Crispy’s Pre-Game Notebook: Knicks at Rockets
- After last night’s 104-92 defeat to the Pelicans, the Knicks have lost six of their last eight contests, including five straight on the road. They have also dropped four games to teams under .500 this season.
- Knick Facts: New York is 0-5 on the back end of back-to-backs. Houston is 7-0 in similar situations.
- Derrick Rose had another 20-point outing in New Orleans and is averaging 23 points in his last five games. The 2011 NBA MVP has been taking more shots in recent contests and is averaging 20 field goals attempts in his last five games. That’s an increase from his career average of 16.9 attempts per game. Derrick told me, “It’s about the flow of the game, I don’t think about the shots, just what presents itself in the game.”
- When I asked why the offense hasn’t been able to crack 100 points on this road trip, Rose said, “If we play better defense, it leads to better offense. We can’t keep going down 10 and trying to fight back.”
- Justin Holiday is getting better with more time on the court. He played 28 minutes in New Orleans and has scored 22 points in his last two games, shooting 37% from behind the arc. He told me, “I’m just trying to bring serious energy as soon as I come into the game.”
- Carmelo Anthony shot 8-for-22 from the field against the Pelicans, but is absolutely locked in at the free throw line, sinking 33 of his last 36 free throws on 92 percent shooting.
- Joakim Noah went scoreless in 16 minutes against the Pelicans. He was previously on a roll, converting 15-of-29 shots. After struggling from the free throw line, Noah hit 11 of 13 from the charity stripe in his previous five games. During this stretch, Noah averaged seven points and 10 rebounds.
HOUSTON ROCKETS (25-9)
- The Houston Rockets are an astonishing 14-2 in December and only one win away from their best December in franchise history.
- They’re 17-0 against teams under .500 and 8-8 against teams over .500.
- The Rockets are second in the league with 113.8 points per game and are third in point differential, registering +7.3. Only Golden State and Toronto better Houston in point differential.
- The Rockets have four of the top nine 3-point shooters in Eric Gordon, James Harden, Ryan Anderson, and Trevor Ariza. Together, they are totaling 401 combined 3’s, which is more than the team total of 28 other NBA teams – including Cleveland whom of which has 411 as a team.
- Is James Harden the MVP of the league? Harden ranks fourth in the league in points per game with 27.7, sits 1st in assists with 11.9 while averaging 7.8 rebounds to go with it.
- Oscar Robertson was the only man to average 27 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds in a season. The Big O did it four times over his career. Tiny Archibald is the only player in NBA history to lead the league in points and assists in the same year (1972-73).
What Went Wrong for Knicks In Loss to Pelicans…
The surging Pelicans are calling their interchangeable lineup of small-ball “48 minutes of hell.” That’s what it was for Kristaps Porzingis.
“This was a great game for me to learn,” he said.
His stat line was still eye-catching — 21 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals — but the eye-test told a different story about his performance. The Pelicans showed little regard for his post-up game as they constantly switched on screens and left guards to defend him. Despite owning almost a foot advantage in height, Porzingis was overwhelmed by the physicality and often came up empty.
While he quickly accepted blame for another maddening loss — “A lot of it was my fault tonight,” he said, — his coach and teammates certainly didn’t disagree.
“If they’re gonna switch and put little guys on [you], we’ve got to punish them,” Jeff Hornacek said, without specifically naming Porzingis.
“Get to the free throw line when we throw it into the post,” he continued. “We just weren’t able to convert.”
Porzingis shot 8-for-20 in the game and attempted just two three-pointers (he missed both). He spent a big portion of the game in the post and yet only attempted five free throws. He spoke with frustration about missing those turnaround shots off the glass he often hits with ease and pointed to getting hit on the elbow a few times without the benefit of a whistle.
But Hornacek is right: Porzingis needed to be more aggressive going to the rim and using his length to his advantage. He settled for jumpers and seemed to lack a determination that we have seen in him on other nights.
“Yeah, I’ve got to work on that,” he admitted. “I’m more comfortable shooting the mid-range shots… Maybe [Hornacek] is right. Maybe I need to get to the basket more.”
It was a second straight game in which the Knicks shot under 40% (37.6%) and they struggled from three-point range (7-for-23). But Derrick Rose (20 points, 1 assist) didn’t want to talk about that side of the court.
“Offense? I don’t want to talk about offense,” he said. “If we stop people, it would be a lot easier to score.”
The Pelicans scored 30 points on the fast break, including 16 in the first quarter in which the Knicks allowed 31 points and were already trailing by 10. So while Porzingis said his failure to dominate the Pelicans in the post hurt the defense — “If you’re missing those shots, it’s tough to keep that energy high,” he said. — Rose flipped it and said the defense led to forced offense.
“I’m tired of being down 10,” he said. “I think when you play that type of game, it affects you offensively.”
The Big Three each scored at least 20 points in a game for the fifth time this season, but the Knicks are now just 1-4 in those games. The trio combined to shoot 39.6% and took 67% of the shots.
The bench was once again outplayed by the opposing bench. Brandon Jennings (2-for-8) is shooting a career-worst 36.4% this season and Lance Thomas (37.8%) is playing through foot issues and has not been able to rediscover his form from last season. The usually-reliable Kyle O’Quinn played just 5:15 and Willy Hernangomez was ineffective, as well.
It was all good just eight games ago. The Knicks went into Phoenix after winning the first two games of a West Coast trip and were 14-10 on the season. Since then, the Knicks (16-16) are 2-6 and in danger of falling out of the Top-8 in the East and below .500 before the New Year.
Tonight, the trip ends in Houston against a Rockets team that averages 114.5 points per game and ran the Knicks off the Garden court by 19 points early in the season. The defense has struggled since then and right now the offense seems to be in a funk. Consider that after the first quarter against the Celtics on Christmas Day, the Knicks have shot 39% (100-for-254) over their next 11 quarters.
We’ll have Knicks Game Night at 8 p.m. on MSG and a full postgame show afterward that is scheduled to end 30 minutes before the ball drops in Times Square. Be sure to tweet us photos from your New Year’s celebration using the hashtag #KNICKSonMSG and, as always, send us your thoughts on the game.
Game Preview: Islanders at Jets
By David Kolb
NEW YORK ISLANDERS (14-15-6) @ WINNIPEG JETS (17-18-3)
NEW YEARS IN THE PEG
The New York Islanders look to end 2016 on a winning note after having their three-game winning streak snapped on Thursday in Minnesota, falling 6-4. A visit to Winnipeg might be just what the Isles need, as they have registered a 6-0-1 record in their last seven visits to MTS Centre. Meanwhile, the Jets fell 5-3 to the streaking Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday, snapping their two-game winning streak.
The Islanders surprisingly placed Jaroslav Halak, who was 62-38-13 as an Islander, on waivers Friday afternoon. Halak owned a 6-8-5 record this season, with a 3.23 goals against average and a .904 save percentage. The Isles will now rely on Thomas Greiss and J.F. Berube to share the workload the rest of the way.
LADD BACK HOME
Andrew Ladd skated and was a fan-favorite for four and a half seasons in Winnipeg, up until the trade deadline last season when he returned to the Chicago Blackhawks. Ladd tallied 246 points in 348 games in Winnipeg while serving as the Jets’ captain. Ladd has been playing his best hockey of the season lately, as he carries a three-game point streak into Saturday’s game.
LAINE WORN DOWN?
Rookie Patrik Laine has quickly become a star for the Winnipeg Jets, as he has fired home 19 goals with 11 assists for 30 points in 38 contests. The second-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft has only one assist in his past four games while missing practice on Friday, indicating that perhaps some fatigue has set in for the 18-year old youngster.
Isles’ defenseman Thomas Hickey recorded two assists for the second straight game on Thursday. He now has five points in his past four contests. Hickey is enjoying a strong season, as he has three goals and eight assists for 11 points and owns a plus-2 rating through 35 games.
Game Preview: Rangers at Avalanche
By David Kolb
NEW YORK RANGERS (25-12-1) @ COLORADO AVALANCHE (12-22-1)
LOOKING TO REVERSE COURSE
Tonight the Rangers faceoff against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center, as they conclude a quick two-game road trip. The Rangers have earned at least one point in five of their last six games (3-1-2) against the Av’s, dating back to Feb. 4, 2014. The Rangers have won five of their past seven games including Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes.
The Rangers have found success on the road, as they lead the NHL in road wins this season with 12. New York also leads the league in road victories since the start of the 2013-14 season with 84. Currently, the club has notched wins in 11 of their last 15 road contests (11-4-0), including five of their last six road games (5-1-0).
23-year old Blueshirt forward Matt Puempel notched a hat trick (all power-play tallies) Thursday in Arizona, and now has four goals and an assist in his past four games. All five of Puempel’s goals have come on the road this season, perhaps indicating that the former first-round pick by Ottawa might feel less pressure off-Broadway.
HOLDEN HIS OWN
Nick Holden tallied a goal and an assist, including a power-play goal Thursday against the Coyotes. Holden surprisingly leads all Rangers defensemen in goals with seven and has 20 points with a plus-16 in 38 games on Broadway. Holden enters this contest red-hot, as he has recorded four points (three goals, one assist) in the last two games, and eight points (four goals, four assists) in his last 10 contests.
Kevin Hayes tied his single-game career high with three assists (two on the power play) in Thursday’s Rangers win. Hayes has points in each of the past two games (four assists) and the Blueshirts have recorded an 18-1-0 record in the 19 tilts in which Hayes has scored at least a point.
Game Preview: Sabres at Bruins
BY: DAVID KOLB
BUFFALO SABRES (13-14-8) @ BOSTON BRUINS (19-15-4)
TRYING TO AVOID A SWEEP
The Sabres will end 2016 this afternoon in Beantown and look to avoid back-to-back defeats against the Bruins. Boston came from behind Thursday to beat Buffalo, 4-2, and will attempt to sweep the season series after winning the first three contests between the teams earlier this year. The Bruins are 10-1-2 in their last 13 games against Buffalo and are 5-1-2 in their last eight matchups in Boston.
NOT HOME SWEET HOME?
Despite being one of the top three teams in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins have underperformed when they’ve been at home. Boston is just 8-9-0 on home ice this season.
OKPOSO BIG VS. BRUINS
Kyle Okposo scored one of the two Sabres goals Thursday and has five goals and 23 points in 26 career games against the Bruins. Okposo, who scored for the first time since Dec. 9, has recorded 10 goals and 13 assists for 23 points, including 13 power-play points.
BACKES, CARRIER OUT
Bruins forward David Backes will miss today’s game after he suffered a hit to the head from Sabres forward William Carrier in Thursday’s contest.
Backes left the game, did not return and will not skate in today’s matinee (upper body injury). Carrier, who will not be suspended from the NHL for the hit, won’t play as well after hurting his hand from an ensuing fight with Bruins tough guy Adam McQuaid.
Sam Reinhart extended his point streak to five games after notching an assist Thursday vs. Boston. Reinhart has two goals and four assists during this streak and has eight goals with 13 assists for 21 points in 35 contests this season.
Game Preview: Devils vs. Capitals
BY: DAVID KOLB
NEW JERSEY DEVILS (14-15-7) @ WASHINGTON CAPITALS (20-9-5)
The Devils look to complete a sweep of a home-and-home set against the Capitals this afternoon at the Prudential Center. New Jersey edged past Washington with a thrilling 2-1 shootout win Thursday. The Devils are 4-3-2 against Metropolitan Division opponents this season and 8-8-5 against all Eastern Conference foes.
P.A. HITS DOUBLE DIGITS
P.A. Parenteau opened the scoring for the Devils in the second period Thursday with his team-leading 10th goal of the season. Parenteau has the hot hand with four points (three goals, one assist) in his last four games and has tallied eight points in 12 games in December.
POINTS FROM THE POINT
Capitals defenseman John Carlson has been excellent this season and has provided offense from the backline. He picked up an assist on the Caps’ lone goal Thursday, giving him four points in his last four games. The Massachusetts native has three goals and seven assists for 10 points in 13 games in December and three goals with 15 assists for 18 points this season.
JOSEFSON CLUTCH TALLY
In his first game back after being sidelined for nearly two weeks, Jacob Josefson scored the game-deciding goal (fifth time in his career) in the shootout Thursday. Josefson is 2-for-3 this season in the shootout and is 11-21 (52.4 percent) in shootouts throughout his career.
“O” FOR OV
Alex Ovechkin was held off the board Thursday by the Devils, but the two-time Hart Trophy winner remains a dangerous threat every time he’s on the ice. Ovechkin has four points in his last five games and has produced 16 goals with 10 assists for 26 points in 34 games this season.
Reinvigorated Jennings Loving Life With Knicks
Brandon Jennings has played in almost 500 NBA games, scored almost 7,500 points, dished out almost 3,000 assists, made almost 650 steals and played for four teams.
There isn’t much he hasn’t experienced.
Unless you consider his experience this season.
“I just feel like it’s my whole rookie year all over again,’’ Jennings told MSGNetworks.com. “I’m like a young kid in a candy store.’’
That candy store is known as Madison Square Garden where Jennings is playing his first season as a Knick.
He has emerged as an electrifying backup to the explosive Derrick Rose. Coach Jeff Hornacek has used Jennings and Rose together, forming a jackrabbit quick backcourt.
Jennings has quickly become a fan favorite, a role he wasn’t afforded early in his career. Jennings was the first player to go from playing high school ball, to playing professionally in Europe, to being an NBA player.
He opted to take that unchartered route after the collective bargaining agreement mandated a player can’t be drafted until he is 19 or older and one year removed from prep ball.
Jennings wanted to help his family financially as soon as possible. There was money to be made in Europe but it came at a cost to the public’s perception of Jennings.
“I think just the negative [reaction] of it, ‘How dare this kid think he doesn’t need to go to college? He wants to go overseas.’’’ Jennings said. “People just looking at me in a different way because of a decision I made that I thought was best for me and my family.
“Europe helped me grow up a lot, honestly. I was 18, fresh out of high school and I was playing on a professional level, traveling the world, seeing different things in life.
“The experience I got in life was totally different from what a kid would get in college as far as just living, living wise – [experiencing] different languages and being out of my comfort zone.’’
Jennings is quick to say he’d encourage any high school player to go to college. And he also said he’d respect any young man that makes a decision to play professionally based on his financial circumstances.
Regardless of what the critics said, Jennings wasted little time proving his mercurial talent. He became the youngest player in NBA history to score 55 points in a game when he did so in his rookie season of 2009-10 with the Milwaukee Bucks, who made Jennings the No. 10 pick in the draft.
Jennings stands just 6-1 and weighs 170 pounds, so he doesn’t possess the physical stature or strength of a James Harden or a DeMar DeRozan. But he is Allen Iverson quick, the kind of electric athleticism that leaves the crowd exhaling a collective, ‘Wow!’
But on January 24, 2015, the crowd went silent.
Jennings ruptured his left Achilles tendon.
“I thought I was done,’’ Jennings said. “I thought my career was over. It was the worst pain and then I couldn’t even put my foot down. I put on a lot of weight.
“I definitely became bitter. I went through a little bit of a depression because I was playing the best basketball of my career and I get hurt and guys are getting $70-80 million and it probably could have been me if I didn’t get hurt. So I definitely wanted to get back.’’
Jennings is back, but he doesn’t have the same mindset as the 55-point scorer. He has embraced the role of point guard over combo guard.
He’s had four double-digit assist games and leads the Knicks with 5.3 assists per game. The Knicks (16-15) have back-to-back road games beginning tonight in New Orleans against the Pelicans (8 p.m.; MSG Network) and Saturday night against the Houston Rockets (8 p.m.; MSG Network).
Hornacek said there are no secrets when it comes to Jennings’ game. When asked if Jennings has incorporated any ‘Eurostyle’ to his game, the Knicks coach cracked a smile.
“I think he just went there and he played,’’ Hornacek said. “It doesn’t matter if he’s in Europe, in the city playing a game, in the suburbs, if he’s on Mars, Brandon’s going to play the same way.”
“He’s going to go up and down the court and do some stuff that you see on the playgrounds. He’s just having fun.’’
Hornacek couldn’t be more correct. Jennings is completely healthy and happy to be in New York. He’s wowed The Garden crowd on several occasions this season.
“It’s been awesome,’’ Jennings said. “It’s like me being a rookie again. The excitement of playing in front of 20,000 every night.”
“I think when I was hurt, my love for the game grew 10 times. I knew then, I said, ‘I will never take this game for granted again.’ I’m loving this experience.’’
Jennings has a unique most vivid memory of playing in Europe.
“I was in Serbia and we had to get escorted in with machine guns and everything and police. It was crazy out there. But it was one of the best experiences of my life. They were beating us by 30 and the fans were still cheering and dancing. They had flares and fireworks going on in the stands. It was crazy.”
Rangers Have a Howlin’ Good Time Against Coyotes
As the late, great Yogi Berra liked to say, “Nothing’s in the bag until it’s in the bag.”
Translated to hockey terms, when the upscale Rangers visit downscale teams such as the Coyotes in Glendale and (on Saturday) the Avalanche in Denver, there’s a strong tendency to believe that four points (out of a possible four points) is a virtual guarantee.
Conversely, any National Hockey League coach will counter with an equally hoary bromide to the effect that “Any team can beat any other team on any given night.”
That, in a seashell, should serve as a reminder that the Blueshirts did what they were supposed to do on Thursday night at Gila River Arena.
The 6-3 triumph — like any road game — is not designed for an Oscar, Emmy nor even The Prince of Wales Trophy. What matters are the two points. Period.
Ergo: Mission Accomplished.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- PUMPING PUEMPEL: General Manager Jeff Gorton‘s acquisition of Matt Puempel is one of the finest, unsung NHL adds of the season. Matt’s first career hat trick — goals three, four and five of the campaign in New York — reinforces the Rangers depth. All were completed on the power play.
- POWER PLAY: The decision last night was sealed by four power play goals out of seven tries. Not a bad percentage. The PP quartet of red lights was a Rangers first since Feb. 4, 2010 against Washington. So far this season the Blueshirts have at least two power play goals seven times.
- RIGHT WITH RAANTA: For the umpteenth time Antti Raanta demonstrated that he’s A-1 caliber and could be a starter on at least half the NHL teams. He gives the Blueshirts confidence that few other teams obtain from a backup goalie.
- ANOTHER FIRST: The Rangers have scored the first goal of the game in 22 of 38 games this season. And when they do get the initial tally — as they did in Glendale — they’ve posted a 16-5-1 mark.
- HOLDEN THAT TIGER: Another underrated “Gorton Get,” defenseman Nick Holden, continued to display his versatility with a goal and an assist. That included a power play goal. He had a plus-2 rating in 22:27 of ice time.
TURNING POINT: Puempel’s power play goal in the third period fired up the Visitors and secured the win. Likewise, Raanta’s saves early in the finale reinforced the defense, especially a huge save on Radim Vrbata.
BEST DRESSED: Coach Alain Vigneault won the unofficial attire prize wearing a suit, shirt and tie in varying shades of blue. After all, he represents the Blueshirts.
WHAT THEY SAID:
- MSG ANALYST JOE MICHELETTI: “The Rangers were winning the races for the puck.”
- MSG ANALYST DAVE MALONEY: “Raanta is a goalie who battles his way out of a hole.”
- REPORTER ANNIE CAMMARANO: “Raanta and Puempel clearly were the Rangers stars. Antti made the saves when they needed to be made. Meanwhile, Matt’s hat trick says it all about his value on the Rangers bench and on the ice. Also, Kevin Hayes delivered three assists including two on the power play. All in all, the Blueshirts took care of business.”
NEXT GAME: SATURDAY AT COLORADO: 8 P.M. TV, MSG 2.
BOTTOM LINE: The crumbling Avalanche are there to be taken and if the Rangers play their balanced game, this should result in four out of four points on this road trip before returning to The Garden next Tuesday against the Sabres.
Kinkaid Makes 43 Saves in Devils Shootout Win Over Caps
Keith Kinkaid was stellar between the pipes for the Devils, stopping 43 of the 44 shots he faced in regulation and OT, then denied the Caps’ two attempts in the shootout, as New Jersey came away with a 2-1 victory.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) December 30, 2016
P.A. Parenteau netted his team-leading 10th goal of the season unassisted in the second period for the Devils, who were playing without Taylor Hall due to a lower-body injury.
In the shootout, Kinkaid stopped T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov, while Michael Cammalleri and Jacob Josefson converted to give New Jersey the two points.
The Devils and Capitals go at it again Saturday afternoon at The Rock, with live coverage beginning at 12:30 PM on MSG+.
Click here for more Devils coverage on MSGNetworks.com.
Are The Isles Turning it Around?
- The Christmas Break should have been a tonic for the Rangers and Devils, more than the Islanders. At least in theory. Practice is another story as was the case, Post-Christmas.
- It’s far too soon to tell but this latest Islanders uprising really could be the start of something big. We’ll know more in a couple of weeks.
- Both the Blueshirts and the Jerseyites took their sabbaticals after losses — Rangers took a pair of beatings — and really needed time for rehabbing as well as returning to the drawing board. The break helped the Blueshirts.
- By contrast, the Isles exited Stage Right with smiles; secure in the knowledge that they took four out of a possible four points — with wins over Boston and Buffalo. That, however, is a chapter from the course, Ancient Hockey History 101.
- As for more modern history, on a roll — small but significant — the Brooklynites captured both games with Thomas Greiss and then Jack Capuano surprises with Jaro Halak who beats the Caps. Hey, three out of three ain’t bad — again.
- What the respite meant to Alain Vigneault is that he has to patch his defense and figure that this break finally sharpens Henrik Lundqvist for the marathon ahead. Meanwhile, Antti Raanta proved his value again; vs. Ottawa.
- As for John Hynes, he’s conveyed the tougher-hockey-at-all-ends-of-the-rink message to his troops. But — not dissimilar to the Rangers — defense and goaltending need work; mainly franchise cornerstone Cory Schneider.
- The Devils post-Christmas loss to Pittsburgh at The Rock is making the climb back to the .500 mark a bigger challenge for Skipper Hynes. Gotta shore up the defense.
- If nothing else, the Blueshirts win over Ottawa once again proves the Rangers excel in comeback-ability.
- In case I missed you all, here I go again; HAPPY, HEALTHY NEW YEAR!
And here are The Maven’s New Year’s wishes
- RICK NASH: An injury-free second half so that he can resume his offensive leadership.
- CORY SCHNEIDER: A restoring of his steady, game-stealing performances of yesteryear.
- JOHN TAVARES: Scoring support from his second, third and even fourth lines. A rejuvenated Andrew Ladd looks like he’ll help.
- HENRIK LUNDQVIST: See (12) Schneider, and do ditto.
- ANDY GREENE: Find that steady, supporting — a la Adam Larsson — defenseman to be your regular partner from here to Springtime.
- NICK LEDDY: Keep those brilliant end to end rushes going but score more goals once you get into scoring position.
- BRADY SKJEI: Continue your growth at all ends of the rink, and become the new Keith Yandle.
- JACK CAPUANO: Find the best way to win with the three-goalie combo.
- JOSH BAILEY: Keep moving in the direction of a career year.
- MICHAEL GRABNER: Do an encore of your October-December histrionics.