TURNING POINT. Knicks Win 4th Straight; Playoff Run? — Feb 8, 2020: NY 95 Det 92

The Knicks survived red-hot Detroit 3-pt shooting early, came back from a 13-pt deficit to get within 2 at the half, and enforced their will on this game down the stretch in Detroit for their 4th straight victory. NY was down by 7 with 6:26 left but coach Mike Miller called a timeout, brought in the starters, and the Knicks scored 9 straight points. NY then closed it out (as Detroit fans were doing the wave).

The Playoffs?

The Knicks over the last 10 to 20 games are playing their best ball in years — arguably their best ball in 20 years (see below) — and are now — incredibly 5 games back of a playoff spot with 29 games to go.

NY’s record is 17-36 — unsightly yes but are now 6-4 over their last 10 games. As mentioned in the article following the last game, KnicksForum was the first we saw to broach the possibility of Playoffs at this late stage of the season for the Knicks, and pointed out the Knicks are playing better ball than any of the teams they are chasing. After this win, an avalanche of media and Knicks fans started broaching the same observation.

The Turning Point

This game caused a FLURRY of activity by Knicks Twitter after the game — calling out Media types who had condemned the Knicks and this roster and defended former coach David Fizdale. It was as if a key turning point in the season had been reached.

The Game

The Knicks even got a call to go their way in this game — as Julius Randle hit a big drive in traffic to give NY a 4-pt lead with 13 seconds left and ballgame, but it appeared he created space with an elbow to Thon Maker on the drive. It wasn’t noticed until the Detroit public address showed the replay on the big screen, but it was too late for the officials to review the play as a timeout had been called. Karma for doing The Wave. Christian Wood then hit a 3 to rub it in, but with Detroit down by 1 they fouled Reggie Bullock who hit both frees for the game. Detroit had 7 seconds to try to tie, but Reggie Jackson missed a 3 off the front of the rim.

After the game Detroit coach Dwane Casey said Thon Maker lost 3 teeth on the play.

Again it was Elfrid Payton leading the Knicks: orchestrating, penetrating the lane seemingly at will, passing, scoring, and defending — coming up with key steals. Wayne Ellington, another hero of the previous game, was a hero again — his 3-pt shooting helping to dissolve that early 13-pt Detroit lead, and hitting big shots in the 4th as well. Ellington finished with 17 pts on 6-12 (3-7 from 3). He received a cold bath afterwards in the lockerroom by his teammates to cool him off.

Knicks Big Men Dominate

And the Knicks big men — Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle especially, with Taj Gibson — DOMINATED Detroit inside. Detroit had just traded Andre Drummond, leaving the interior to be defended by Thon Maker and Tony Snell — two very long and lean shotblockers who didn’t have enough muscle for the Knicks bigs. The Knicks outrebounded Detroit 47-28. Mitchell Robinson spent the 4th quarter yanking offensive rebound after offensive rebound down, to feed the offense again, and blocking shots.

Julius Randle powered his way to the rim relentlessly.

Miller Points to Bench & Knox & Portis for their Good Play

The Knicks bench did well — Bobby Portis and Kevin Knox especially. Both Portis and Knox were coming off horrible shooting games, but played well on both ends in this one — Portis shot 5-10 for 11 pts, and Kevin Knox 2-4 for 5 points and good Defense, including an emphatic sidewinder block on Sekou Doumbouya to protect a 72-70 Knicks lead with 9 minutes left. Coach Miller pointed out how well the second team played late in the 3rd into the 4th — to keep the Knicks steady and even turn the game toward their favor. Detroit went up by midway thru the 3rd, but the bench — Dennis Smith Jr, Portis, Knox, Robinson, Ellington, and a bunch of guys switched in and out including RJ Barrett — pulled the Knicks back to a 67-67 tie at the end of 3 and put them in the lead early in the 4th.

RJ Barrett (1-8 for 3 points in 21 minutes) — his second game back from the severe ankle sprain — had two drives roll in and out, then missed consecutive jumpers midway thru the 4th — Detroit scored the other way to take a 7-point lead with 6:26 left and cause coach Mike Miller to call a time out, pull him out and bring in the starters with Wayne Ellington with Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton for the stretch run.

Reggie Jackson kept Detroit in it with his offense (20 pts on 7-17) and John Henson was a perfect 6-6 for 12 points.

The Knicks Play

The Knicks over the last 10 to 20 games are playing their best ball in years as mentioned above, maybe in 20 years. That includes the 54-win team, and is maybe a controversial observation. This Knicks teams seems to have a better, consistent Defense than that team, and also passes the ball better on Offense.

  • The 54-win team relied on coach Mike Woodson‘s overly complex switching defense, that everyone seemed to have trouble with except Jason Kidd. They did not guard the 3 well — I remember countless nights SCREAMING at JR Smith who used to leave his man free at the 3 to guard the paint, and was always 3 steps (1 too many) away to get back out and guard him. The Knicks D worked because of Jason Kidd — who regularly intercepted passes late in the game. And when Jason Kidd retired, the Knicks under Woody fell apart the next season, especially because of bad Defense — missed switches.
  • On Offense, Woodson had a predictable approach that revolved around ISO Carmelo Anthony ball.
  • The 54 wins were due mainly to the incredible 18-5 start, which was due mainly to the play of Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace. But then Wallace went out with a career-ending injury, and the Knicks played .500 ball. They had a 13-game winning streak at the end of the season when Jason Kidd got a second wind — but besides those two stretches, were 23-23 in the other 46 games. They beat Boston in the first round of the playoffs, but lost to Indiana 4-2. The team was Loaded with Veterans — was a very old team — and fell apart the next year; the whole year seemed like Fool’s Gold — the winning due to 36-yr-old Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace early.

This Knicks team is YOUNG and coach Mike Miller has so far been the best tactical coach, and coach in general, that the Knicks have had in 20 years — maybe more than that. In fact — Miller’s offensive strategies seem better than Jeff Van Gundy’s, so you may have to go back to Pat Riley to find a better coach. And then you are immediately in a conversation of Mike Miller as one of the best Knick coaches ever! Red Holzman? He kind of looks like Red Holzman come to think of it. It is a very short sample size so we will see.


With about 8 minutes left in the game, WHAT A GAME started trending on Twitter, which couldn’t have been about the NY-Detroit game especially for Knicks fans with NY down 7. It was reference to a Duke-University of North Carolina college basketball game. But as the game came down to the exciting finish, it could have been used for this NY-Detroit game.

During the game Walt Frazier asked where Allonzo Trier was, and Kenny Albert said he was at a wedding. Sure why not — with DNP after DNP he might as well attend his niece and nephew elementary school graduations.

Also Kadeem Allen was unavailable with a foot injury.



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