Another Day; Another Loss; 5 Reasons Why — Nov 29, 2019: Phil 101 NY 95

It was another day, another loss for the Knicks. They played well; were in the game til the final seconds; but Philly prevailed. At Madison Square Garden — Friday night Knicks.

NY is now 4-15. All the good play without winning is wearing on the fan base and the franchise. And the Knicks are still in a rough stretch of their schedule, playing red-hot teams the next 4 games — Boston (13-5),  at Milwaukee (16-3), Denver (13-3), and Indiana (12-6), before going on a 4-game West coast trip.

Reasons Why #1 — Free Throws

Free throws were at the heart of this loss — the Knicks were 19-33 from the free throw line, while the 76ers were 32-40. Knicks Twitter lambasted the Knicks team for not being able to hit their free throws. But a closer look reveals it wasn’t a team deficiency — it was really the fault of Mitchell Robinson (1-6 from the free throw line), Dennis Smith Jr (1-3), Bobby Portis (0-2), and Julius Randle (9-13). Everybody else hit their free throws — Marcus Morris was 5-6, RJ Barrett was 1-1, and Damyean Dotson was 2-2. Nobody else took any free throws. And can you really fault Randle for shooting 9-13? Portis for going 0-2? Smith Jr for going 1-3?

So it was really all Mitchell Robinson‘s fault. But he played well. And he’s been hitting his free throws this season at an over 70% clip; much improved. So what can you say?

Reasons Why #2 — A Ref Call

There was a bad referee call (Furkan Korkmaz threw his legs out and drew a foul on a missed 3-pointer, which caused a 3-pt turnaround) that was almost as much to blame as Robinson’s 5 missed free throws.

Reasons Why #3 — Joel Embiid

Marcus Morris (20 pts on 6-12) and Julius Randle (22 pts on 6-13, 10 rebounds, 4 assists) played well. Mitchell Robinson played well despite a poor stat line (1-5 from the floor, 1-6 from the free throw line, 3 pts, 7 rebounds in 29 minutes). He and Randle and Bobby Portis took their turns guarding Joel Embiid. They played Embiid well; made him pick up 4 fouls, and miss a lot (7-19) but Embiid killed the Knicks on the free throw line (13-15) for 27 pts.

The game was 87-87 with 2:33 left when Embiid posted left side, turned, and shot under Mitchell Robinson’s arms, drawing contact and a foul, and hit the basket for a 3-point Philly lead. Robinson fouled out on the play. Robinson kept his arms straight up but Embiid suckered/veteran-played him, moving his arms into Robinson’s to draw the foul. It was a turning point, as Philly took and maintained that lead down the stretch.

Reasons Why #4 — Ellington’s Missed 3’s

Wayne Ellington went 0-3 from 3 including a UFO with 18 seconds left that could have got the Knicks to within 1 point. That hurt.

Reasons Why #5 — Couldn’t Close Out

The Knicks simply could not close out the game. Maybe it is an overall lack of team confidence. Part of it was the free throws. The bad referee call. Joel Embiid. The missed 3’s. Maybe the Knicks lack a closer. Randle and Morris can come up with big plays at the end. And RJ Barrett played really well down the stretch in this game, aggressively driving to the basket and making his buckets. None of his drives were rolling in and out like the previous games. He was 8-13 for 18 pts. When the Knicks fell behind by 4 in the final minute, Wayne Ellington was brought into the game replacing Barrett, to try and hit a 3 — that UFO mentioned above.

Frank Ntilikina played aggressively all game, including down the stretch. There was a penetration he passed up (in the lane with 2 defenders and a space in front of him but he stopped and passed the ball back out) but on his next opportunity he drove thru the lane for a layup. Ntilikina finished with 13 pts on 6-14 shooting and led the Knicks in field goal attempts (not counting free throws — Randle and Morris took more shots). Ntilikina also played good defense on Ben Simmons (5-11 for 15 pts).

So besides Ellington and Mitchell Robinson’s shooting, everyone played well. This game was filled with Knick highlight plays — including this slam by Julius Randle over Tobias Harris and Norvel Pelle:

The Knicks just seemed to miss that last bit of oomph in the final minutes.

Allonzo Trier, who can hit the 3 and penetrate and score big buckets and get to the line and make his free throws, is wedded to the bench. So maybe it’s a matter of how they are using their weapons, vs how the guys on the court are playing.

Coaching

Meanwhile, in the afternoon — the Brooklyn Nets beat the Celtics. Brooklyn is without Kyrie Irving, Caris Levert, and of course Kevin Durant. They are winning with Iman Shumpert and 31-yr-old-with-no-more-vertical DeAndre Jordan as 2 of their 4 bench players in rotation, and Garrett Temple (on his 9th NBA team) in their starting 5. All are new to the team. Coaching is an important part of NBA success. Hard to say what the percentage is but it’s high. Sergio Capozzi (@sergiocap71) said it is “At least 60%.” I agree; I’ve always put the finger-in-the-air number at 65%.

Bryan Oringher (@ScoutWithBryan), who spent 7 years as an assistant video coach for several NBA teams, drew up the Knicks main offensive plays:

The Boxscore

https://www.espn.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=401160913

 

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