A brawl, a sensational rookie, and a struggling third-year point guard are just a few of the takeaways from another New York Knicks loss.
NEW YORK, NY—Fans who left Madison Square Garden early missed the most exciting part of the game. With under a minute left, an altercation between Elfrid Payton and Jae Crowder led to multiple ejections and some colorful postgame quotes.
Prior to the melee, the Memphis Grizzlies imposed their will on the New York Knicks, controlling the game from start to finish. Ja Morant was the proverbial straw that stirred the drink for Memphis, but there was a whole lot more to Wednesday night’s game.
Here are five observations from the Knicks’ 127-106 loss to the Grizzlies.
Knicks won’t apologize for melee
Payton and Marcus Morris Sr. were defiant in the locker room after an ugly fracas at the end of another blowout. Crowder stole an inbounds pass and took a three with an 18-point lead. Payton gave Crowder a forearm shiver and the two sides needed to be separated.
You could "almost" excuse this IF the New York #Knicks were playing hard, tough ball all night. They weren't, so under no circumstances should this be excused.
Elfrid Payton can't do this, no matter what you think about Crowder here. Bad night at MSG. pic.twitter.com/HQLeoTuASw
— ESNY (@EliteSportsNY) January 30, 2020
“It’s just disrespectful,” Payton said after the game. The veteran point guard didn’t have any issues with Crowder during the game and didn’t even mind the steal. However, he felt that the three-pointer was over the line.
“I’m standing on that. I’d do it again,” Payton admitted. “It didn’t matter who took that shot. Don’t disrespect me.”
Morris, who was involved in the scuffle as well, wasn’t happy with the way Crowder carries himself on the court. He was at his wit’s end with the Memphis small forward for what he referred to as “female tendencies.”
“I think [Crowder] plays the game a different way,” Morris said. “A lot of female tendencies on the court, flopping, throwing his head back the entire game. It’s a man’s game and you just get tired of it. That was very unprofessional.”
The veteran forward later walked back his comments about “female tendencies.”
I apologize for using the term “female tendencies” I have the upmost respect for women and everything they mean to us. It was a Heat of the moment response and I never intended for any Women to feel as though in anyway I’m disrespecting them. Again I apologize with my comments.
— Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2) January 30, 2020
2019 NBA Draft class
The top three picks from the 2019 NBA Draft haven’t had the opportunity to face off against one another yet. When the New Orleans Pelicans came to Madison Square Garden earlier this month, Zion Williamson was almost healthy enough to play, but he wasn’t quite there yet.
Now, with Ja Morant making his MSG debut, RJ Barrett is the rookie on the shelf. Knicks fans will have to wait until next season to see Barrett go against Williamson and Morant on the Garden floor.
For what it’s worth, Morant was an absolute stud in his debut. His stat line might not jump off the page, but he was the most impactful player on the floor by a wide margin.
He poured in 18 points and 10 assists, but he was a plus-42 on the night. Every time the Knicks made a little run, Morant came back into the game and shut it down. He was electric.
Dennis Smith Jr. struggled
It was a puzzling move with the backcourt of Morant and Dillon Brooks dominating. As it turns out, Frank Ntilikina was not available due to a nagging groin issue.
Smith sank a few buckets on offense, knocking down three of his six shots in 13 minutes, but his shooting numbers don’t tell the full story.
In his first six-minute shift, he was called for a needless technical foul out of frustration following one of his four turnovers in the first half. His defense was not a glaring weakness in the way that it usually is, but he doesn’t bring much to that end of the floor.
Watching Smith and Bobby Portis try and defend Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. in the pick-and-roll was…interesting.
Marcus Morris Sr. and Julius Randle have off nights
The big guns were gunning, but they were off target all night long. Julius Randle and Morris combined for 33 points, but it took 31 shots for them to reach that mark. Randle and Morris are the veterans Miller turns to when the team desperately needs offense. It’s tough for the Knicks to overcome poor shooting nights from one of them, let alone both.
Randle found other ways to impact the game, namely with his 15 rebounds, but his physical presence wasn’t enough to overcome the poor shooting.
Free throws ain’t free
It wasn’t the difference in the game, but the Knicks’ free throw woes reared its ugly head once again. New York shot 19-for-29 from the charity stripe while the Grizzlies converted on 28 of their 33 attempts.
In a 21-point blowout, it’s easy to overlook free throws, but this has been a recurring problem for the Knicks. New York is a not-so-nice 69% on the season. They are the only team in the NBA with a free-throw percentage below 70.
New York will be off until Saturday when they travel to Indiana for a meeting with the Pacers (7 p.m. ET).