The Big Tease — Feb 21, 2020: Indiana 106 NY 98

With Elfrid Payton on the shelf with a sore ankle the Knicks became a jump-shot shooting team with Frank Ntilikina running the point for most of the game; they missed their jump shots for most of the game and fell behind Indiana by as much as 21 in the 3rd quarter — hit their jump shots in the 4th to pull to within 5 points with less than a minute left, but it was The Big Tease — too little too late.

Instilling the “Winning” Culture & Mindset

Coach Mike Miller had the Knicks foul Indiana on every possession down the stretch, even with a few seconds left on the clock, in the hopes that Indiana would miss their free throws to give the Knicks a hail Mary chance — but Indiana hit their frees.

That action by Miller spoke volumes of his trying to instill in this team a Winning mindset. He was not willing to allow the players to give up and let this one go for a loss, even when the Knicks had no real chance — for example, down by 6 with 16 seconds left (they fouled Domantas Sabonis, he hit both free throws to go up 8) or down 6 with 10 seconds left (they fouled Sabonis again and he hit both frees).

Ntilikina Played Well as “Off Guard” But Not as “Point”

Ntilikina ended up having a fine game as an off guard, and hit some big shots down the stretch including a 3 — he finished with 14 pts on 5-11 shooting (2-4 from 3) in 32 minutes. He also played pretty decent Defense on Malcolm Brogdon (4-14, 0-5 from 3, 11 pts but a +11).

But Ntilikina had only 2 assists. Both came in the 4th quarter — one at the start of the quarter, and one with 24 seconds left in the game. So — entering the 3rd, he had played over 20 minutes at the point and had no assists, and had played over 30 minutes with 1 assist until that final one.

But you didn’t need to read the boxscore to see Ntilikina not leading as a point guard on the court. It was pass the ball around the perimeter for a (often contested) jumpshot or feed a big like Julius Randle or Taj Gibson or Bobby Portis in the lane and then move off and watch them go ISO.

Randle suffered the most from not having a point on the court feeding him easy opportunities to run the lane — he finished with 2-9 shooting for 7 points in 30 minutes. At times in the 1st half he took on the role of point forward, which he is not good at — and Knicks twitter lambasted him. But it was because the Knicks didn’t have a point on the floor.

Smith Did Not Help Enough at the Point

Dennis Smith Jr played well during his first stint in the game, but was terrible when he came in later — mistakes and missed shots. He finished with 16 minutes, 6 assists, but 1-6 shooting for 3 points. Smith playing so poorly in his second stint on the floor caused Miller to reach back for Ntilikina to play the point.

Knick Comeback — Mitch, Portis, RJ, Ntilikina Balled

The Knicks jump-shooting comeback started with Mitchell Robinson BALLING in the 4th — blocking shots, ripping down rebounds, and slam dunking the ball — he finished with 8 pts (on 6-8 shooting), 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks (all of them on the interior) in 17 minutes (5 fouls).

And Bobby Portis went off in the 4th with individual shooting heroics, to finish with 19 points on 6-11 and he was a main reason for the Knicks getting back in the game.

Coach Miller pointed this out after the game, when asked what caused the Knicks’ comeback:  “I thought Mitch was outstanding when he came in the 3rd; just his activity; his energy, his blocked shots, his rebounding, what he created — it really sparked the group and got them going. And then we had some other guys — obviously Bobby did a nice job coming in, and made some plays, and started cutting into it right away; it gave, right away, a different feel — just with the energy level, and the way we were competing.”

RJ Barrett was penetrating to the basket and had a fine game — fresh off the Future Stars game at the All Star break where he was the leading scorer. Barrett finished with 17 pts on 8-19 shooting.

Barrett made several spectacular driving plays during the night.

And with Ntilikina hitting jump shots as well, the Knicks climbed back into it. Unfortunately, Kevin Knox got burned on a couple of plays and the Knicks couldn’t quite get back to even. They could have used Marcus Morris. Again.


Damyean Dotson looked like an average reserve NBA guard like he does on so many evenings — 2-8 shooting for 3 points. Kevin Knox played 17 minutes and had a lot of trouble guarding Indiana’s T.J. Warren (27 pts).

Doug McDermott came off Indiana’s bench to hurt the Knicks with some 3’s (14 pts).

The Boxscore




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