Under Derek Fisher’s leadership, the New York Knicks are continuing to show growth through the early stages of this season.
On Friday night, D-Fish and the Knicks fell to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 90-84, but were able to bounce back on Sunday afternoon as they put together an impressive effort to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 95-87. Sunday’s victory felt good for D-Fish and Co. after losing to the Cavs a couple nights before, especially after his squad addressed the facets of their game that doomed them in Friday’s defeat.
“When you see things transfer, in that they’re the ones that are making the decisions out there, it’s a really good feeling and I’m sure for those guys it feels even better because they are the ones making those choices,” Fisher said. “You could see the concerted effort to move the ball, to share the ball, to make sure all guys are involved and I thought that was the difference in having a better second half/fourth quarter than we had the last couple nights.”
On Friday the Knicks’ bench had a difficult time generating scoring against the Cavs. The reserves only finished the game with 19 points with Jerian Grant and Langston Galloway chipping in with a combined 13 points, nine boards and three assists. Fisher said after the game that they need to rely on their execution and not try too hard to produce individual offensive opportunities.
“Just trusting our execution and continuing to play as a team,” Fisher said when asked how his team can generate more scoring. “We get into trouble when we start to try and manufacture offense individually instead of trying to do it as a unit. That’s when we had our best quarters, when all five guys are just playing together there’s not any one person worried about their own shot or their own opportunity.”
Carmelo Anthony led the team in scoring with 26 points, five rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes of action. The next leading scorer was Aaron Afflalo, who scored 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting in about 30 minutes of action. Jose Calderon and Kristaps Porzingis were the only other Knicks to reach double-digit point totals.
Compared to the New York, Cleveland is a more experienced team but Fisher recognizes that the Knicks are getting to the point where the young players have seen enough game situations to be more conformable on the court. Continuing to grind and doing the little things right will make all the difference this season from D-Fish’s perspective.
“There’s no question that they’re a good team. They have several guys that have tons of experience,” D-Fish said. “They have a lot of guys that understand how to just play one possession at a time. We’re still learning that as a team but at the same time we’ve had enough of these situations even so far this year that we can just continue to raise our level in terms of possession basketball, doing the things we need to do and continuing to develop a will to win.”
On Sunday, the Knicks responded to the loss with an impressive victory over the Pelicans. The growth from only one game was evident, as New York’s ball movement in second half sparked a run to take over the game. Fisher noticed how well his team played together as a cohesive unit opposed to earlier in the weekend where he saw too many of his guys working individually to manufacture opportunities.
“I thought the guys did a good job of working together as a unit. They kept the basketball moving, got themselves organized a few more times in the second half tonight compared to a couple nights ago,” Fisher said. “It’s just good to see. They’re continuing to build trust in each other and that’s really what it takes.”
Melo led the Knicks in scoring again with 29 points in 39 minutes to go along with 13 rebounds and three assists. Galloway also provided his usual spark off the bench with 14 points while going 5-of-6 from the floor.
Porzingis had one of his toughest games of the season while only shooting 4-of-15 and scoring 10 points in his 22 minutes on the court. The Latvian rookie also struggled on the glass as he only came down four rebounds. Despite the off performance, Fisher thinks that these types of games are great learning experiences for young players like Porzingis in terms of learning the imperfect relationship between personal stat lines and the game outcomes.
“[He learned] how good it feels to win even when your particular stat line isn’t what you may prefer. To me that’s the best teacher in the world for young players, is that it’s easy to get one of these final boxes and look at your stat line and see that you went 8-of-11 and the team lost,” Fisher explained. “He wasn’t making shots but he kept competing, he changed some shots and he rebounded the ball at a decent clip.”
Kevin Seraphin made a big impact for Fisher in the win off the bench after struggling to find playing time in much of the Knicks early season action. Seraphin helped out with 12 points as a reserve while shooting an impressive 6-of-8 from the floor in 14 minutes. D-Fish acknowledged the hard work Seraphin has been putting in despite his lack of constant minutes.
“He’s been working hard to keep himself in shape even though he hasn’t played a lot of minutes,” Fisher said. “We know what he can do offensively but it was good to see the defensive rebounding that really helped us out as well.”
Fisher and the Knicks return to the floor on Tuesday when they will face the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden.
The two teams met on Nov. 11 and the Hornets barely squeaked by as they defeated Fisher and Co. 95-93 in Charlotte. New York will look to even the season series and build off their strong win on Sunday against the Pelicans.
The game is slated to tipoff at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday and will be broadcast on MSG.