Knicks and Nets in a Dogfight
Some thoughts and observations from the first half of Knicks vs Nets, Round 3, which saw New York go into halftime with a 46-41 lead:
- The Nets were going after RJ Barrett early, running Joe Harris off screens and all around the court. RJ's size at the two-guard position is both a gift and a curse, but if he doesn't learn how to make better use of it on offense, the scales won't be tipped in the right direction because of his lack of speed at the other end. (He will. He's 19, after all)
- Julius Randle scored the first seven points and 10 of the first 12 (including two 3-pointers) for New York, whose offense was stuck in the mud early. This isn't exactly a shocker, as Brooklyn has had the best defensive rating in the NBA over the last two weeks according to Cleaning the Glass. They were giving Taj Gibson a few wide open mid-rangers early, which he missed. Randle ended the half with a team-high 20 and rescued the Knicks several times.
- Other than going under screens (seemingly by design), New York's defensive effort early on was night and day from what they put forth against Washington on Monday night.
- Frank Ntilikina drew an offensive foul from the Nets Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot within two possessions of his entry into the game. Nice to see that even in a rough offensive stretch for him of late, he's still doing Frank things. It's why we love him.
- Watching Damyean Dotson sky for a rebound has been one of the subtle joys of the last three seasons for New York. He gets so high and grips every board with authority. If he could somehow transfer and harness some of that frenetic energy into his off-ball defense, the Knicks would have a real player on their hands.
- Another Frank note: he still can't hit shots with any consistency, but he's the only defender on the Knicks with any real closing speed on shooter, or at least closing speed that doesn't sacrifice positioning once he gets there. If they could just get any offensive consistency out of him, they'd be in business. Where have I heard that before?
- Brooklyn had 20 points through the first 14 minutes of game action. The Knicks defense had a lot to do with it, although the Nets were also missing some shots that they're capable of making. Such is life, I suppose...
- Outside of Dinwiddie and Randle, no player on either side was doing much of anything on offense. Plenty of decent looks, nothing going in.
- All season long the Knicks have been digging too far into the paint off of really good corner three shooters, and it bit them again a few times in the first half. Julius Randle got caught stuck in the paint with just under three minutes to go in the half, and left Joe Harris of all people. Shocker: Harris drained it.