Knicks Coach Mike Miller = DEFENSE — Feb 1, 2020: NY 92 Indiana 85

DEFENSE has become the STAPLE of the Knicks. It is getting better and better every game since coach Mike Miller took over; not just Good defense anymore but GREAT defense. Last night, NY allowed high-scoring Indiana 11 points in the 1st quarter! 39 points in the 1st half. 14 points in the 4th quarter!

Some in the media (for example the Daily News) made fun of the Knicks free agent acquisitions during the summer — asking how Julius Randle and Bobby Portis could play defense on the same front line.

Well now we know — if you have a coach who installs a system of great team defense, the team will play great team defense.

Randle = DEFENSE (and OFFENSE)

Last night, Julius Randle was a big part of that defense. He was RELENTLESS — hitting the boards, grabbing loose balls, and helping to defend the high-scoring Indiana front line of the very wiley all-star Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and T.J. Warren. Taj Gibson had main responsibility of defending Sabonis, and did best he could; Mitchell Robinson also defended Sabonis off the bench.

On the offensive end, Randle was taking it to Sabonis all night, finally getting him into foul trouble in the 4th quarter, as he picked up his 4th and had to leave the game; came back in and got his 5th. Sabonis scored 25 pts on 10-15 shooting but was a -10. Randle was 5-14 for 16 points but had 18 rebounds and a +10.

Morris with BIG Buckets

And Marcus Morris — what can you say about Marcus Morris — he hit big shot after big shot for the Knicks in the 4th quarter as they took the game. He made one bad play, fouling Sabonis on a breakaway slam (where it looked on replay that Morris had not actually touched Sabonis until after the slam as the two were heading out of bounds together, but it “looked like” a foul) — for a 3-pt play and a 3-pt lead with less than a minute left — but made up for it on the very next play by hitting another clutch jumper to ice the game. Morris finished with 28 points on 10-21 and a +14. If he’s not playing at an All Star-caliber level, he’s close.

TEAM Defense

The Knicks with their stifling defense had a 17 point lead early in the game; Indiana whittled it back to an 11-pt deficit at the half. Indiana started hitting their 3’s in the 3rd quarter to come back and take the lead by a few points. But the Knicks withstood the barrage and got back to the stifling Defense in the 4th quarter to take the game.

The Knicks guarded the 3 well, and then guarded the paint well. The two go hand in hand together, said coach Mike Miller in the postgame. Everyone defended — at times you saw Randle on Victor Oladipo, stifling him on a drive. The Knicks relentlessly pursued Indiana’s high-scoring guards Oladipo, Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, Doug McDermott, and T.J. McConnell.

Smith Jr and Kadeem at the Point

With Elfrid Payton suspended for a game due to the fight at the end of the previous game, and Frank Ntilikina out with the injured groin, Dennis Smith Jr started and played well in the 1st quarter. After the game coach Mike Miller said Smith’s defense and orchestration in the 1st quarter were excellent. Kadeem Allen played a terrific backup point — 21 minutes and in fact played a lot of crunch time in the 4th when Smith was lifted after making a few mistakes.


The Other Guys

Damyean Dotson was on fire early, then missed a bunch of 3’s — finishing with 3-8 shooting (2-5 from 3) for 8 pts. Kevin Knox did not shoot well (1-7 for 2 pts in 14 minutes) but he played good defense — challenging 3-pt shooters. Reggie Bullock (2-7 for 7 points) also played good D.

Coach Miller = DEFENSE

But the real hero of this game was Mike Miller. All of his timeouts — some 3 possessions into the game — to make fixes to the Defense — are paying off. The Knicks Great Defense is becoming their staple. Their identity. Just like the front office said was their goal at the initial press conference for Scott Perry. David Fizdale didn’t get it done, but their backup plan at coach — Miller — is there now. Getting it done.

It’s Feb 1st — the Season Has Just Started

In some ways the season has just begun for the Knicks — now that it is February 1st. We get to see how this team finishes the last 32 games. If the Knicks play .500 or better basketball, the whole season changes. The outlook of the team changes. Everything changes. It is interesting to note that in Rick Pitino’s rookie season as coach, the Knicks were horrible — a lottery bound team — until Feb 1st, when Pitino’s defense kicked in and the Knicks had the 3rd best record in the East from Feb 1st onward, as pointed out in the Zander Hollander Complete Handbook of Basketball for that year.

The Boxscore


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.