A Good Loss — Nov 20, 2019: Philadelphia 109 NY 104

It was ‘a good loss’. No loss is ever a good loss, some argue. But if there is such a thing, this was it. In Philly, against a strong Philly team that is expected to make a run at a title this year.

The 76’ers had just blown out Cleveland, like the Knicks just did. The Knicks played neck-and-neck with Philly all night. Philly down the stretch asserted control and won by ‘this much’ — as much due to a referee non-call and a few missed Knick jumpers as anything else.

The two teams look even in talent and coaching.

Say again?

The two teams look even in talent and coaching.

The ‘Non Call’

The missed call was arguable. It wasn’t really a foul, but it looked like a foul — and often that is enough. Although it probably would have been challenged. Marcus Morris picked up a loose ball after Julius Randle knocked the ball away from Joel Embiid and raced down the court with the Knicks down by 1 point and just over a minute left. He had RJ Barrett on his right, who ran out to the 3-pt line to spread the floor on the break as he was supposed to do, and Frank Ntilikina doing the same thing on the left, with Mitchell Robinson trailing, like he was supposed to do. But Philly had 3 back — 2 guarding the passing lanes to the corner guards, and one on Morris — like they were supposed to do. Morris took it to the basket, missed, and both he and his defender Tobias Harris tumbled to the floor. No call. Philly’s Ben Simmons grabbed the loose ball, quarterbacked the ball the other way and Mike Scott hit an open 3. Ballgame. Philly with the 4-pt lead with a minute left.

Knicks Twitter was screaming at Morris for playing hero ball not only on that play but the whole 4th quarter. I didn’t see that — and on replaying the 4th quarter — it wasn’t there. Morris hit some big shots, and missed some shots; and made some great passes (two alley oops to Mitchell Robinson for slams on back-to-back possessions around the 3-minute mark).

Julius Randle, Frank Ntilikina, and RJ Barrett also missed jumpers down the stretch that could’ve changed the game. But they also all played well, and hit big shots and played great defense.

Mike Scott in particular killed the Knicks down the stretch with big jumpers.

The game was ‘that close’ — in Philly. A good loss.

Blitzkrieg

The Knicks played Philly even thoughout the 1st half and were down 2 entering the 3rd quarter, when they ‘turned it on’. First RJ Barrett started attacking the rim. Then Frank Ntilikina joined in with aggression. Then Marcus Morris and Julius Randle joined in and the Knicks had a blitzkrieg going — 15 straight points to start the 3rd quarter; the Knicks took a 17-point lead with 4 minutes left in the 3rd.

But Philly ended the quarter with a rush to get back in the game, 79-74. Some of it happened with Frank Ntilikina out of the game — he was rested with 1:29 left in the quarter and the Knicks leading 79-66, after throwing a pass away out of bounds while near the sidelines. He looked gassed, and after the game said he was indeed gassed at that point.

By the time he reentered the game with 8:42 left in the 4th, Philly was leading, 83-82.

The Players

  • Frank Ntilikina was standout again — importantly, hitting his jumper on offense — both floaters and 18-footers and 3 pointers. He played with moxie and confidence on the offensive end. And — he lit up the boxscore — 17 pts on 6-8 shooting (2-4 from 3). Oddly, he had 0 assists! But he was controlling the offense, distributing the ball, and putting pressure on the D.
  • RJ Barrett played well but finished with only 8 points on 4-12.
  • Marcus Morris (22 pts on 8-21, 4-7 from 3, 13 rebounds, 6 assists) and Julius Randle (17 pts on 5-13, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and excellent defense on Joel Embiid) played well.
  • Taj Gibson was terrific, although he got into early foul trouble having to guard Joel Embiid. He was back in during the 3rd and 4th and finished with 11 pts on 5-6 in 14 minutes.
  • Bobby Portis was part of the strong team play as well — 7 pts on 3-6 in 24 minutes. He got his turns guarding Embiid.
  • Dennis Smith Jr played well — started the game hot, hitting his shot, and finished with 13 pts on 5-9 in 15 minutes.
  • Damyean Dotson had a poor shooting game (2 pts on 1-6). Wayne Ellington and Allonzo Trier were wedded to the bench.
  • Kevin Knox played 10 minutes, and took one shot (a pretty high-arcing 3 — his signature shot) which he made for 3 pts.

For Philly

This used to be JJ Reddick’s team — he was always so tough coming off screens and hitting his jumper. Made Philly so hard to beat, with Ben Simmons orchestrating and Joel Embiid inside and Tobias Harris another sharpshooter to contend with. But Reddick is 35 years old so Philly replaced him with youth —  26-yr-old Josh Richardson from Atlanta who is injured and did not play in this game. Instead late-1st-round pick Furkan Korkmaz started at shooting guard. 31-yr-old Mike Scott did the damage off the bench, however, as did James Ennis III (11 pts).

The Boxscore

https://www.espn.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=401160844

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