Disappointing. 5 Reasons Why Chicago 110 NY 102 on 2-1-21

In a tight game that went back and forth and down to the wire, the Knicks didn’t make the plays down the stretch; Chicago did — resulting in this Disappointing with a Capital D loss, 110-102 Chicago on a night of the massive snowstorm that socked NYC with 2 feet of snow.

With 18 inches down already on a Monday night, and snow continuing to fall at the 7:30pm hour when this game started in Chicago, and 5 more inches coming overnight — this is how the game went down:

1. LaVine Hit Big Shots; Randle Lost Ball

Zach LaVine — recently in trade rumors that say the Knicks are interested — looked unimpressive all night. Nothing interesting as far as his handle, or his ability to drive into the lane, nor his defense — but I didn’t tweet this for the jinx. Instead apparently someone else did — because at the end of the game, with the Knicks having taken the lead late, there was LaVine hitting shots — bad shots. As Walt Frazier said, LaVine is good at making bad shots.

With the Knicks down 91-90 with 5:05 left, LaVine took a 25-foot step back 3 early in the clock — a bad shot — and hit it. Thankfully a minute and a half later, Immanuel Quickley‘s 3 gave the Knicks a 95-94 lead with 3:32 left.

Chicago got back up 98-97 with 1:26 and there was LaVine again, with an 18-foot step back shot for a 100-97 lead.

Alec Burks tied the game at 100 with a 3 with 56 seconds left. The Knicks played good D but Coby White got open for a 3 and a Chicago 103-100 lead with 42 seconds left. Nail bitter.

Then the turning point: Julius Randle posted on the right side, and spun — and lost the ball. Deja Vu all over again from last year. Chicago went the other way and — Zach LaVine hit a 22-foot 3-point jumper. Ballgame. 106-100 Chicago with 22 seconds left.

After that it was Knicks putting Chicago to the line with stop-the-clock fouls.

2. Changing of the Guard

Immanuel Quickley was terrific again — 16 pts on 5-13 shooting (2-7 from 3, 4-4 in free throws), 6 rebounds, 7 assists in 30 minutes. He played down the stretch — Elfrid Payton didn’t. For the first time this year, Quickley got the bulk of minutes at point guard — 30 to Elfrid’s 18 minutes. Elfrid played well enough — 5 pts on 2-5 shooting, 2 assists — but the difference in energy level between the two is noticeable.

As a fan of the way Elfrid Payton plays, I have to say Elfrid does not seem to be attacking as much in the last few weeks. Maybe it’s Thibodeau’s system, which has resulted in Payton averaging only 4.2 assists this year — well off his 6.8 lifetime average and 7.2 last year — his penetrations and pass to the corner, etc, result in yet another pass or two and he loses the assist. In any case there have been times when Payton goes after it on the court, and there have been times where he seems to be NBA rope-a-doping it a bit. Not so Quickley who is a ball of fire attack attack attack.

3. Changing of the Center

And there is Mitchell Robinson, who also lost minutes last night to Nerlens Noel. It was Noel down the stretch — and his quick hands that cause steals, and block shots defending the middle — Noel was 4-6 for 8 pts, 7 rebounds, and 5 blocks in 28 minutes. Robinson got into some foul trouble and had 3 fouls — but could certainly have played down the stretch. But Thibs had Noel in. Robinson had 4-6 for 9 pts, 8 rebounds, and 1 block in 20 minutes. Ironically Robinson had a +2 and Noel a -10. But Noel seemed more active on the court. Robinson needs to step up his game and unwrap those offensive moves we’ve been hearing and seeing about on youtube.

Daniel Gafford, the Bulls 6’10 center who was the #38 pick in the 2019 draft had 12 points (on 6-8) and 9 rebounds in 22 minutes and gave the Knicks trouble inside, making some big plays.

4. Changing of the Small Forward — Not

One changing of the guard that hasn’t happened is replacing starter Reggie Bullock, with the young-but-not-19-anymore Kevin Knox. Knox is now officially out of the rotation — Thibs said it before the game — that with everyone back from injury (Noel) — Knox was out of the 10-man rotation. Thibs had been complimenting Knox all season at his conditioning and his defense and his pretty, high-arcing and accurate 3 — but the youngster is out and Reggie Bullock remains in.

Thibs is notorious for his like of veterans. Bullock is that. But with Knox looking so much better on Defense this year (improving throughout last season) and his ability to actually hit 3 pointers (vs Bullock who always seems to miss despite the reputation for being a 3 and D) — it’s hard to see how Bullock’s defense is better than what Knox was giving. It may be some thing that you can only see in person; not on TV.

The other guy not playing that much is Obi Toppin, who had 9 minutes in this game (1-1 from the floor, 2-2 in free throws) for 4 pts. He looked good. But was yanked early in the 4th as Thibs went for the win with Randle. Not bringing Randle back soon enough against the Clippers the day before was something Thibs was criticized for; in this game Knicks Twitter complained he didn’t give Obi enough minutes. Can’t win.

5. Back to Back and the 3’s

As far as the rest of the game — the Knicks’ team Defense looked fatigued all night until they turned it on in the 4th quarter. That was probably due to having played the day before and given it their all against the Clippers. This game is also the first of a back-to-back over 3 days against Chicago in Chicago — so they get to play the Bulls again on Wednesday.

The Knicks were 6-29 from 3 — a measure of being tired or simply not having enough guys who can hit the 3 consistently. Probably the later; Bullock was 0-4 from 3, Barrett 0-3, Austin Rivers 0-3, etc.

Meanwhile Lauri Markkanen lit the Knicks up in the 1st half — hitting 3’s from all over and leading the break on one play. He helped Chicago go 11-34 from 3. The Knicks shut Markkanen down in the 2nd half but he still finished 11-18 (6-12 from 3) for 30 pts and a +16. It was Julius Randle’s job to guard him and he allowed him too much space in the 1st half but did a good job in the 2nd.

Randle himself had a good game despite the late turnover and the 1st half lapses guarding Markkanen’s 3’s — Randle had 23 pts on 7-16 shooting (1-4 from 3, 8-9 in free throws), 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals. His inside moves and step back jumpers remind me so much of Ewing.

RJ Barrett was quiet in the 1st half — again probably the result of the effort the day before against the Clippers — but then woke up in the 2nd half and finished with 14 pts on 7-17 (0-3 from 3), 7 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Barrett woke everyone up with a particularly powerful SLAM in the 3rd.

The Boxscore


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