If the New York Knicks are going to contend this season, Kristaps Porzingis is going to have to take more than one shot in the fourth quarter of games.
By Israel Gonzalez
Gee willikers, Batman!
Kristaps Porzingis only took one shot during the New York Knicks’ Wednesday night 91-84 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. For the record, it was a 58-foot shot. At the buzzer. With the game already decided. How’s that for confidence in the young rookie?
To makes matters worse, the game was tied going into the fourth quarter. As in, it was anybody’s game. As in, the Knicks had outscored the Cavs by seven points in the previous two quarters combined. As in, the Knicks actually had a shot at defeating the Cavs, even without their lone superstar, Carmelo Anthony.
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And then someone decided that it was a brilliant idea to make it so that Kristaps Porzingis only took a single shot (in the fourth quarter) with no consequence attached to it. It was like some cruel joke, designed to draw the ire of Knicks fans that have warmed up to the idea of Kristaps Porzingis leading the team into the future. It was like the Knicks drew up a play to isolate their own player.
Well played, Knicks.
To make matters even worse, head coach Derek Fisher seems somewhat oblivious to some of the problems that have plagued the Knicks this season.
Instead of pointing a finger at himself and the rest of the coaching staff, he pointed it at what the Cavs did defensively.
“Defenses in late-game situations are designed to take things away,” said Fisher to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. “That’s why we believe in playing offense that involves all five guys, so they can’t key on one guy.”
Here’s the problem, though.
Even with Carmelo Anthony, you don’t have five players that can take over in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line. While it is understandable that Porzingis has to grow into that role, why not see what he is made of now?
It’s not like the Knicks are throwing him into the fire right away. He’s not being asked to lead the team. He’s not being asked to be the focal point of the offense. Heck, he doesn’t even have to be the number two guy this early in his career. There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling a highly touted rookie to “take over.”
Fisher, however, saw things differently.
In his postgame comments, he credited the flow of the game as the reason shots weren’t available for Porzingis:
“I don’t think they physically tried to take (Porzingis) out of the game,” said Fisher. “His points are happening in the flow of the game. In the fourth quarter when the game slows down, those flow points aren’t there.”
There are a couple of things wrong with what Fisher said. He originally mentioned that defenses clamp down on opposing offenses late in games. Then he mentioned that the Cavs weren’t trying to lock down Porzingis. Which one is it?
Then, there is the whole flow of the game argument.
Technically, every point happens during the flow of the game. There are merely times when the flow is quick and times when it isn’t. Also, if as a team, you bring up the tempo slowing down during the fourth quarter, wouldn’t that mean that you are allowing teams to slow the game down? Shouldn’t you be going for a swift knockout punch before the final bell? Why even conform to the logics of the game that tell you to be methodical during the fourth quarter?
Fisher talks about getting all five players involved, but won five NBA titles playing alongside Kobe Bryant. Imagine if the Los Angeles Lakers decided to take Fisher’s current advice. Imagine if during the fourth quarter of the 2000 NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers, Phil Jackson thought it was a good idea to let Travis Knight take the final shot of a game. Do the Lakers still win that series? Probably not.
The point here is simple: Kristaps Porzingis, particularly in games when Anthony doesn’t play, has the keys to the convertible. Why not let him drive it?