If this was some sort of “payback” motivated by a blowout loss on Thanksgiving eve, the Knicks-Celtics rivalry is officially dormant.
Kyrie Irving tried to make it something. He claimed he’s been “thinking about them since we lost” in that embarrassing home defeat on Thanksgiving eve which dropped Boston to 10-10.
Hey, with salary cap space to use this summer, it’s good to know Kyrie is thinking about the Knicks.
But while this game did always feel like it was on the verge of breaking open several times, there wasn’t much emotion at all in a game that Kyrie tried to build up as some kind of revenge. There certainly wasn’t any rivalry aspect felt.
This game was like a practice scrimmage between a Varsity and JV team. Talent won out once the talent made an effort.
Sure, the final margin suggests a blowout, but consider that with 3:10 left in the third quarter, Enes Kanter had a chance to bring the Knicks to within 5 with a floater in the lane. That shot missed and Kyrie then raced up the floor and drilled a three in six seconds flat — see what I did there? — to make it a 10-point game.
That would be the last real push the Knicks (8-18) would make as Irving and Al Horford, Boston’s two all-stars, combined to finally put away a Knicks team that gave up 53% shooting and a defense that put one of the lowest free throw shooting teams on the line for 20 attempts.
Kyrie and his celebrated Caesar cut (22 points, 8 assists) along with Horford’s dynamic all-around play (19 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists) got this work done. And Boston’s bench is pretty good, especially with Jaylen Brown (21 points in 25 minutes) there. Gordon Hayward (8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) made a small impact. Jayson Tatum had a quiet 17. Marcus Morris missed all 7 of his three-point attempts.
Nothing about Boston has been all that impressive this year like it was last season.
And if David Fizdale said the Knicks defense was “Swiss cheese,” Boston’s defense against the Knicks was Muenster (soft). It wasn’t until Horford (4 blocks) turned it up a notch late in the first half that the Knicks were met with much resistance. For the Knicks, it was more about sloppy play and some bad possessions, but they still had 58 points at the half and 84 points after three quarters.
Kanter had his usual double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Tim Hardaway Jr. had 22 points with 6 of 13 from three-point range. But both struggled at the defensive end and Brad Stevens made it a habit to find both and attack them. Noah Vonleh (12 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) was impressive.
But off the bench, the Knicks looked exactly like what they are: young.
The three rookies:
Kevin Knox had 11 points, but was 4 of 12 from the field and was caught ball-watching on some defensive rotations.
Mitchell Robinson had 7 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks, but while he caught another highlight-worthy alley-oop, he also continues to have issues with fouls and, at times, catching the basketball.
Allonzo Trier started out strong, but faded as he continued to run the backup point guard spot.
And second year guard Daymean Dotson (2 for 11, 0 for 6 from three) went cold for the first time since he returned to the rotation.
Dotson’s struggles and the Knicks poor defense naturally leads to the question: Why didn’t fellow sophomore Frank Ntilikina (third straight DNP-CD) play?
“Probably should have,” Fizdale admitted.
So, the Knicks at least took a split on the “other” Garden floor this season and won’t be in Boston again until next season. Wonder if there will be some juice back in the rivalry by then?
– Ntilikina wasn’t in the mood to talk after practice on Wednesday when reporters asked him about his recent run of DNPs. He kept his answers short and then left. With Courtney Lee back and Dotson’s recent resurgence (before Thursday’s game in Boston), Ntilikina has fallen out of the rotation and it sounds like Fizdale is trying to be consistent with his standard that players have to earn their minutes, no matter who they are. The coach did, again, insist that the former lottery pick is not in any doghouse or no longer in the plans. “It’s not like he’s out,” Fizdale said. “It’s going to be a long season. Frank will get his opportunity.”
– On the TNT broadcast, Allie LaForce and Grant Hill discussed the lack of information about Kristaps Porzingis‘ return this season. LaForce said the Knicks are “tight-lipped” about a return date and Hill considered that to be cause for concern. He then went on to say that he would probably want to take the entire season off. Hill referenced his experience with his career-turning ankle injury after he signed with the Magic, which led to him missing extensive time for two seasons before he sat out the entire 2003-04 season. What Hill went through was scary, as he developed an infection from the last surgery to repair the ankle. Porzingis suffered a torn ACL on Feb. 6, and the 10-month anniversary of the surgery to repair the knee is next Friday. When the surgery was announced, the initial timeframe announced was 10 months.
– At the shoot-around, Fizdale referenced Porzingis when he talked about the direction of the team and changing perception of the franchise around the NBA, which will be critical in attracting free agents next summer. He told reporters that team president Steve Mills, general manager Scott Perry, Garden chairman James Dolan and the staff have worked to “change the perception of how we operate and treat each other and what’s important.” Fizdale went on to tell reporters at the shoot-around, “That’s the first step in getting people to come to New York. When they see we have a really tight ship, really take care of our guys, our guys get better and get a lot of attention. Hopefully all those things, with the combination and understanding we have Kristaps Porzingis there, too — this team isn’t necessarily what our record is when you put him in the mix — we have something free agents will like.”
[Coverage Of Knicks-Nets Gets Under Way Saturday At 7 PM on MSG & MSG GO.]