Singin’ the Blues
The Knicks showed heart and fight, but came up just short in Memphis.
Good morning! Goodness would that have been a fun game to steal. It was right there for the taking. While the Knicks have every reason to be proud of their effort, this one stung nonetheless. We’ll get into it in full, right now.
Game Recap: Knicks 112, Grizzlies 115
⌚️30 Seconds or Less: A game that nearly lived up to the excitement of last season’s opener, albeit with a different result. The Knicks came out hardly resembling the team that dominated much of the preseason, looking clunky on offense and lacking attention to detail on defense. Down 15 at halftime, the Knicks found a spark, and used 10-0 and 11-1 runs in the second half to make this a nail-biter down the stretch. After a Cam Reddish 3-pointer sent the game into overtime (yes, you read that correctly), New York had several chances to take the lead but could never convert the big bucket when they needed it. An Evan Fournier corner three attempt missed at the buzzer, and the Knicks left Memphis 0-1.
① Cam’s Coming Out Party: To say this was an out-of-nowhere performance doesn’t fully capture what Reddish was able to accomplish. His nine made field goals were more than he converted in all four preseason games combined. Forced into the rotation because of Quentin Grimes injured foot, Reddish took some time to find his footing, but after coming out of the gate with back to back threes, he closed even stronger, scoring 14 in the 4th quarter and overtime, missing just one shot in that stretch. The Knicks officially have a rotation quagmire on their hands.
② RJ Comes Up Small: Rick Moranis’ Honey I shrunk the Kids laser couldn’t have downsized Barrett any more than last night’s performance, especially in comparison to the giant drafted one spot ahead of him. Putting Ja’s name in the same sentence as RJ seems foolish based on what we saw. Barrett shot 3-for-18 overall, missing all six of his attempts from downtown and several more from close range, including two in the last three minutes of OT that would have tied the game.
To be clear and fair, RJ was far from the only Knick who had shooting woes, but his misses seemed to take on an increasingly outsized impact with each additional brick. He’ll be fine, no doubt, but it’s hard to imagine a worse game from the guy the Knicks hope will be the cornerstone of their team for years to come. It was one of those nights that left me toggling over and under-reacting. Hopefully he bounces back, and fast.
③ Shooting Woes: Like I said, it wasn’t just Barrett. The Knicks overall barely made 40 percent of their shots and fewer than a quarter of their threes. Immanuel Quickley was 0-for-6, Derrick Rose was 2-for-8, Evan Fournier was 4-for-11 and Jalen Brunson was 7-for-18. Aside from the Cam triple to send it to extra time, New York also failed to come up big in the clutch, scoring just four points in overtime and missing all four triples they attempted in the bonus period, plus to more in the last minute of regulation.
🤔Rotation Reflections: For as frustrating a night as it was, it’s hard to complain too much about any of the decisions where playing time was concerned. Tom Thibodeau rode the hot hand in Cam Reddish, never taking him out of the game after he checked in late in the third quarter. Is that a sign of growth from last season, or just an act of desperation? We’ll see.
As will surprise no one, Obi Toppin’s minutes total - unlucky 13 - was the most glaring, but after eight ho hum first half minutes for Obi, Julius Randle had it seriously going in the third, so it’s tough to argue with a short stint for Toppin in the second half. Perhaps the most surprising development was just 12 minutes for Derrick Rose, although the former MVP struggled shooting, going just 2-for-8. Something to monitor moving forward.
👎 Whistle Woes: Early on in the overtime period, with the score tied at 108, Jalen Brunson had a fast break opportunity thanks to a steal by Cam Reddish. Here’s what transpired at the rim:
This was called a clean block even though Morant quite clearly hit the ball after it touched the backboard, which is by definition a goaltending violation. It was also arguably a foul. Instead, Memphis broke back towards their own basket and Ja hit Brandon Clarke for an alley-oop. A four-point swing - at least - in a game New York lost by three.
📸 Play(s) of the Game: I’ll highlight the shot to send the game to overtime below, but for now, we’ll take a moment to appreciate a burgeoning connection between two backup big men, first with Isaiah Hartenstein serving Obi Toppin with a hot plate of pizzaz…
…and then Obi returning the favor just a few plays later:
Toppin was featured yesterday in Zach Lowe’s “5 Most Intriguing Players” column for the upcoming season, in which Lowe wrote the following:
“Good things happen when Toppin plays, and the Knicks should be in the business of discovering why -- and whether that effect carries over against opposing starters. That success has come despite New York playing Toppin almost exclusively alongside rim-running centers -- marginalizing Toppin's skill as an explosive screen-and-dive guy. When Toppin bolts inside for lobs, he might bump into a center calling for a lob at the same time.”
Part of what makes the Hartenstein addition so exciting is what he could potentially open up for Obi on offense. At the same time, Zach correctly calls for the Knicks to give Toppin more than just backup minutes because of his untapped potential in a larger role. As long as Julius plays as well as he did last night, that path remains fraught, which is one of several issues New York will have to navigate in the season ahead.
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