The New York Knicks struggled without starting shooting guard Courtney Lee in Wednesday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Winning on the road in the NBA is never easy no matter the opponent. But Wednesday night’s overtime loss suffered by the New York Knicks was very winnable. That’s why it hurt so much when they let it slip away.
Kristaps Porzingis summed up the team’s feelings after the 102-98 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks, telling Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News.
“Oh man, it’s killing us,” Porzingis said afterward. “I know it’s killing everybody here in the locker room right now.”
Carmelo Anthony‘s second-quarter ejection, horrid officiating, poor shooting from Derrick Rose, and Porzingis’ crucial missed free throw late in overtime will take the brunt of the blame for Wednesday’s loss.
The Knicks just missed Courtney Lee. Their starting shooting guard was out for the second time this season, this time with a sore right wrist.
Jeff Hornacek started little-used Sasha Vujacic in his place so as to not disturb the flow of the rotation. Vujacic had only appeared in 18 games in 2016-17 this season and logged fewer than 10 minutes in all but six was suddenly forced into a meaningful role.
The former Laker logged 27 minutes and had some predictable rust on his jump shot, going 1-7 and 0-3 from three-point range.
Justin Holiday fared better in his season-high 34 minutes. The 27-year-old had 14 points and attempted a season-high seven shots from three-point range.
Unfortunately, like his teammates, Holiday struggled from the perimeter. He only stuck two of his attempts from downtown.
Both teams were sub-40 percent from the field overall and struggled from outside. They shot the same mark from three-point range, 7-27 (25.9 percent).
That number is a disturbing trend for the Hawks who are 29th in three-point percentage, but the Knicks are 9th in the same category.
With Lee in the lineup, the game is different. He’s converted on 46.7 percent of his threes and 1.5 per game.
Per NBA.com, Lee has an on/off court net rating of +1.3 points per 100 possessions.
The Knicks are being outscored by 2.4 points per 100 possessions with him on the court (a tribute to their horrific defense), but an even worse 3.7 points when he’s been off the court.
Considering Rose is the only Knick rotation player with a positive on-court net rating, an unimpressive 0.3, this shows just how important Lee is to the team.
They folded down the stretch, and most of that was due to the absence of Anthony, but Lee has come through with big buckets his entire career. The nine-year veteran would’ve been a big help in snapping New York out of their shooting slump.