The New York Knicks brought energy and effort to the floor for their new head coach, but the end result was quite familiar.
NEW YORK, NY—The New York Knicks desperately needed a shot of life. After 44- and 37-point losses in the span of four days, the clock struck midnight on David Fizdale‘s tenure. Right or wrong, the Knicks chose to move on from the embattled coach and hand the reins over to Mike Miller.
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) December 8, 2019
“It was a lot of fun,” an upbeat Miller said after the 104-103 loss to the Indiana Pacers (15-8). “Once the game started it was about the game. The way that we played, the effort, the way that we kept fighting back and stayed in it. Those are fun games to coach.”
Miller’s first day on the job was strange, to say the least, but the end result was a case of the “same ol’ Knicks.” Despite fighting and competing with the likely playoff-bound Indiana Pacers, another loss goes on the Knicks’ ledger. The New York outfit is now 4-19 and in last place in all of the NBA.
The goat of the night is undoubtedly Julius Randle. Despite dropping 16 points and scooping up 12 rebounds, his missed free throw with 0.1 seconds left would have sent the game into overtime.
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) December 8, 2019
“It’s tough, very difficult but we played hard,” Randle said. “We gave it everything we had and came up short.”
There’s no doubt there was a different feel in Madison Square Garden and around the team under Miller. Of course, anytime a coach is fired, teams are going to respond in one way or another. The Knicks responded positively. Second-year center Mitchell Robinson tallied 14 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks off the bench.
“I took over the energy that my teammates had on the court,” Robinson, 23, said after the game. “I saw them playing extra hard so I have to match the intensity so we can get stops and have a chance to win the game.”
Marcus Morris Sr., a vocal supporter of Fizdale, admitted that Saturday night was a tough game for everyone, but felt he and his teammates came out with the right energy.
“I felt like our communication was very high,” Morris said. “I felt like guys were giving a lot more effort than normal. We were talking a lot. The ball was moving. We played the right way and it was good to see that.”
The uptick in the overall effort can be interpreted in multiple ways. Whatever the reason may be, the team pushed the Pacers to the brink. But was Miller’s first game at the helm really progress?
No doubt, the Knicks defended well and gave themselves a chance to win. But it came against a Pacers team missing its two best players—Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo—and Indiana was playing the second game of a back-to-back. Not to mention, this was the team’s final game of a five-game road trip.
“We had an opportunity to make this a winning trip by getting this game tonight,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. “We knew that New York would come out and scrap, which they did for 48 minutes. But our guys hung in there, for 48 minutes and made plays down the stretch to win the game.”
Again, the Knicks gave the Pacers all they could handle, but it’s too early to suss out whether or not things are going to be different under Miller. Was this a momentary shot of adrenaline due to the circumstances, or will the new voice in the locker room make this level of effort and energy consistent?
There were only minor tweaks to the on-court product including a few new sets put in on Saturday afternoon. After all, Miller has yet to run his own practice so there wasn’t much he could drastically alter prior to tip-off.
Furthermore, many of the same issues under Fizdale remained the same. The Pacers shot 42.9% from three and the Knicks missed crucial free throws that could have pushed them over the hump.
Drawing conclusions—positive or negative—from one game seems like the wrong approach. This writer will be taking the wait-and-see approach.
The upcoming road trip will be a true test for these Knicks. A west coast swing includes games against the Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, and Denver Nuggets await Miller’s squad. Two wins on this trip would feel like two hundred wins at the rate the Knicks are going.