Derek Fisher’s New York Knicks showed over the weekend one thing above all: They’re quick learners.
On Friday night, Fish’s crew was tied late in the fourth quarter but was unable to come out on top, falling 99-92 to the Milwaukee Bucks. And afterward, Derek talked about how both he and his team must learn to seize control in those situations.
“I think just figuring out how to win[the close games] anyway possible and finding a group of five guys that collectively can finish a game,” Fisher said when asked about how his team needs to work on in crunch-time. “That’s tough to do sometimes depending on the minutes, depending on the rotations…part of that is for me to continue to work at how to manage.”
Fish’s night ended early on Sunday, as he was ejected for the first time in his career while arguing a call against his rookie big man, Kristaps Porzingis. However, after their coach showed some fire, so did the Knicks, as they finished off his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, 99-95.
“It was more the will to just win and not lose the game that most the most impactful,” Fish said Sunday. “Seems like the guys just made a decision at some point that they were going to figure out how to win and they figured it out.”
The Knicks guards had a difficult time finding their shots on Friday against the Bucks, as Jose Caledon and Sasha Vujacic combined for only one field goal. Despite their shooting struggles, Derek says that it’s never just about a couple specific guys, but instead it’s about the team’s collective effort.
“It’s not really just about one or two guys. If we’re relying on Sasha and Jose to offensively make sure that we’re gonna win then we’re probably not doing the right things anyway,” D-Fish said.
The Knicks did receive contributions from many players on the team though, as five players reached double-digits in scoring and Porzingis and fellow rookie Jerian Grant showed more promising signs. Porzingis finished the game with the team’s only double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds in 28 minutes of action. Grant chipped in with eight points, two boards, three assists and a steal off the bench.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks in scoring for the fifth consecutive game with 17 points. Melo also came down with four rebounds and dished out six assists in 34 minutes of action. Robin Lopez started the game and scored 12 points to join Anthony and Porzingis as the only other Knicks starters to reach double figures. Fisher notices how much attention Melo has been receiving from opposing defenses and he is happy with how the Knicks superstar has been responding.
“I think again he’s continuing to fight and do everything that he can to help us win. He’s getting a lot of attention from defenses that are making it difficult for him to have the individual games people believe that he should have,” Fisher said. “That’s kind of the price for being the best player on the team.”
Derrick Williams and Langston Galloway continued their solid play as reserves with 28 combined points. Galloway logged 32 minutes and recorded seven boards while Williams logged about 20 minutes while going 7-of-8 from the line.
Milwaukee mounted a 10-point lead after 12 minutes, but the Knicks fought back. They tied it up in the final frame, but the Bucks went on an 11-2 run to take control—and New York couldn’t answer.
On Sunday, D-Fish and the Knicks were able to get back on track at home in what could the final visit to Madison Square Garden for Fish’s longtime teammate, Kobe bryant. In a close game throughout, the Knicks were able to hang on to pull out a 99-95 victory fueled by some big defensive stops and an 8-0 run to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
Fisher was ejected in the in the third-quarter after disagreeing with a foul call on Porzingis, but his squad maintained its composure to wipe away the Knicks three game losing streak. After the game Fisher praised how his team executed in the fourth quarter after a poor-shooting performance in the first half where the team collectively only shot 37 percent from the field.
“I thought guys just made big plays or just made shots. I thought the bigger plays were made on the defensive end with some of the rebounding and some of the activity in the defensive end,” D-Fish explained. “Offensively our execution is still really an area that we have to improve a lot.”
Calderon bounced back in Sundays contest with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists in 35 minutes of action, which led the team in minutes played. Fisher was high on what Calderon brought to the count from a mental standpoint and he says it was key part of the Knicks success in the victory over Los Angeles.
“I thought he led us in the mental toughness department. That was a big catalyst to why the guys figured out a way to win the game today,” Derek said.
Melo and Kobe spend most of their time on the court matched up with one another. Melo led all players in the game with 24 points to go along with eight rebounds and Kobe finished tied for the Laker lead with 18 points.
“I thought they both competed hard against each other,” Fisher said. “They fouled each other a lot for sure but I think great players bring out a level of passion and enjoyment that they don’t get elsewhere.”
Porzingis and Lopez were key cogs in this Knicks victory as well as both starters recorded double-doubles. Porzingis finished the night with 12 points and 10 boards in 25 minutes of action while Lopez recorded 14 points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes.
Galloway continued to be Fisher’s most trusted asset off the bench, as the sharp-shooting second-year guard put up 14 points and added four rebounds and a steal in 27 minutes. Galloway was feeling it from long-range as he also went 3-of-4 on attempts from beyond the arc in the contest.
New York is now 3-4 on the season and will look to carry over its success from Sunday when it travels to Canada on Tuesday night to take on the Toronto Raptors (5-2).
Last year the Knicks went 1-3 against their Atlantic Division rivals, so Fisher and his team will look to reverse the script this season in the first matchup this season between the two squads.
The game is slated to tip-off at 7:30 p.m. ET from the Air Canada Centre and will be aired on MSG.