Led by Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks are normally able to play LeBron James and the Cavaliers rather competitively. But in proving why he's a step above Anthony in superstar status (aside from his championship rings) James has another gear as he steps it up a notch late in the fourth quarter to help his team run away with a victory.
Seeing as how the Knicks have to wrestle for a victory against a James-led squad even with Anthony powering the charge, Wednesday's matchup had even less hope going into it with Anthony sidelined. But with his star teammate sitting out, rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis stepped up in a mighty way. The triangle offense is all about creating good spacing and sharing the ball, but there's no doubt the Knicks' offense was catered to the big man a bit more on this night.
Porzingis was red hot for three quarters, sinking four shots from deep en route to scoring a team-high 23 points on the night. But unfortunately, he had little help. While New York fell asleep at the wheel in the fourth, James heated up as expected, giving his Cavaliers a 91-84 win. Here are some more observations from the loss.
- Just days removed from helping deliver his first child, Iman Shumpert played stellar defensive on Arron Afflalo. He was an absolute pest, applying very physical pressure to frustrate the Knicks' guard all night long. Afflalo shot 6 of 17, and such struggles may have been the difference in the loss, as Shumpert boasted a game-high plus/minus of +14.
- Many Knicks struggled, including head coach Derek Fisher. While Porzingis kept the team afloat, the rookie sat out the first six minutes of the fourth and ended up taking just one shot in the quarter. He needed the ball in his hands, and the team just couldn't get it to him. Fisher's plays coming out of timeouts also left much to be desired.
- Porzingis did get a little bit of help on offense, namely from Derrick Williams. In Anthony's absence, Williams was aggressive around the basket, sinking seven free throws and adding 11 points off the bench. Just four Knicks scored in double-figures.
- Things got heated between former teammates Lou Amundson and Tristan Thompson when a tiny altercation under the basket led to double technicals in the first half. The two have developed some bad blood following back and forth negative comments this season. Still, it's still good to see that intensity from a player like Amundson. That inner fire is good to have. Ironically enough, he boasted a plus/minus of +5 (a team-high) for his part in an early Knicks run.