Here Come the Knicks — Dec 13, 2019: NY 103 Sacramento 101

And just like that, two wins in a row. And all the writeups by mainstream sports media on how the Knicks had an ill-configured roster, turn to dust. The Knicks have a coach now — in Mike Miller — who knows what he’s doing: tactically making the Knicks play optimally on offense and defense, making adjustments, using all his tools, at the right time.

The Knicks made adjustments to their defense late in the 2nd quarter and in the second half, cutting down Sacramento’s 3-point shooting, and used a ground attack to get back in the game — then launched some 3’s of their own to take the lead.

From this game, like the last game, it is appearing that:

  • The Knicks have a coach.
  • The Knicks have a point guard in Elfrid Payton.
  • The Knicks have closers in Marcus Morris, Julius Randle, and RJ Barrett.
  • The Knicks have an athletic big-man, who when used properly becomes a monster inside in Mitchell Robinson.
  • The Knicks have many other weapons to foist on a team, such as Taj Gibson with his heady, tough play, and Bobby Portis with his inside/outside play.
  • The Knicks have won 2 games in a row and there are still 56 games left in this season. All of January, February, and March await.

Payton and the D

Not enough can be said about the play of Elfrid Payton, on offense and defense. In the 1st half, Buddy Hield was killing the Knicks with his 3-point shooting, using screens to free up. Frank Ntilikina is not good at cutting through screens; he goes around them — and with guards like Hield that is not a good thing to do. Sacramento was hitting their 3’s and the Knicks on the other end were misfiring. When Buddy Hield hit a 3 with 3:32 left in the 2nd quarter, Sacramento had their biggest lead — 52-37; a 15-point lead and at that point they were 9-14 from 3 while the Knicks were 3-14 from 3.

Coach Miller put Elfrid Payton on Hield and there was a noticeable difference, noted by MSG analyst Wally Szczerbiak. Payton was cutting through the screen and sticking on Hield, getting in front of him, making him uncomfortable, using his feet to defend.

The Knicks got back into the game before the half with that improved D and a ground attack — layups and drives. At the half the Knicks were down 9 points, 54-45. They were 3-16 from 3 while Sacramento was 9-15 from 3 in that half.

Knicks Take Momentum

The Knicks sliced into the lead some more in the 3rd quarter, but Sacramento fought back. The Knicks shaved off a point in the 3rd and entered the 4th down 8 points. The momentum had shifted.

The Knicks outscored Sacramento 31-21 in the 4th, with the D and the ground attack, which opened up easy 3’s which started falling for them. Ballgame.

Using His Tools

Frank Ntilikina did not play as badly as his boxscore numbers, which were awful — 2 pts on 1-5 (0-3 from 3), 0 assists, and a by-far-team-worst -22. In fact his one bucket was an aggressive drive to the basket in the 1st quarter which looked hopeful. Still, with the Knicks up 5 and 9 seconds left, coach Miller brought Ntilikina into the game (replacing Barrett) to play alongside  Payton for defense. Ntilikina may not be good at getting through screens but he provides that spider D using his reach to defend and intercept passes. Miller was using his tools. Versus previous coach David Fizdale who often didn’t.


Julius Randle played like a star and lit up the boxscore — 26 points on 10-17 (3-8 from 3) 9 rebounds, 4 assists, played in control and hit clutch free throws down the stretch.

Damyean Dotson also played well — 11 points on 4-6 (3-5 from 3). It was a great team win.

Allonzo Trier was unavailable because of a concussion suffered in practice when he and Dennis Smith Jr banged heads.

The Boxscore

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