5 Thoughts on the Game:
1. Bill Pidto tossed his pen before he even got through his introduction to the postgame show. He was furious. As Wally Szczerbiak and I tried to offer more level-headed perspective on a maddening game and it’s bizarre ending, Pidto was already telling us that Twitter was on his side.
But before we get to the opinion, let’s deal with the facts of what happened at the end of this most frustrating loss of the season. The facts as the NBA saw them in the L2M (Last Two Minutes) report from the game, which was posted on the NBA.com/Official site here.
With the Knicks trailing by three (102-99), the league agreed that Kristaps Porzingis should have been called for a foul on the rebound of Tyreke Evans’ miss. Porzingis grabs the arm of Jarell Martin which, the league says affected his ability to retrieve the rebound.
OK, so the Grizzlies get the ball back with 25 seconds left with a sideline out-of-bounds play, which follows a timeout. However, the league says that JaMychal Green did not inbound the ball in time and should have been called for a five-second violation.
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So it should have been Knicks ball, down three with 25 seconds left.
Instead, the ball got to Evans, who was under pressure by Courtney Lee. It resulted in a loose ball situation and Tim Hardaway Jr. could not pick it up. He and Evans wrestled for it and a jump ball was called. The league said in the L2M that Lee should have been called for a foul, but was not.
So now we’re even in the calls that worked against each team on this play.
But you could argue if the 5-second violation is called, there is no Lee foul and, more importantly, there is no jump ball. This matters most because here’s where Lee was called for a critical, essentially game-ending technical foul. The league’s only comment about the tech was that all technical fouls are reviewed by League Operations.
So the biggest issue the Knicks can have is with the missed 5-second violation, which would have given them the ball down three with 25 seconds left. Basically, they could have had the final possession to get off a game-tying shot to force overtime.
2. Jeff Hornacek didn’t want to hear about any of this. He wasn’t focused on the last two minutes as much as he was the first three quarters. In fact, you could see the look of displeasure on his face early in the game.
“It was from the start,” Hornacek said. “We talked about setting a tone and we came out there and were happy with not closing out on guys and giving guys easy shots . . . We let them get going early with no defense and then down 18 we now all of a sudden want to play defense. That’s how it should have been from the start of the game.”
Memphis scored 32 points in the first quarter and had 61 at the half on 57% shooting. Things were close early in the second quarter, but the Knicks were outscored 21-10 over the bulk of the rest of the half and trailed by 8. That’s when Walt “Clyde” Frazier, who played hurt (scratched cornea) after an errant pass drilled his headset at the broadcast table, spoke the words of a former player who didn’t like the body language he saw.
“You’ve got to talk about their character,” Clyde said of the team. “Where is this team going?”
An uninspired performance against an undermanned team when you’re desperate for wins and some positive momentum on a long road trip is a very bad look.
So where is this team going? And who is leading it?
3. Pidto was mad, like most of you were, with the officiating and, namely, Derrick Stafford, who was the crew chief. Stafford did talk to a pool reporter — that’s one member of the media who volunteers to go interview the referee and share the quotes with his colleagues — about the technical foul he called on Lee just before the jump ball.
“As we were lining up to do a jump ball, Courtney Lee came up to the lane and bumped the kid named Dillon [Brooks] from Memphis,” Stafford said. “After Dillon was bumped, I stepped out of the circle and warned both guys to knock it off and let me toss the ball. After I stepped back into the circle, Courtney Lee used what I considered inappropriate language toward the young man, so I called a technical foul.”
With just 17.8 seconds remaining in the Knicks-Grizzlies game, MSG Network's Mike Breen reacts to the technical foul called on Courtney Lee.
Here’s where all of us who have followed the NBA for decades will agree it takes the most magical of magic words to earn a tech in that situation. Lee must have gone deep into the archives of profanity to earn the solo tech, rather than the more common double-tech.
But Courtney insisted all he did was tell Brooks not to mess with him. “You got the wrong one, rook,” Lee said to Brooks.
Lee then said that Brooks told him he had no idea who he was. Credit to Lee for revealing that kind of self-deprecating honesty.
“I said, ‘You know who I am’,” Lee added, “and I got the tech.”
If you believe Lee’s account, Stafford overreacted. But as Hornacek pointed out, the Knicks still lost the tip, so it really all was a moot point. All it does is add more fuel to the fire when it comes to curiously intolerant behavior by the officials towards players this season. This has been brewing since November. But that’s another story.
In this situation, it turned into a heated debate around the Knicks. Some felt they played too poorly to deserve any breaks. Others felt the bad calls took away a chance to steal a critical road win despite the bad night.
After all of it, there’s one collective emotion: this game didn’t sit well with anyone.
4. Enes Kanter had another one of those games where he put up big numbers but didn’t factor in the latter stages of the game. He had 20 points and 9 rebounds in just 27 minutes, with most of the damage coming in the first quarter (14 points, 5 rebounds in 12 minutes). He did not play at all in the fourth quarter.
Kanter has been outspoken about his lack of use in the fourth quarter, but in a recent sit-down with ESPN, he remains steadfast in his desire to remain a Knick.
“I want to retire here,” he said in the interview. “This is the place I want to be.”
Kanter has an opt-out this summer and if he exercised it he would walk away from the final year and $18.6 million to go into free agency. But it could also lead to him walking away from the place he wants to be: New York.
As the main piece in the Carmelo Anthony trade with the Thunder, Kanter has been a revelation this season with the Knicks. He’s one of the game’s best rebounders, has brought a sense of toughness and pride to the Garden and has shown an ability to score against anyone in the painted area. His limitations, however, surround his struggles in pick-and-roll defense and closing out on perimeter shooters and in passing. The Knicks have a major logjam at the center position and there’s already great interest in Kyle O’Quinn, who also has an opt-out and stands to earn a huge raise as a free agent.
So here’s the question with the Feb. 8 trade deadline approaching: what kind of value does Kanter have on the trade market?
One thing to consider: Kanter has a $2.6 million trade kicker this season, which could deter teams from making a move.
5. Porzingis wasn’t voted a starter for the All-Star Game. The results were announced on Thursday and KP was edged out by Joel Embiid of the 76ers for the third and final spot among the East forwards. KP trailed Embiid from the start of the fan voting and was beaten by almost 170,000 votes. It’s worth noting that KP’s 1,116,769 votes represented the fifth-most of any player in the East. The media vote also went to Embiid by a landslide, with Embiid getting 66 votes and KP earning just 14.
However, the player vote had Porzingis in the starting lineup with LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The players gave KP 100 votes, while Embiid received 94.
The fans accounted for 50% of the final vote, while players and media were 25% each.
Porzingis can still wind up in Los Angeles on Feb. 18 for the game as a reserve player, which will be voted by head coaches. That will be announced on Jan. 25.
This season the All-Star format has changed. The two top vote-getters in each conference, LeBron, and Steph Curry, were named captains and they will pick their teams out of the pool of players selected for the game. The first four selections they make must come from those who were voted starters.
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