5 Thoughts on the Loss:
1. There are just some gyms that don’t feel right. It could be the lighting or the color scheme or simply the rims. Everyone has their Eleanor. For the Knicks, the Spectrum Center — formerly known as Time Warner Cable Arena — is their Eleanor.
If you don’t get the Eleanor reference, see Gone In 60 Seconds:
(Ironically, a unicorn is referenced in describing “Eleanor” and the Knicks didn’t have their “unicorn” in this game. More on that later.)
Anyway, the Hornets have never been a juggernaut since their rebirth several years ago, but the Knicks can’t win there. In the 14 years since the NBA returned to Charlotte, the Knicks are 8-17 there. They shoot 43.9% from the field there. And after this loss, they’ve lost seven straight games in the Queen City.
“I didn’t like that place,” Wally Szczerbiak said on the post game show about the Spectrum Center.
He then added, “It’s got no buzz.”
See what he did there? Hornets: Buzz.
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“It’s got no energy in the arena,” Wally continued. “You could just see the Knicks shooters didn’t look comfortable with some of the looks they had. They weren’t even close with some shots and they missed shots they normally make. It’s just one you’ve got to throw it away.”
[For the record, it’s clear Wally did not like playing in that gym. In six games in that arena, he shot just 34.2% from the field and made just 3 of 10 from three-point range. He also suffered a bad ankle injury there. As Bill Pidto said, “Toxic.”]
Meanwhile, the Knicks — a team that went into the game ranked in the top five in FG% — finished the game at 41.9%, but were under 40 (39.7%) through three quarters, when the game got out of hand. Yes, keep in mind they were playing without Kristaps Porzingis (knee) for a second straight game.
We told you in the last blog about how the Knicks were trending up in three-point shooting over the last four games and came off a blistering 14 for 23 performance against the Thunder. In Charlotte, the Knicks missed their first 8 attempts from beyond the arc and finished 3 for 18.
2. Bad shooting nights happen, but as they say, defense doesn’t go into slumps. But defense can be impacted by a shooting slump and also an inability to get offensive rebounds. Here’s the stat of the night: The Knicks failed to record any Second Chance Points in the game. Not one.
The final tally was 18-0 in favor of Charlotte. That’s a huge part of the game.
That stat, if nothing else, shows just how banged up Enes Kanter is right now, as he plays through hip and back issues. Kanter had become so important early in games in collecting offensive rebounds for extra possessions. Against Dwight Howard and the Hornets, however, Kanter was limited to just one offensive rebound and a total of three in 22:55 of playing time. That’s not typical of him. Kyle O’Quinn also struggled on the boards as he didn’t record a single offensive rebound in 15:41.
But it wasn’t for a lack of effort. As Lance Thomas pointed out, a lot of the Knicks shots were short.
“That led to a long rebound,” Lance said, “and they just ran it right up our back and scored.”
3. The game turned, and never turned back, late in the first quarter. For several games, we have praised the work of the bench, which came into the game averaging over 40 points per game over the last four games. But when the bench entered the game in Charlotte, there was no spark. A 19-15 lead for the Knicks quickly evaporated with empty possession after empty possession and the quarter ended with a 14-5 run by the Hornets, who took a 29-23 lead.
It continued in the second quarter. Eight straight points to open the second made it a 22-4 run and suddenly a 14-point deficit. By the middle of the quarter, it was 18. With over three minutes left in the half, it was 21.
Jeff Hornacek called timeouts. Tried to change the lineup. But nothing worked. The Knicks missed 15 of 22 shots in the quarter, but what was more frustrating was the 60 points the Knicks gave up in the process. It was once again an example of how bad offense leads to bad defense.
“When we don’t have a rhythm offensively, sometimes it carries over to the defensive end of the floor,” Jarrett Jack said. “The team we’re trying to be, we can’t allow that to happen, allow those offensive issues creep down into the defense.”
Jack, sounding like a coach-in-waiting, then added, “We’ve got to mature in that area.”
4. The Knicks are now 1-5 in games without Porzingis, who remains day-to-day. Could he have made a difference in this game? The Knicks certainly missed his offense, but is it worth having him play through a tweaked knee in December against the 10-19 Hornets?
I’m seeing this conversation creep in lately because of the games he’s missed so far. The ankle injury was a freak accident caused by hustle. The knee was a non-contact situation which, for me, sets off “Proceed With Caution” warnings.
We’d all love to see a version of KP as a warrior who toughs out all injuries the way Kanter is right now. Kanter is talking playoffs in December because he sees every game as critical to pile up wins so you don’t look back in April with regret.
But we also know that KP is 22 and this is his first experience as a player who is carrying a team with his offense and also his defensive presence. He is still a work-in-progress when it comes to his stability and durability, which is tested every night with how physical teams are playing him this season.
I know from personal experience that a little sharp pain isn’t something to ignore. One little misstep can turn a tweak into a tear. That would cost a month of games rather than a week of them. Which would you prefer?
5. Speaking of injuries, today is an important day for Tim Hardaway Jr. After our MSG cameras showed him doing some very light shooting in Charlotte before the game, he will get his two-week assessment to see if the “stress injury” in his left leg has healed. Hardaway Jr. was wearing what looked like an air cast brace on the leg while shooting and didn’t put a lot of pressure on the leg when he shot the ball. He moved very carefully and stayed mostly on his toes.
“It’s feeling a little bit better,” he said after the game.
“I don’t feel like it’s hurting or anything right now, so I’ve just got to make sure I do what they tell me to do.”
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He will undergo x-rays and other tests today to assess the leg and make a call on whether he needs more time to recover or if he can return to running and jumping. I wouldn’t expect to hear he is cleared to practice right away as this could take a little more time.
Tim admitted he isn’t allowing himself to get too anxious about today’s results because he doesn’t want to be disappointed. He took the news of the injury hard, as you can imagine, because he was playing so well at the time. The Knicks are 5-4 in the nine games he’s missed, but they’re going to need him in the New Year when the schedule gets very tough.
That’s when we’ll all be suffering from stress injuries.