“Chippy” Game; Elfrid Payton Outduels Morant? — Jan 29, 2020: Memphis 127 NY 106

It was a “chippy” loss. You could see the game was getting chippy near the end, when Knicks bigs Julius Randle and Marcus Morris started trapping Ja Morant just over midcourt to prevent him from his showboating — the Knicks down about 13 with a minute or so left. Morant passed out of the trap resulting in a slam in the lane by Jonas Valanciunas with Memphis celebrating on the sidelines, and next time down Morant’s pass out of the same trap resulted in an open 3 by Dillon Brooks. The Knicks inbounded now down 19 with 53 seconds left, and Jae Crowder stole the inbound from Elfrid Payton, stepped back and hit a 3.

Elfrid took exception to the unsportsmanlike, overzealous play with 50 seconds left and a 19-pt lead, and shoved Crowder on the sidelines as a fight ensued. Payton got hit with a flagrant 2, and may be facing a 2-game suspension.

After the game, it was reported that the Memphis Grizzlies had no hot water in their showers, leading some to speculate that James Dolan had ordered their hot water turned off.

Elfrid Put on a Point Guard Clinic

All that after Elfrid Payton had put on a clinic of what a good point guard in the NBA does — penetrating, orchestrating, defending, and scoring when he was best option — all night — playing Ja Morant at least even — if not actually outplaying Morant.

  • Payton finished with 7-14 shooting for 15 pts, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 11 assists.
  • Morant finished with 7-13 shooting for 18 pts, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 10 assists.

Yet Morant had this incredible +48 by his numbers, to Payton’s -19.

Morant Helped by His SHOOTERS

Most of that was due to Dillon Brooks — who hits jumper after jumper in the lane, and Brandon Clarke — who does the same thing. Brooks — the 6’7 24-yr-old shooting guard had 27 points on 9-17 shooting, and Clarke — the 6’8 24-yr-old small forward had 17 pts on 7-10. They feast as teams try to defend Morant.

After the game, coach Mike Miller said that they knew that coming in — Memphis leads the league in points in the paint, and it’s not the traditional points by bigs — it’s their shooters.

Brooks was a 2nd round pick out of Oregon — he was an Oregon Duck and was Pac 12 Conference Player of the Year in 2017; Clarke was a late 1st round pick out of Gonzaga, where he scored 36 points and 5 blocks in an NCAA playoff game.

Memphis is now 11-2 in their last 13 so it’s not just the Knicks who have been downed by the combination of Ja Morant and Memphis’s young athletic shooters.

But this was another game where the Knicks just could not keep up with the other team’s shooters. Julius Randle played well (5-14 overall for 16 pts, 14 rebounds, 6 assists) but could not make his 3’s (0-4 from 3). Marcus Morris‘ shooting was off too — 5-17 (3-9 from 3) for 17 points. Reggie Bullock was 0-2 from 3 (4-9 overall for 9 pts). The Knicks miss RJ Barrett.

Coach Miller Trolls Ntilikina Hive

Frank Ntilikina didn’t play again — Dennis Smith Jr was the backup point guard. He played ok, but there was a noticeable fall in overall Knicks play when Elfrid Payton left the court. After the game coach Mike Miller said Ntilikina was definitely part of the game plan, but docs told him he was unavailable to play just before the game because Ntilikina could not fully flex his groin. And so the big mystery as to why Ntilikina didn’t play until the last 3 minutes of the previous game and at all in this game was revealed — Miller had been trolling Ntilikina hive on Twitter by not revealing it in the previous post game interview.

Knicks Better Bigs

NY had no problem inside — outplaying Memphis’s bigs. Mitchell Robinson played well — 10 pts on 4-6 shooting, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, and 4 blocks — he thunderously blocked Jaren Jackson Jr on one play inside.

The Knicks contained Memphis’s bigs — Jonas Valanciunas (4-12, 12 pts)  and Jaren Jackson Jr (4-12, 10 pts) did not hurt NY.

Kevin Knox played ok when he was out there; made a bad mistake for a turnover but made up for it on the next play with an aggressive drive in traffic for a score. He finished with 22 minutes, 8 points on 3-7 and a +2. Bobby Portis only played 14 minutes — probably for defensive reasons as he was ineffective early. Damyean Dotson shot well — 15 points on 5-8 (4-5 from 3). He helped keep the Knicks in it, but they just didn’t have enough pure shooting fire power to keep up with Memphis. Not by a lot — the game was closer than the final score; but enough.

The Boxscore


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