Knicks' Perimeter D Needs to Tighten Up in Second Half
Shoddy perimeter defense held the Knicks down in the first half, but a surprisingly strong effort from the starters (who have often played second fiddle to the bench in the excitement department lately) helped the Knicks keep things close and only enter the half down 67-61 to the Pelicans at home.
Taj Gibson led the Knicks with 15 points in the first half on perfect 7-7 shooting, Reggie Bullock had 12 points on 5-9 and Bobby Portis rounded out the double-digit Knicks with 11 points on 5-8 shooting.
Some notes from the first half:
1) Frank Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson continue to show great chemistry with one another on offense. The pick-and-roll with that duo was a staple during their time in the game together in the first half, and it's a combo that the Knicks should continue to lean on.
2) Gibson played inarguably his best half of the whole season, dropping his aforementioned 15 points on a perfect 7-7 from the field and playing really solid interior defense. At 34 years old, he's definitely not made for big starter minutes anymore, but the Knicks might need him to play those sort of minutes tonight if he's going to continue being this efficient.
3) The Knicks' perimeter defense left so much to be desired. Of all the teams in the NBA to try and get cute with and leave open on the perimeter, the Pelicans are not one of them. At seventh in the NBA in 3-point percentage coming into this game (36.6%), the Knicks' usual strategy of lightly defending the perimeter was kind of destined to fail. Hopefully there's some adjustment in the second half.
4) Mike Miller deployed a Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson lineup for what felt like the first time this season, and the results were actually quite good! The ball was moving, and as already mentioned, Ntilikina and Robinson's chemistry was the starring attraction. If Kevin Knox can find confidence in his 3-pointer again (he was 1-3 in the first half and has been ice cold lately), that's a lineup that's definitely worth throwing out there more.
5) The first half was basically the good and bad of the Elfrid Payton experience in a nutshell. On the good hand, he had some very sneaky steals (three of them) and some genuinely great plays on offense (seven assists), leading to some great moments for the Knicks.
On the other hand, he played a big part in the Knicks' lax coverage of the 3-point line, which was a big factor in Lonzo Ball shooting 3-5 from deep in the first half.
Hopefully the good can far outweigh the bad in the second half.