5 thoughts on the win:
1. It seems as if the Nets have shown up when the Knicks needed them most this season. It began with the first win of the season back on Oct. 27, as the Knicks were reeling with an 0-3 start. They trounced Brooklyn by 21 at The Garden and went on to win six of the next seven. Back in December, the Nets showed up on the schedule after an exhausting overtime win over the Lakers and just before the emotional return of Carmelo Anthony to The Garden.
The Knicks got another win, by 7, and did it without Kristaps Porzingis, who injured his knee in the first half. But what emerged that game — and against Melo and the Thunder — was the unknown commodity that has become Michael Beasley. That was part of a four-game winning streak and five wins in a six-game span that was the zenith, to date, at 17-14.
[Watch Knicks-Grizzlies Wednesday on MSG & MSG GO]
Here we are in January and the Nets were, again, exactly what the Knicks needed in the midst of 10 losses — several heartbreaking — over a 12-game span and facing a two-week road trip out West.
And like a good neighbor, Brooklyn was there.
“It’s almost like playing at home,” Porzingis said of Barclays Center, where a bi-partisan crowd created a fun atmosphere.
One day, perhaps, this will be a true rivalry, with both teams battling for more tangible matters than mere bragging rights or pride. Perhaps for the Atlantic Division or a playoff series or – could you imagine? – supremacy in the East.
For now, we’ll just see if the Knicks will need the Nets again in the final meeting of the season on Jan. 30. That is the next time the Knicks will see the inside of Madison Square Garden after this Grammys road trip.
2. I don’t know who was anticipating this moment more: me or Trey Burke. I’ve only been talking about him practically since he started the season in Westchester and started torching the G-League with his dribble penetration and ability to score both inside and out. The Knicks finally signed him on Sunday and on Monday, he made his debut.
Burke entered the game with 8:37 left in the second quarter and the Knicks up 33-31. He checked in for Frank Ntilikina, who did not have a great first shift. In fact, it looked a lot like his last three games. So Jeff Hornacek figured this would be the right time to give Burke a look … and maybe let Ntilikina see that playing time is not something that is a birthright to a first round pick.
Burke had an immediate impact on the court with his ability to handle the basketball, use the pick-and-roll to get dribble penetration and create movement for open shots. Within minutes, the Knicks had a 10-point lead and they were suddenly playing faster.
“Guys caught on pretty quickly,” Hornacek said. “If I just move to an open space, I can get an open shot. That’s something other guys don’t normally do.”
By “other guys,” Hornacek meant Jarrett Jack and Ntilikina, who do not use the pick-and-roll nearly as aggressive. That’s why Burke is here, to add a dynamic to the team that is lacking.
“That’s what the team needs from me: penetration, be aggressive, stay in attack mode and energy on defense,” Burke said.
Burke played just 8:15 and finished with five points and two assists and was +5. He also looked, from a distance, like Allen Iverson. Didn’t he?
3. Burke isn’t here to sit on the bench, so you have to figure the more he shows in his opportunities on the court, the more minutes he will expect to get. That means someone else is going to lose minutes. When Burke came in for Ntilikina in the second quarter, was it a wake-up call for the rookie?
Before we get into how the French Prince responded, let me first get you to consider this scenario: what would you say to the idea of sending Ntilikina to the G-League for a little while to learn how to be a lead guard? Would it be beneficial for the 19-year-old to play without the pressure and intensity of the NBA level so he can work on his handle and acceleration and also his mindset as a scorer? Or is that a bad look for a team to send the player it selected 8th overall in the draft to the G-League?
Before he returned to the game late in the second quarter, the aforementioned idea didn’t seem crazy. But after he checked back in, Ntilikina teased us again with his potential.
He finished three rebounds shy of a triple-double and filled the box score with excellent all-around play: 10 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal and just 2 turnovers in 29 minutes. The kid wagged his tongue after drilling a big three-pointer (who knew he had that kind of swagger) and he even tried to dunk on Jarrett Allen!
This after three games in which Ntilikina managed just one field goal in eight attempts and for most of his minutes was a non-factor on the court.
Was Burke a motivation tool for Ntilikina or was the timing just right?
Regardless of the answer, Hornacek still has to figure out what to do now at the point guard spot.
4. I swear Beasley seemed to be having another off game, much like he did Sunday afternoon against the Pelicans, and then the clock hit 5 p.m. on this Martin Luther King Day matinee and suddenly it was as if his body’s alarm clock went off.
J.R. Smith used to say he hated playing afternoon games. Perhaps Beasley is equally nocturnal. He went off for 16 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter and helped the Knicks put an uncomfortably close game away. Beasley’s 23 was part of a 70-point effort by the bench, which had four players in double-figures. That’s huge in the second game of a back-to-back.
Beasley after the game also revealed to reporters that he had to change his diet and put on, according to The Daily News, 30 pounds this season to adjust to playing the power forward position.
Raise your hand if you could gain 30 pounds faster than Beasley can score 16 in a quarter.
5. So Courtney Lee finally attempted a free throw and neither I nor Mike Breen jinxed him. He made it to tie the franchise record for consecutive free throws made at 44. It was set by Chris Duhon in 2009.
Lee’s free throw was his first in over a week and was the result of a technical foul called on D’Angelo Russell, who is injured and was not playing, but was sitting on the Nets bench.
This was a game laden with foul shots. The teams combined to shoot 73 of them, with 36 coming in the slowest third quarter in the history of basketball.
The Knicks went 26 for 37 from the line, which included a perfect 9 for 9 in the fourth quarter.
Lately, free throws have been an issue for this team, and we’re not just talking about their lack of attempts in some games. It’s the makes.
The Knicks have been one of the NBA’s top free throw shooting teams all season. Last week they ranked fifth in the league at 80.1% from the line. But over the last four games, they’ve made just 69.4% (59 for 85) and left seven critical points at the foul line in the double-overtime loss to the Bulls on last Wednesday.
Every detail is magnified when you’re losing games.
[Watch Knicks-Grizzlies Wednesday on MSG & MSG GO]