“Tough One to Swallow” — Jan 18, 2019: Philly 90 NY 87

If the Knicks had won a few games recently, this wouldn’t have been so tough to take. They did win last weekend against Miami but that seems like ages ago. This would have been as satisfying a win as that — to beat Philly even without Joel Embiid (for the Knicks RJ Barrett was out). The future would have been bright.

Instead, Knicks Twitter was pissed:

  • slamming the front office for playing the vets over the youngsters, and
  • smashing them for not making trades yet, and
  • suggesting this front office might not even make any trades by the trade deadline, and
  • demanding their firing if the Knicks lose their next game to Cleveland on Monday Martin Luther King day.

“It’s a tough one to swallow. We played our asses off,” said Marcus Morris afterwards.

All of that because of a serendipitous Tobias Harris 3 with 28 seconds left on a broken inbounds play where he got the ball with no one on him — Mitchell Robinson was supposed to switch to him but was slow in doing so. And BAM — Harris — who had had an awful night until hitting a corner jumper plus the foul with 6 minutes left to give Philly an 83-77 lead at that point — hit the 3 to erase a Knicks lead and put Philly up 89-87.

Tobias Harris (5-13, 15 pts) who signed the massive max contract that nets him $30M to $40 M per year for the next 5 years through 2024. He’s having a decent year but was outplayed by Marcus Morris (8-17, 20 pts) last night. You could easily make claim that Morris is every bit as good as Harris — or better; Morris who is signed to the 1-year deal at $15 M and averaging a career high 19 ppg (and 45.9% from 3) with the good D and leadership for the Knicks — it will be interesting to see what kind of contract Morris gets this June. Morris is 30 yrs old; Harris is 27.

On that final inbounds, Walt Frazier exclaimed that Philly had not gotten it inbounds within the 5 second limit — but then on replay he did an informal count off and felt they just got it in. Turns out Frazier’s initial internal clock and instincts were right. The Knicks got ripped off.

Knicks Spacing Broke Down

The Knicks inbounded with 20 seconds left for the final shot, but their spacing broke down (according to coach Mike Miller afterwards) — Morris got the ball at the top of the key, Mitchell Robinson tried to set a screen for Morris to go right, but Ben Simmons hounded Morris into going left and into a trap at the sidelines; Julius Randle was there — Morris, trapped, handed the ball to him, and Randle got triple teamed and the ball knocked off his chest and out of bounds.

Missed by “That Much”

The Knicks were forced to foul and after only one free throw was made, had a shot to tie the game on a hail Mary 3 by Marcus Morris from half court sidelines — and it bounced off the rim. The Knicks had missed by “that much”.

Knicks = DEFENSE (and Horford)

The Knicks played a terrific defense in this game — especially in the 2nd half. More proof that the foundation and the coach is there now. Although some of that was because Al Horford kept missing shots. Horford’s contract is even more unwieldy that Harris’s — Horford makes $27 to $28M a year through 2023 (final year partially guaranteed) and he’s 33 years old right now (will be 36 at end of contract).

No wonder Boston let Philly ‘steal’ him away. He has not been living up to his contract this year, averaging 12 pts on 44% shooting and only 6.6 rebounds in 31 min a game. He does play next to Embiid who sucks up shots and rebounds — so we’d have to check 76er Twitter to see how much he’s being cursed out. Certainly last night as he missed open jumper after open jumper in the 4th quarter and kept taking them — he was probably being cursed out a lot. Philly has certainly “made their bed” with their current roster.

What’s the Point

Elfrid Payton played the majority of this game at the point, and it seemed the entire 4th quarter in crunch time. He played well — orchestrating and penetrating for scores. It wasn’t quite enough for that final play, which was run for Morris to orchestrate.

How Frank Is Progressing

Frank Ntilikina had a by-far-team-worst -16 while Payton had a by-far-team-best +13, causing NY Post beat reporter Marc Berman to tweetFrank Ntilikina was minus 16 tonight. Payton was plus 13. I don’t want to read another how-Frank-is-progressing-piece.” Berman has taken on a fiesty personality on tweets and in articles lately; it is a noticed change of tone, perhaps to be more informal and help continue to build an audience as a personality.

Ntilikina hit a big 3 early in the 4th but then missed a bunch of shots; finishing 2-8 for the usual 5 points in 17 minutes. To Ntilikina’s credit, he did make two good defensive plays early in the 4th, where he cut around a screen and got the other team called for an offensive foul and turnover, which were big plays.

Allonzo Trier got minutes early in the game — in the 2nd quarter — but continues to play like a shell of his former self as if he’s looking over his shoulder — he had 0 points in 13 minutes on 0-3, including a terrific drive that rolled in and out.

Bobby Portis was 1-7 in 14 minutes and that didn’t help. Kevin Knox got 12 minutes, 4 points on 2-4 shooting.

Knicks’ Game Plan = Knicks’ Season Plan = “The Plan”

Mitchell Robinson got time down the stretch and provided excellent Defense and some inside Slams. But this was definitely a game where mostly vets played down the stretch — Taj Gibson, Reggie Bullock, Morris, Randle, and Payton.

So many Knicks fans are confused by this — as stated above — but it is proof of the observation that the Knicks’ game plan is their season plan is to continue to execute “The Plan” — to play .500 ball in the 2nd half of the season to develop a ‘winning culture’ and be more attractive to elite free agents. They have the right coach in place now; they played good ball in this game.

The Boxscore



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