As we start off the new year and some of us have resolutions and some of us don’t, but one thing is certain. The Knicks need to work towards two things in 2017: learning how to close games and bettering their defense.
The Knicks ended 2016 in the least favorable way, with four straight losses to the Celtics on Christmas day, the Hawks, the Pelicans and the Rockets.
The latest installment of the Knicks and Celtics rivalry on Christmas day was a good matchup, but once again the Knicks got in their own way of a victory.
The Knicks got off to a slow start, but got progressively better as the game went on. However whenever the they got within single digits of the Celtics the Celtics pulled away.
Both teams shot well from the field around 48%, but the Celtics’ ball movement was significantly better. The Knicks totaled only 11 assists to the Celtics’ 25.
The Knicks also turned the ball over 17 times and 10 of those turnovers were allowed steals. Things didn’t change once the bench stepped on the floor either, as the Knicks’ bench was outscored by the Celtics’ bench 41-19.
The only Knicks positives to take away from this game was them finishing +10 in rebounds, shooting 88% from the free throw line and Melo/Porzingis/Rose all scoring at least 20 points. However that wasn’t enough to get the win.
The final score was 114-119.
The second matchup of the week against the Hawks was an even closer matchup, but neither team played their best basketball.
Both teams shot around 37% from the field and 25% from behind the arc.
For the Knicks, their turnover struggles continued as they turned the ball over 18 times. They also committed 23 fouls and one flagrant. Both teams committed a flagrant, however the Knicks’ got Melo ejected in the second quarter when he shoved his forearm across
Thabo Sefolosha’s head. He left the game with 10 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes.
To pick up the slack, Porzingis and Rose both scored 20+ and Joakim Noah scored 14 rebounds and grabbed 16 rebounds.
For the Hawks, as a result of their superior ball movement, all five starters scored in double digits. Notably Dwight Howard had a very productive game with 16 points and 22 rebounds.
The final score was 102-98.
The third matchup was against the Pelicans. This was a good game but the Knicks couldn’t play a full 48 minutes as they seemed to be tired by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.
New York shot poorly both from the field (37%) and from behind the arc (30%). Meanwhile
New Orleans shot 44% from the field and 41% from behind the arc. Pacing was an issue for the Knicks as well, and it showed in the fast break points differential. The Knicks scored 12 to the Pelicans’ 30.
The positives from this game for New York is that Melo, Porzingis and Rose all scored 20+ again. That was the only positive.
For New Orleans, Anthony Davis got a double-double scoring 23 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. Jrue Holiday got a double-double as well, scoring 12 points and dishing out 11 assists. Four starters scored in double digits.
The final score was 92-104.
The last matchup was against the Houston Rockets, which was a very high-scoring game, as many games have been this season. However the Knicks once again struggled closing the game out. The Knicks had a lead on the Rockets for most of the game until the third quarter. Then it was a close game until the Rockets pulled away in the fourth.
Both teams shot well from the field at 45%, however once again the Knicks struggled with shooting from behind the arc at 31%.
The Knicks also didn’t move the ball as well as their opponent, which has been a recurring issue all season as the Knicks are currently ranked at 19th in the league for assists per game.
Despite losing, this actually wasn't a bad game for the Knicks, considering they were without Porzingis and Courtney Lee. They only turned the ball over seven times, were +10 in fast break points, were +20 in points in the paint and their bench outscored Houston’s bench 36-17.
Offensively, the Knicks held their own. Noah got a double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds, Rose scored 21 points and Brandon Jennings, who started in just his fifth game of the season for the injured Courtney Lee, scored 32 points. Four starters scored in double digits.
For the Rockets, Harden had a career game, scoring 53 points, dishing out 17 assists and grabbing 17 rebounds en route to his eighth triple-double. This was the first ever 50-15-15 game by an NBA player in NBA history. In addition to that Ariza scored 14 points, grabbed seven rebounds and Ryan Anderson scored 25 points. Houston also had four starters score in double digits.
Thanks to this game, for the fourth straight year the Knicks enter into the new year under .500.
“I think the talent’s here,” said Joakim Noah. “We just gotta stick together and get better on the fly because it’s a lot of [upcoming] games right now.”