KP, Knicks Happy Saying Bye to Spurs

5 Thoughts on the Loss:

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1. How many times have you heard this: It’s a make-or-miss league.

When the Knicks were making their shots early in the game, they seemed to be in a good rhythm and built a nine-point lead early in the second quarter. They were up by eight midway through the second and had the ball twice to make it a 10-point advantage. But, that’s when those makes became misses.

Al Trautwig, Alan Hahn and Wally Szczerbiak look at why the third quarter was the turning point in the Knicks-Spurs game.

Layups, put-backs and even open looks from the perimeter couldn’t find the bottom of the net.

Through the first 17:46 of the game, the Knicks shot 50% from the field (20-for-40) and made 5-of-12 from three-point range. The rest of the night they went 15-for-47 (31.9%) and hit 2-of-10 from downtown.

“We didn’t get anything easy,” Jeff Hornacek said of the offense, which closed the second half with six straight misses and four turnovers on 10 possessions before Lance Thomasbanked three before the buzzer.

“When you don’t get anything easy, all of a sudden an open shot comes and you don’t make it and we were never able to get out and get easy buckets.”

Jeff Hornacek holds his post-game press conference after the Knicks' 100-91 loss to the Spurs at The Garden.

Fast break? The Knicks had six points total in the game.

Neither team played well on offense. The Spurs barely got to 100 points and shot 38.3% from the field. The difference in the game? Free throws.

The Knicks drew just 17 fouls and took 18 free throws. The Spurs went to the line for 34 shots. They outscored the Knicks by 14 at the line.

2. That’s two games in five days against the Spurs and no one is happier than Kristaps Porzingis to know the Knicks won’t see them again this season.

In two games against the Spurs, KP shot 11-for-35 for a two-game total of 31 points and a collective -23 over 69 minutes.

The Spurs followed the scouting report that all opponents are locked into right now in defending Porzingis on the post: front him, get into his legs and bring a help defender behind on the pass. They crowd him, which leaves no room to square up and shoot.

Kristaps Porzingis speaks with Rebecca Haarlow after the Knicks' 100-91 loss to the Spurs at The Garden.

It definitely looks frustrating. You can only imagine how KP feels.

“They make it really tough,” he said. “They switch a lot and they front. They make it tough for the passer and they also make it tough for me.”

The key to all of this – and a lesson for all of you basketball players – is that defending the post isn’t only the responsibility of the post defender. They guy guarding the basketball plays a vital role in distracting the passer enough to make him hesitate or throw a high arching pass that allows help defense to arrive on the catch. The Spurs do this to perfection.

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3. Speaking of the post, Hornacek used all four of his centers in this game. Enes Kanter played just 17:26, which was curious when you consider he had 12 points and 6 rebounds but got into some foul trouble. Kyle O’Quinn saw even less time (14:25) and seemed to struggle against the height and length of the Spurs’ front line.

So Hornacek went to one of the unsung heros from Saturday’s win in New Orleans, Joakim Noah, for a spark off the bench. Noah played only 2:11 and the Knicks were outscored by 7 when he was on the court. OK, that didn’t work.

Next up, Willy Hernangomez. He hasn’t played in six straight games and only once in the previous 13. But in he went against one of his mentors, Pau Gasol, and the second-year Spaniard went to work.

“I thought somebody could give us life out there,” Hornacek said. “He did a good job for us.”

Hernangomez played 4:01 and didn’t produce much of a stat line, but he was part of a late push by the Knicks to make things interesting in the final minutes.

While the depth is good, this only reminds us about the excess of bigs on the roster and, with the Feb. 8 trade deadline just over a month away (yes, it’s earlier this season), you begin to wonder what the Knicks might have in mind with this position.

4. Michael Beasley led the Knicks with 18 points. He has picked up where he left off in December, when he emerged as an important part of Hornacek’s rotation.

Beasley averaged 15.4 points per game in December, which was second only to Porzingis (22.2) on the team and his 5.4 rebounds were third on the team behind Kanter and Porzingis.

So while there are other holes to fill and a much-needed return of Tim Hardaway Jr., perhaps the Knicks found a very valuable piece — scoring off the bench — in Beasley during this past month. He seems comfortable with the role and is flourishing with the consistent minutes.

In the latest edition of the Knicks Fix, Alan Hahn takes a closer look at Michael Beasley's strong month of December and how Jeff Hornacek is allocating Beasley's minutes off the bench.

There’s still more than half of a season left. If he can keep up this pace and the Knicks contend for a playoff spot, could he put himself into the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year?

5. With this win, Gregg Popovich is now in sole possession of fifth on the NBA all-time wins list with 1,176. He is now 34 wins behind Pat Riley for fourth. As far as winning percentage goes, Pop’s .694 over 22 seasons is second all-time behind Phil Jackson among coaches with at least 1,000 games experience.

If you remove Pop’s first season — he went 17-47 after replacing Bob Hill in 1996-97 — his winning percentage over the last 21 seasons is .710.

But obviously without that 17-47 finish, there may be no Pop and there may be no Spurs. That finish led to winning the lottery in 1997, which turned into Tim Duncan.

Two years later, Pop and the Spurs were at The Garden celebrating the first of five NBA titles.

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