offensive arsenal, scored eight of the Hornets first twelve points. This stat is significant because Zeller only averages eight points per game for his career.
Zeller took advantage by rolling to the rim whenever Kanter showed against Kemba Walker. Likewise, Walker would also take advantage of Kanter showing by driving past him to create a shot for others or taking an uncontested three. Kanter was a liability on defense, but overall, the Knicks first unit put in a poor defensive effort. Four of the five Knicks starters had a +/- worse than -16. The only Knicks starter who had a better +/- was Mario Hezonja, which isn’t surprising since he only played five minutes.
Hornets point guard play destroyed the Knicks
Another issue for the Knicks was the Hornets point guard play. Walker has been playing out of his mind this season, and against the Knicks, he continued his outstanding play. Whenever the Bronx, New York native steps foot on the Garden floor, he always delivers great performances. His dominant offensive displays at Madison Square Garden date back to his college days, playing in the Big East for UConn. Last night, Walker blessed the Mecca of basketball with 25 points.
Walker dominated, but Tony Parker also played a prominent role in dismantling the Knicks offense. Parker may not be a spring chicken anymore, but his basketball IQ is off the charts. He schooled Frank Ntilikina on the pick-and-roll, and he made Mitchell Robinson look foolish, on one play, when he pumped fake and made Robinson jump like as if he saw a mouse. Once Robinson jumped, Parker utilized his good footwork to avoid Robinson and float the ball into the rim. Parker finished with 16 points.
Young Knicks Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina shine against Hornets
Despite the many negatives, the positives that stood out for the Knicks was overwhelming. Coming into the season, the main focus of David Fizdale and his coaching staff was player development. Against the Hornets, the performances of Kevin Knox and Ntilikina shined brighter than searchlights at night.
Knox showed why he was the ninth pick in the 2018 NBA Draft
Knox showed why the Knicks picked him ninth overall in this year’s NBA draft. His full offensive arsenal was on display. Earlier in the season, Knox would settle for catch and shoot threes. On most of those shots, a defender would be in his space. Last night, Knox mixed it up and took advantage of what the defense gave him. He created his shot off the dribble, and if the defense left him open, Knox rose up for three.
In addition to his offensive exploits, Knox also dominated the boards. He grabbed 15 rebounds, including three offensive boards in a sequence where the young Knox looked like a man amongst boys. He led all scorers with 26 points. While Knox had an impressive performance, the performance that stood out the most was Ntilikina’s.
Ntilikina showed aggressiveness on offense
Stat wise, Ntilikina paled in comparison to Knox, but Ntilikina’s offensive explosion helped the Knicks cut into the Hornets’ 27-point lead. For eight minutes in the second half, Ntilikina was unstoppable. He nailed back-to-back threes in the third quarter, and overall, Ntilikina made all four of his 3-point attempts, which is a career-high.
Not only was Ntilikina a flamethrower from deep, but he also knocked down midrange jumpers off screens. Since being inserted back into the rotation, in the previous game, Ntilikina has made a positive impact. Against the Brooklyn Nets, Ntilikina had the highest +/- on the Knicks with +7. Last night, Ntilikina had another positive +/- with +2.
At this point in his career, Ntilikina’s stats won’t jump off the paper, but most of the time, his performances affect the Knicks positively. Ntilikina finished the game with a career-high 18 points. Unfortunately, Ntilikina couldn’t add to his career-high total because he fouled out with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Lately, the Knicks have been taking losses by the bundle, but at least the Knicks brass can take pride in the development of their youth.