New York Knicks head coach Mike Miller, right, talks to forward Marcus Morris Sr. (13) in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Despite the thrilling game on the court, the New York Knicks are still playing beneath a cloud of uncertainty.

Danny Small

NEW YORK, NY—No matter what the situation is with the New York Knicks, Madison Square Garden rocks. The Knicks gave the Philadelphia 76ers their best shot on Saturday, but the playoff-bound Sixers made the plays when it mattered most.

Down one with 31 seconds left, Marcus Morris Sr. drilled a jumper over the outstretched hand of Ben Simmons. Unfortunately for the Knicks fans in MSG, the next two plays would make that Morris bucket quite forgettable.

On the very next play, a defensive miscommunication led to a wide-open Tobias Harris three.

“We got bumped off,” Knicks interim head coach Mike Miller said after the game. “We had our coverage and we got bumped and then in the rotations, we were just late getting there. … I’d have to go back and see it again to really see it, I just saw [Mitchell Robinson] get hit and then we all went into a rotation mode on that one, so he just ended up getting a little too much space.”

“Coach drew up a play, we wanted to get a shot off and get a two-for-one situation because of the time on the clock,” Harris explained. “[The play] kind of broke down when I caught it, I saw the three-point line and the defender back, we had to get one up quick, so I went and shot it.”

The game went from bad to worse. Miller wanted to get Morris another look to try and tie the game, but a breakdown in spacing led to a turnover, sealing the Knicks’ fate.

“Well, we were doing something similar than we had before,” Miller said. “We were getting into a cleared side, we had plenty of time and our spacing just broke down a little bit there.”

It’s hard to criticize these Knicks for this loss. They held Philly to just 38 second-half points and had a chance to beat one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference in the final minute. The guys on the floor played pretty well for most of the game.

However, it’s hard to be too excited about the state of the team right now. Miller is leaning heavily on the veterans while the young guys on the roster are being buried on the bench.

It’s no secret why Miller is opting to play guys like Morris, Elfrid Payton, and Reggie Bullock over Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, and Allonzo Trier. The former three all played upwards of 30 minutes while the latter three played a total of 41 minutes combined.

The vets give the team a better chance to win now, but will they give New York a better chance to win in the future? Almost certainly not. Even in the soft-as-Charmin Eastern Conference, the Knicks aren’t going to sniff the playoffs so what’s the point in trying to eke out a few more wins at the expense of developing the youth?

Unfortunately, this is a scenario that is all too common for the Knicks. The same situation unfolded two years ago when head coach Jeff Hornacek opted to play Jarrett Jack and Trey Burke at point guard during a lost season while Ntilikina was relegated to a bench role.

With all this said, it’s important to keep things in perspective. The trade deadline is just weeks away and the Knicks can flip some of their veterans—like Morris, Payton, and Bullock—for future draft capital. Recouping draft assets would be a nice little way for the franchise to salvage something from this lost season.

In the heat of the moment, Saturday night was a highly-entertaining game of basketball in which the Knicks had a chance to beat a championship contender. But once we take a step back and look at the overall state of the team, the future is still very unclear.

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