Kanter, McDermott Paying Early Dividends for Knicks

Knicks 107, Clippers 85

1. So Al Trautwig went there on the post game show. He read a headline in the New York Post online edition about how the Melo trade is paying off for the Knicks. At the time of the deal, the prevailing opinion was the Knicks didn’t get enough in return for a star player.

But 16 games into the season, we see that Enes Kanter is an invaluable piece in the starting lineup and Doug McDermott has steadily emerged as an important player off the bench for a Knicks team that is now 9-7 and, more importantly, very likable. Meanwhile, Melo and the Thunder are 7-9 and have lost six of their last 10.

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Did Scott Perry win his first trade as GM of the Knicks?

Early indications say yes, but trades of this magnitude are not judged in a few weeks time because there is too much impact to consider on the long-term future. Right now you can at least say the trade wasn’t nearly as bad as some critics suggested.

Kanter is averaging a double-double (13.8 points and 10.6 rebounds) and effectively neutralized DeAndre Jordan, one of the top rebounding centers in the game, from the start. Kanter’s value has been at the start of games with his energy and intensity. He almost always wins his matchup every night, dominates the glass and willingly does a lot of dirty work that allows Kristaps Porzingis to focus on his game (hmm…where did we see this formula before?).

McDermott was thought of as a lottery bust that was on his third team in four years. The knock on him was that he’s not a good enough defensive player, but what we’ve seen from Dougie that has been the most impressive is a toughness and hustle factor that has Jeff Hornacek turning him into a reliable Sixth Man who gets critical minutes late in games.

McDermott (16 points; 5 of 7 from three-point range) caught fire against the Clippers in key moments of the game, including a big third-quarter run in which he nailed three three-pointers. But I still say his defensive plays were equally important. Did you know he could be as effective on defense as he’s been this season?

Melo right now is averaging 20 points per game on 42% shooting for OKC. Do they miss what they gave up for him?

Did they even know what they had?

2. Situation: Second quarter, 8:55 on the clock and the Clippers just took a 34-26 lead. Hornacek calls a timeout. Wally Szczerbiak hits my arm and points to the Knicks bench. Kanter and Tim Hardaway Jr. are having it out as they walk to the huddle. It continues on the bench and Hornacek steps in and tears into everyone. When the huddle breaks, the Knicks rip off 14 straight points and The Garden comes to life.

So what was said?

“We were just mad at each other because we weren’t playing hard,” Kanter said.

Hornacek would only say he reminded his team to move the ball.

Courtney Lee said it was a moment that showed a change in the culture within the team. That players can hold each other accountable and show intensity and “nobody is taking anything personal.” Lee said there is an understanding within the group that even in the moments of anger and frustration, “it’s coming from a positive place.”

You’ve got to love that as a coach.

3. When you have a team that gets this intense in a huddle, it shows on the court. If you’re one that remembers the ’90s Knicks, you remember the toughness of that era more than anything. And that means you were always disgusted when you saw a Knicks player step aside as an opponent went in for a dunk.

The Flagrant rules came in to deter the no-layup rule, but there are still teams that employ it without trying to decapitate someone. You can still wrap someone up and make him earn it at the line. It stops momentum and also sets a tone. I always say: you have six fouls and can use five of them before they kick you out.

Enter Hardaway Jr.

Blake Griffin was going in for a dunk attempt late in the second quarter when Timmy decided rather than do a fly-by, he would wrap him up. He forced Griffin to earn them at the foul line. As the officials were looking at replays to determine if it was worthy of a Flagrant Foul (it wasn’t), The Garden crowd gave an ovation to Hardaway Jr. for the effort.

Another moment came in that same quarter when McDermott sacrificed himself with the chance of being posterized by one of the most devastating dunkers in the game. Jordan went up for a long lob pass to the rim, but McDermott was waiting in the restricted area and timed his leap perfectly to break up the play. It led to a Hardaway Jr. fast break dunk.

Wally highlighted this at the Wally Wall during the postgame show.

4. We’ll finish with a few Stats of the Game. The first one is becoming a big part of the Knicks’ success: rebounding. They won the battle of the boards against the Clippers by 15 (51-36) and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds in the game.

The Knicks rank 11th in the NBA in rebounds per game (45.0) and are fifth in Offensive Rebounding (11.3). You can give a lot of credit to Kanter, who hauled down 16 boards and had 6 on the offensive glass.

5. Mike Breen offered this stat up at the end of the game and it’s an eye-popper. This was the third time this season the Knicks have won by 20 or more points. They didn’t have any 20+ point wins at all last season. I checked the box scores and I can take that stat even further.

Since 2014-15, the Knicks had just two 20+ point wins over three seasons.

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