Just 12 seconds into the game, Rudy Gobert scored on a dunk. By the end of the first 12 minutes of the game, the Jazz had 8 dunks.
“They came out with force,” David Fizdale said of the Jazz, “and we came out dead.”
The only sign of life was in the locker room at halftime when assistant coaches Keith Smart and Kaleb Canales ripped into the team for the obvious lack of effort on defense.
“They went off on them pretty good,” Fizdale said.
You can’t get angry over a lack of talent and the Knicks almost every night deal with a talent and experience deficiency. But what can not be tolerated is when a team doesn’t come out ready to compete. Fizdale saw it out of his backcourt, whether it was starters Emmanuel Mudiay and Tim Hardaway or reserves Frank Ntilikina and Allonzo Trier. The problems on defense started with their collective failure to keep the ball-handler in front of them, which led to the bigs being forced to help, which led to Jazz bigs — especially Gobert — feasting on easy dunks and lay-ups.
“It was the guards,” Hardaway Jr. said. “Including myself. Whoever was in pick-and-roll, they got downhill. It was easy for Rudy. All he had to do was roll. We put our bigs in tough situations tonight, which can’t happen and it led to us being down so big in the first quarter and in the first half.”
The Knicks gave up 39 points in the first quarter and were down by as many as 40 points late in the second. The deficit was whittled down to 22 in the third, but it then ballooned back to as high as 46 in the second half. By the end of the game, Utah scored 70 of their 129 points in the paint.
There was a time in Knicks history when Willis Reed would level the next opponent who drove into the paint, take the foul and then tell the guard who was beaten off the dribble that he’s next if it happens again. General manager Scott Perry — who once helped Joe Dumars find the likes of Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace to provide the backbone of a rugged defense in Detroit — needs to find more like-minded players in order to correct the current Knicks’ issues on defense.
Hardaway Jr. returned after missing a game with an illness that has kept him from eating over the last few days. That could explain how lethargic he looked at times. He said he “just wanted to be out there, get my feet wet” which is hardly words that suggest he was ready to go to battle with a Jazz team that was coming off a frustrating home loss to the 76ers.
Courtney Lee, who started for Hardaway Jr. in Milwaukee, did not play against the Jazz.
Mudiay appeared to hurt his ankle during the game and Fizdale later called it a mild sprain. Trier (1 for 8) looks like he’s trying to get his legs back after missing two weeks with that hamstring injury. Ntilikina (1 for 7) had one early highlight — a dunk on fellow Frenchman Rudy Gobert — but then missed a lot of shots and was beaten badly off the dribble on defense by the likes of Dante Exum and Raul Neto.
Here’s an insane stat: The Knicks trailed by 30-40 points for most of the game and Ntilikina was a -36 in 16:29. Noah Vonleh played 23:55 and was +11.
How? Well, Vonleh played just 4:56 of the first half due to foul trouble, so the bulk of his minutes came when the Knicks outscored the Jazz 63-58 in the second half. Ntilikina, however, split his minutes almost equally in each half and he was curiously pulled with 7:36 left in the game. Fizdale opted to put Trey Burke — who had yet to play — into the game at that point, with the Knicks down 113-69.
Burke ended up scoring 12 points in his 7:36.
The Knicks (9-28) have now lost 7 straight games and 11 of their last 12. The Cavs (8-29) lost to the Hawks, so the Knicks remain only one game better than Cleveland for the worst record in the NBA as we near the midway point of the regular season.
– Luke Kornet started again at center and was the victim of the porous perimeter defense early on, as Gobert scored at will. On offense, Kornet started off quiet with just one three in the first three quarters, but he finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists after he hit a late flurry of threes in the fourth quarter.
– Enes Kanter once again came off the bench and might have had his worst game as a Knick. He was scoreless in 17:12 and missed 6 field goal attempts, several were around the basket. His defense was also troublesome. He told reporters on Friday that he will be fine with another demotion to the bench if it leads to wins. “But if we’re losing,” he added, “it’s a problem.” What Kanter might not want to hear is his playing time may decrease even more once Mitchell Robinson (ankle) returns to the lineup, which could come at some point on this road trip.
– Speaking of Kanter, despite his issues with how Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham pushed him away from Giannis Antetokounmpo during their incident in Wednesday’s game, the NBA will not hand down any residual punishment. Kanter was assessed two technical fouls, which resulted in an ejection. Brian Forte, who was the referee crew chief for that game, told a pool reporter that Kanter’s first tech was part of the double-technicals assessed to him and Antetokounmpo. The other tech was given after the referees went to video review and saw “an unsportsmanlike act,” according to Forte.
– Kevin Knox had a slow start (especially on defense) but took advantage of extensive garbage time to get to 12 points, with 3 of 4 from three-point range. The issue is over the last two games he’s made just 8 of 27 from the field (29.6%). Knox had a 7 game span where he averaged 20.3 points and hit 43% from the field and 42.9% from three. But in the three games since he’s averaging 15 points on 34% shooting and made just 5 of 15 from downtown.