A Jumpshot Away — Dec 23, 2019: Washington 121 NY 115

It came down again to a jumpshot — missed. This time Elfrid Payton, a straight-away 3 with 13.6 seconds left and the Knicks down 118-115. And that was ballgame. The bitter end to a frenetic Knick comeback — they were down by 17 points with 4:40 left. In a game where they were up by 13 points early in the 1st half, against an 8-20 Washington team that could only suit 8 players due to injuries, at Madison Square Garden. Prompting some on twitter to ask, “if the Knicks can’t win this game, what game can they win?”

But there it was another loss.

The Wizards brought up a guy from the G League — not just any guy actually but Gary Payton‘s son — Gary Payton II — who went nuts on the Knicks — 10 pts (on 4-8, 1-1 from 3), 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 steals and a +13. And they asked Bradley Beal to shoot shoot shoot — and he did — 13-38 (2-11 from 3) for 30 pts. And Ish Smith was “spinning and winning” said Walt Frazier. Clyde said Smith was his favorite player, “Ishing and Swishing”. Ish had 17 points on 8-14 shooting. And 6’6″ shooting guard Tony Brown Jr came off the bench for 26 points on 9-15 shooting.

The Knicks had two injuries — and they were significant: Marcus Morris missed the game, as did Taj Gibson. Kevin Knox was promoted to the starting small forward position in place of Morris, and did not fill his shoes. Knox was 2-8 (1-4 from 3) for 8 pts and a -16.

And the bench was hurt by not having Knox there. As Wally Szczerbiak noted on the postgame, the Knicks bench was outplayed in this game — the main reason for the loss. Primarily the front court of the bench didn’t put up much — in fact with Gibson and Morris out, and Knox in the starting lineup — the only forward coming off the bench was Bobby Portis (4-10 for 8 pts).

Significant Development: Trier Plays 20 Minutes

Allonzo Trier got significant playing time (20 minutes) which was a significant development. Trier was 5-7 (1-3 from 3) for 11 points (although a -10). Frank Ntilikina played 11 minutes (2-4 for 5 pts) helping to slow down Beal in the 2nd half. Coach Mike Miller said afterwards he put in Ntilikina to guard Beal because he does a good job defending guards like Beal well. It is a large statement for such a small statement, and you can decipher a lot from it. It seems Miller sees Ntilikina as a weapon he can use off the bench, to guard certain high scoring guards.

Elfrid Payton started at point and was 2-8 (1-2 from 3 including that final missed 3) for 5 pts, 12 assists, and 7 rebounds.

Other Highlights

Other good news for the Knicks:

  • Julius Randle had a terrific game offensively: 36 points on 11-21 (4-8 from 3, 9-9 from the free throw line).
  • RJ Barrett put up good numbers too: 8-15 (2-4 from 3) for 18 pts, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal.
  • Mitchell Robinson had 13 rebounds and 6 blocks in 23 minutes (5 fouls) and scored 6 pts (on 3-6 shooting).
  • Damyean Dotson did well off the bench: 7-13 (5-10 from 3) for 19 points.

Another Reason for the Loss

After the game, three (3) Knicks — including Julius Randle — noted the Knicks were complacent during the warmup shootaround, and didn’t bring enough urgency into the game starting from there. Could the Knicks possibly have been not taking Washington seriously after blowing out Atlanta last week? After jumping out to the 13 point lead, the Knicks seemed to relax vs bringing tenacity.


The Knicks entered the game 7-23 after 30 games.

  • Only 2 years ago in 2017-18 the Knicks were 16-14.
  • Only 3 years ago in 2016-17 the Knicks were 16-13 going into a Christmas game vs Boston.

It seems like those seasons are decades ago or that they never happened. Then came the record number of last-second loses in January and the 2nd-half collapse, both years. Prediction: this year: the opposite will happen.

The Boxscore


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