It's been a rough week for the New York Knicks franchise. With the losing piling up on the court and the drama continuing off the court the team was just looking to to avoid on 0-5 home-stand against the 41-12 San Antonio Spurs.
The Knicks held a three hour practice yesterday and a player's only meeting coming off another terrible defensive outing in Friday's 131-123 loss to the Nuggets. Jeff Hornacek called out his team's effort following the loss, and laid into the starting lineup in particular.
"They should be embarrassed by the way they couldn't guard anybody. So those guys are happy scoring their points. We're going to lose every game," said Hornacek following the team's fourth straight loss.
Hornacek was as upset as we've seen him all season and sent a message to his team following the game with his comments. Whatever took place in practice yesterday worked as the Knicks delivered their best defensive performance of the season against the team with the second best record in the NBA. The Knicks held the Spurs to 36% shooting from the field and finally held on to a late lead thanks to Carmelo Anthony and his 25 clutch points to get a 94-90 win.
The Knicks looked like a completely different team today. It was shocking how well the Knicks played defensively after how pathetic they have been all year on that end. Friday night they gave up 98 points through three quarters to the Nuggets. Today they only gave up 65 to the Spurs and 90 the entire game. The Spurs had an off night, but give credit to the Knicks defense who came to play like we haven't seen all season.
The Spurs shot 20% from three point range after coming into the game the best in the league in that category. Everything clicked on D today. The man defense was very solid and the help defense/rotations were on point. When you watch a game like today it makes you wonder why the Knicks haven't done this all season. Most of it comes down to effort. You could see in their play today the way they hustled and contested every shot with strong close outs. They were engaged for a full 48 minutes.
The Knicks wanted this win badly after everything this team has been through. They wanted to give their home crowd; who continue to show up and cheer on this unworthy team, a win for all the support despite the tough times of late.
Carmelo Anthony played a terrific overall game in leading his team to a win. He made some huge shots in the final minutes and proved he's still one of the best in the game at getting his team a big bucket down the stretch. Melo secured a Knick victory with a clutch jumper and shouted "I want this!" to the Garden crowd after he gave the Knicks a six point lead with 33 seconds left. It was a nice moment for Melo, who has been so loyal to the Knicks and this city through all the drama to come through in the clutch against one of the league's best on his home floor.
Kristaps Porzngis had his best defensive performance of the season blocking four shots and disrupting many others. He was a presence at the rim all night and did a great job of helping out and using his length to cause havoc. He also added 16 points and was game high +19 when he was on the floor. His front court partner in today's starting lineup was his buddy Willy Hernangomez who had one of his best all around games with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Willy made some big buckets in crunch time and did a nice job helping KP hold Lamarcus Aldridge to 5-16 from the field. Derrick Rose added in 18 points and Kyle O'Quinn provided a nice boost off the bench with three blocked shots.
The overall vibe of today's game was much different than what we have seen since the start of the new year. For the first time in a long time you felt somewhat confident that the Knicks could hold on late because of the effort they put forth all game. For the past 6 weeks we've seen this team crumble in close games in the final minutes and that was because of their inability to get stops. Today they played hard from start to finish and came together as a team for maybe their most impressive win of the year.
It's a win you hope they can build on as they had to OKC before the All-Star break, but let's not get our hopes up for a turnaround just yet. This team still hasn't won back to back games since December 22. This was a nice win and should build their confidence, but they need to bring out that same energy and effort on the defensive end if they want to even think about making a run for one of the final playoff spots.