Knicks Attempt to Put Tough Trip Behind Them
Compared to Mike Miller’s first West Coast trip as Knicks head coach, this past week was night and day.
While Miller won’t have to deal with another trip as grueling as this past one (he coached the Knicks’ two longest road trips of the season, four games apiece), the results were a little concerning. The New Year’s Day blowout of the Trail Blazers feels like an eternity ago after a blown halftime lead against the Suns, another blown lead against the Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers, and back-to-back blowout losses to the Lakers and Jazz.
Back home against a resurgent Pelicans team, things won’t be any easier. The Pelicans are luckily without Jrue Holiday, and Zion Williamson will not make his season debut at Madison Square Garden; but the Knicks once again find themselves without their two leading scorers, Julius Randle (personal reasons) and Marcus Morris (neck strain).
For what it's worth, Miller isn't ready to ring the alarm yet.
“The fact is, we’ve been able to do the good things that really make us a good team in stretches, but we have to do it more consistently," Miller said pregame. "So it was a good test, we played good teams. Going to Phoenix, Clippers, Lakers and then Utah. So we saw a lot of different things, we have a lot of guys playing well and doing good things.”
While on the surface the road trip seemed like a step back, to Miller and the coaching staff, it was viewed as a step forward. The last two games were ugly, but with Morris out for both and Randle out against the Jazz, getting blown out by two of the best teams in the West sort of seemed like the expected result regardless.
“I think we’re making strides, obviously we feel like we’re a work in progress," Miller said. "We’re looking to improve, and we’re seeing improvement. We came back from the trip and we were able to take areas that we were really pleased with, we thought we did a good job and were seeing growth. And we had areas where we have to be more consistent."
The biggest problem in tonight's game against the Pelicans, once again, is going to be finding how to replace Morris and Randle's 37.6 combined points of offensive production.
Frank Ntilikina led the team in scoring last game with 16 points off the bench, and no other player scored more than 13. A scoring outburst from RJ Barrett or Mitchell Robinson is likely going to be necessary to get the Knicks a win in this one.
At any rate, everything with this team under Miller has been a learning curve. Shorthanded, but back at home, tonight will be a challenge for the Knicks' young core, and a real test of their mettle.