Ntilikina STARS in Knicks Win Over Porzingis — Nov 8, 2019: NY 106 Dallas 102

This was Frank Ntilikina‘s game — on offense and defense. As good as he was the last game on both sides of the court, he was even better here. Aggressive, orchestrating offense — penetrations, layups, passes, hitting jumpers, hitting 3’s — he put schoolyard moxie into his dribble at times! — he tried to dunk on Kristaps Porzingis, and almost did it — but was fouled. On defense he wasn’t just long he was suffocating, aggressive, creating turnovers, going after his guy, the other guy’s guy, whoever had the ball to take it away or create the turnover, then taking it down court to lead the offense.

This was the Ntilikina who led France to victory over the US in the FIBA this summer. This was a F_k-you Ntilikina NY had never seen before except in glimpses, increasing game-by-game recently until this showcase.

Morris — the Guy Who Chose to Play for Knicks Over San Antonio

And there was Marcus Morris — in control, hitting big shots, playing great D on Porzingis (as didย Taj Gibsonย and Ntilikina on switches). This was the Marcus Morris that Greg Popovich wanted to sign to be the starting small forward for San Antonio and reached a verbal agreement with, but Morris changed his mind and said, ‘no thank you I want to go to the Knicks’ — something the mainstream sports media barely reported last summer when they made a big deal about the top-tier free agents who didn’t sign with the Knicks, whom they never pursued.

The boxscore reads that Luka Doncic had 38 points on 13-26, his career high in points. But Ntilikina gave him a hard time too, pestering him in the 4th quarter, causing Doncic to turn the ball over and/or miss key shots. Doncic was 3-11 from 3 and Ntilikina was part of that. If Ntilikina wasn’t guarding him, Doncic might have gone for 50.

According to Tommy Beer, “When Frank Ntilikina was the primary defender on Doncic, Luka was 5-of-12 (41%) from the floor for 11 points and 3 assists with 5 turnovers. When Luka’s primary defender was any Knick other Ntilikina, Doncic was 8-of-14 (57%) for 24 points and 7 assists vs. just 3 turnovers.”

Everything Changed

The Knicks came in 1-7, with Firing Fizdale the talk of Knicks Twitter.

We tweeted before the game: “If the Knicks win tonight, everything changes. The Knicks won. Everything changed.

The Game

The Knicks battled Dallas hard from the start, and were up 36-28 at the end of the 1st quarter. They maintained that single-digit lead throughout most of the game, until Dallas tied it and went ahead early in the 4th. But the Knicks regained the lead, helped by old friend Tim Hardaway Jr who came in to misfire repeatedly from 3. To his credit, Hardaway hit two big 3’s in the final minute to get Dallas back into the game, and finished 5-15 (3 of 10 from 3) but his earlier misfiring really cost them — until those closing seconds he was 1-10 from 3. Knicks Twitter had seen this before.

Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson both played a Big Man game — Gibson so good at scoring inside, and Portis relentless at times inside, going after his own or someone else’s miss to put it in. The Knicks played a physical but clean brand of basketball that they had promised.

Off Night for Barrett

The one guy with an off night offensively was RJ Barrett, who couldn’t get many of his spin moves to the basket to fall. He finished 1-9 for 3 points. But he played good D and passed well so stayed in the game until the end, even with big free throws to be made in the final minute with Dallas desperate to get back in the game.

Last Minute Agita, Hardaway 3’s, & Missed Free Throws

The last minute of the game was a story in itself. The Knicks had a 101-92 lead with 1:45 left but a Hardaway Jr 3 at the 1 minute-left mark made it 101-97. Barrett missed two big free throws with 33 seconds left and a 103-99 score, but Julius Randle came up with a big offensive rebound and was fouled, made both of his BIG free throws to seemingly ice the game at 105-99. But Hardaway Jr hit the 2nd of this two last-minute 3’s to make it 105-102, and then Taj Gibson missed two free throws to make it a game again — Dallas down 3 with the ball.

Luka Doncic came down court and immediately launched a step back 3 from 36 feet out with 18 seconds left, and missed. If he was going for the surprise element, the Knicks and Knick fans on tv were surprised — at how far out he was when he took the shot, with so many seconds left on the clock.

Julius Randle missed the first of 2 free throws giving Knicks Twitter more agita, but finally hit the 2nd for a 4-pt lead with 18 seconds left.ย Maxi Kleber missed a 3 with 6 seconds left and that, finally, was the ballgame.

Etcetera

Allonzo Trier was in the rotation and played pretty well, 1-3 for 4 points in 17 minutes, and Damyean Dotson got 7 minutes. They got minutes over Wayne Ellington who was benched after his recent poor shooting. Kevin Knox got 15 minutes and was an efficient 2-4 and 2-2 from 3 for 6 pts including a big high-arcing 3 he was forced to heave up with the 24-second clock running out.

Porzingis finished with 11-22 for 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots — he played especially well in the 4th quarter. But he and Doncic accounted for most of Dallas’s points — besides Tim Hardaway Jr. Dallas’s other 3 starters — Dwight Powell, Courtney Lee, and Dorian Finney-Smith had 1, 2, and 3 points respectively (on 1, 2, and 4 shots taken).

The Boxscore

https://www.espn.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=401160764

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