Postgame Report: Hawks at Knicks
Tonight was not quite as exciting an opening night as we had all expected, but it showed a lot of things that this team needs to work on to compete in the east. The Knicks played some sloppy offense, committing 21 turnovers and 23 fouls. The shooting touch was not quite there tonight either, shooting 40.2% from the floor and an embarrassing 20.7% from 3. There was quite a bit more stagnant offense tonight as well. The Knicks were passing the ball quite freely in opening night, but their home opener felt a little more forced.
There are a few reasons this could have happened. Most likely of them all is that Atlanta has a pretty solid defense. The Hawks had the 5th best defense in the league in 2014-15 when they won 60 games. Much of their success was attributed to their beautiful passing offense, but their defense was absolutely stellar. They lost multi-demensional forward DeMarre Carrol to Free Agency this summer, but his departure didn’t seem to impact the teams overall defense as much as expected. This Hawks team is likely going to comfortably fit into the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Their understanding of a motion offense likely helped them in playing defense against the Knicks this evening.
The Pants are still finding their chemistry, however. It’s been a total of 10 games (8 preseason games) so it’s quite a small sample size, but when the team follows the offense, basketball comes easy. Tonight seemed like a lot of forced basketball. Many of the possessions, there are a few passes early, and then a lot of iso moves and post ups that are far from efficient. It’s great to see the ball moving a little bit, but if it continues to stop, what’s the point? Luckily the comfort level with ball movement will happen as the team gets more accustomed to playing with each other.
Carmelo had another off night but was able to contribute 25 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and was locked in defensively with 3 steals. He was not as efficient as everyone would have liked, shooting 10/27 and looking like Melo of old in that he took way too many iso faceups. Robin Lopez finished the evening with 18 points on 8/11 shooting with 4 rebounds and a block, very nice game from the defensive anchor of this new look team.
The bench mob was effective again last night, having a net positive impact on the game overall, but not playing quite nearly as well as the first game of the year. Langston Galloway seems to be dialed in from deep, hitting 50% of his shots tonight while Kyle O’Quinn continues to show that he was born to play in the Triangle with some beautiful pinpoint passes. The stat sheet doesn’t show his passing impact because there were so many missed shots, but his court vision is like that of a guard.
The major concern from the first couple of games has been our starting Point Guard, Jose Calderon. In two games, he has shot 1-10 from the floor and only 2 assists. On top of this awful offensive performance, he is absolutely terrible on defense. He has a -4.36 PER and has consistently been a net negative player while on the floor. He either can’t or won’t play defense when he’s on that side of the ball which allowed Jeff Teague to have a wonderful evening at the Garden, finishing with 23 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds. This kind of defense from our starting point guard is unacceptable.
On a lighter note, Kristaps Porzingis continues to show us some amazing flashes of what will someday become. His defensive awareness was great, although the impact was not necessarily felt. He got into a bit of foul trouble and had some difficulty holding onto the ball, but was able to have a major impact on the boards with 8 rebounds at only 240 lbs. In the next couple of seasons, he should fill out and be able to body up with some of the thicker bigs of the league. His shooting touch wasn’t exactly on point tonight, but we can chalk that one up to nerves, once again. The highlight of the night for KP was exactly that; a top 10 highlight. I’m sure you’ll be able to see it on ESPN tomorrow morning, but take a look at it now. You’re going to want to see this. Porzingis continues to show flashes of his potential and once his shots start falling, he should reek havoc on the league.
All in all, it was a good learning experience for the team. Playing against legitimate playoff talent will only help the growth of the team. They played against a serious defensive team that had a structured offense literally full of All-Stars. The second unit was able to show some real comfort and skill, so the Knicks need to look at how to improve the starters. That change should start right at the top of the lineup, with Jose Calderon.