5 Thoughts on Knicks-Celtics


1. The strangest statistic on the boxscore for this game was 12 three-point attempts by the Knicks in the entire game. Just 12? What is this, 1985?

Seriously, that one is hard to explain. Even in the early days of the three-point shot — pre-Bomb Squad days and well before Seven Seconds Or Less — when a team would go down by as many as 20 points as early as the Knicks did in this game (early second quarter), you would try to climb back into it with a barrage of threes.

But it never happened. The Knicks took six in the first half and just six more in the second half.

Sure, be that guy and tell me the Knicks made only one of those 12 attempts to bring their season total to a troubling 16-for-66, which is 24% and among the lowest in the NBA. I get it, the numbers suggest they’re not a good three-point shooting team.

But you can’t tell me they don’t have good three-point shooters in Kristaps Porzingis (0-for-2), Courtney Lee (1-for-3) and Doug McDermott (0-for-0).

2. Man, Tim Hardaway Jr. (2-for-11 vs the Celtics) missed all five of his three-point attempts (hey, at least he was shooting them) and is now 5-for-22 (22.7%) from beyond the arc in three games this season. He’s 9-for-37 overall from the field and he’s very aware of it and, of course, the optics of it after he signed his big free agent contract to come back to New York.

Nothing about his game right now looks in rhythm. During the preseason, just two weeks ago, he was over 50% and had a good bounce about him. Now? He’s so wound up about each miss that it’s distracting him at the other end of the court, where he had a tough time stopping a bigger and more athletic opponent in Jaylen Brown.

Hardaway Jr. needs some help to get his game going and that’s on Ramon Sessions and the other guards to get him out in transition. He’s not a one-on-one scorer, but someone who thrives in an up-tempo game and rhythm shots.

3. Kyrie Irving had the quietest 20 points and 7 assists of his life — mainly thanks to the dynamic wing duo of Brown (23 points) and Jayson Tatum (22 points) — and afterward acknowledged to reporters that he did, in fact, have the Knicks on his short list of preferred trade destinations before he ended up in … of all places … Boston.

Great, thanks for sharing.

Seriously, there must be some alternate universe where things like this actually work out. You know, such as LeBron chooses the Knicks in 2010 or Chris Paul gets traded here when he wanted to be and Carmelo Anthony smashes Roy Hibbert’s hand on that dunk attempt and they actually win that series. Chauncey’s knee doesn’t buckle in 2011. Amar’e doesn’t punch that fire extinguisher in ’12…

Oh and while we’re at it, Starks passes to Ewing on that pick-and-roll in Game 6 so Game 7 never happens. And Patrick never steps off that bench in ’97…


The Cavs reportedly said any talk of a Kyrie trade to New York would have to involve Porzingis. The Knicks reportedly hung up the phone, smashed it with a hammer and then threw it in the Hudson River.

Meanwhile, not only did Irving remind the Knicks of what they’re still searching for, Brown and Tatum showed the Knicks what else they’re lacking: long, athletic wings. The NBA is now a league of dribble-penetration point guards and long, athletic wings who are interchangeable from 2-through-4. They fly up and down the court and can switch on everything. Neither were known for their three-point prowess, but against the Knicks they looked like they were possessed by the ghosts of Ray Allen and Larry Bird, as they combined to make 7-of-12 from downtown.

The Knicks need to figure out a way exorcise these speed demons next time they see the Celtics.

The power of Clyde compels you … the power of Clyde compels you…

But seriously, they were just bigger and more athletic than Hardaway Jr. and Lee and it showed.

4. Porzingis’ streak of 30-point performances to open the season ended at 2 games. I thought he would dominate Al Horford, but the Celtics threw a lot of different defensive looks at KP and he was hesitating all night long. He correctly pointed out after the game that the Celtics’ late switches often resulted in him being matched up with the guard in the paint, but was careful not to come off too critical of his teammates for failing to recognize the mismatch in time.

The video won’t lie when the team watches it: the guards failed to pick up the Celtics’ strategy quickly enough to exploit it. The Knicks also started off the game with very poor spacing that allowed Boston to bottle up Porzingis whenever he did get the ball. It led to more of the turnover issue that has plagued this team since preseason began.

And this brings us back to the three-point shooting (or lack thereof), which generally creates spacing and opens up the middle of the court.

Porzingis finished with 12 points on 3-of-14 from the field, five rebounds and did not record a blocked shot in 31:41. Perhaps the best part of his night came in his postgame interview, when he said something that, at the very least, showed maturity and perspective.

“It was something I haven’t experienced yet,” he said of the Celtics’ defense, “so I think this game, even though I had a bad game offensively, I think I learned a lot.”

5. Willy Hernangomez took advantage of extensive gar-bah-ge time in the second half by putting up 10 points in just 10:45. Hernangomez has been the odd man out of the center rotation, but Hornacek opted to go with the the former All-Rookie selection instead of Kyle O’Quinn (6:18). While the offense was impressive, Hernangomez did have a few plays on defense that hinted to why he was slotted behind Enes Kanter (who had a monster game with 16 points and 19 rebounds) and O’Quinn. Hernangomez simply can’t let guards drive by him for layups without any resistance. I’m not sure if it’s a footwork issue for him on defense or merely a quickness issue, but he struggles against dribble penetration and doesn’t have the length to alter shots at the rim.

Still, that’s a fixable fundie and we will see if his point-per-minute effort earned him more playing time this weekend against Brooklyn.