The New York Knicks battled hard against the San Antonio Spurs in a one-point loss on Friday, but Fisher’s group bounced back against the Milwaukee Bucks to earn a weekend split.
Despite the loss to conclude the road trip, Fisher’s Knicks still continued their great play of late. The win against the Bucks on Sunday marked the fifth victory for New York in its last seven games. The Knicks had lost four straight before this recent stretch and the improvement in the team’s game had been evident according to D-Fish.
The Knicks loss to the Spurs by a final score of 100-99 in a game that come down to the last possession. Kristaps Porzingis’ alley-oop dunk with 32.5 seconds remaining made it a one-point game. But after a critical defensive stand, Jose Calderon’s three-pointer just missed its mark.
Fisher’s team needed to play its best in order to have a chance to win against one of the top teams in the NBA and even though Friday’s game wasn’t its best effort, Fisher still thought his team fought hard to try and come out on top.
“I thought overall we got good effort throughout the game from our group. We had a few stretches in the game where we couldn’t come up with a loose ball, an offensive rebound we allowed them to get,” Fisher explained. “We had a chance to win. I wouldn’t say we played our best but I do think the guys fought the whole game.”
Porzingis had a big night for the Knicks with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes of action. Fisher credited K.P. with setting the tone early and helping the Knicks get going offensively. He also said that, with Carmelo Anthony and Aaron Afflalo playing that role of late, it was good to see his rookie step up and be aggressive to start the game.
“I thought Kris was early with his aggression and came out and started the game really aggressive, which was good for us to have another guy other than Melo and Aaron leading us recently – kind of kicked the scoring off,” Fisher said.
Kristaps had 10 points in the first quarter to vault the Knicks to a 30-26 lead. Melo had a solid game as well with 20 points to go along with 12 boards, three assists and two blocks in 39 minutes. Of the starting group, Robin Lopez also had a good performance and continued his heightened level of play. Lopez finished the game with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes.
Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant came off the bench and provided the Knicks with some offense, combining for 21 of the 27 points scored by reserves. Galloway chipped in with five boards and two assists while Grant a couple rebounds and assists of his own.
Before the game, Fisher said that this type of contest can serve as a barometer for where his team stands. After losing by only a point in a one-possession game against one of the best teams in the league, D-Fish explained how he felt about his team’s effort in this hard-fought game.
“I think we’re getting there. These types of games teach you how much it takes that really you do have to completely empty yourself in order to be the best and I thought we had a lot of guys who completely emptied themselves out. They couldn’t play harder. They couldn’t do more than what they tried to do,” D-Fish said. “Sometimes you still come up short. We did tonight but we’ll keep pushing, we’ll keep working to get better.”
On Sunday, the Knicks earned a 100-88 victory over the Bucks in the first game back home after a challenging road trip. The game started out slow, but an early timeout called by Fisher got the guys attention and from that point they were able to seize control and come out of the game victorious.
The game was tied after the first quarter, but New York outscored Milwaukee by 22 points in the second and third quarters combined en route to the 12-point win.
“The game started out slow. We were just a step slow to start which I anticipated after having experienced a road trip,” Fisher said. “I just wanted to, instead of waiting too long, kind of immediately get guys’ attention to a higher degree that we have to go now. They still made it tough for us to get a little bit of control in the first quarter but the guys kept battling finally found a way to break the game open.”
In an impressive effort, Melo was only a couple assists away from a triple-double in the contest. The Knicks star finished with a team-high in scoring, assists and rebounds with a line of 24 points, eight dimes and 10 boards in 37 minutes. Melo got off to a cold start, but after figuring out the Bucks schemes defensively, he was able to get on track and have a great game.
“I thought with a slow start and with a little frustration early, he remained patient, made the right plays, made the right passes,” Fisher said. “When you start making the game easy like that for everybody else, the game opened up for him and he was able to have the type of scoring night he’s capable of having.”
Porzingis finished the game with a couple more clips to add to his highlight-reel. He threw down another vicious putback and also had a couple huge blocks in transition. Kristaps scored 15 points to go along with six rebounds, a pair of assists, a steal and a game-high five blocked shots. The big game for K.P. on both ends of the floor was outstanding, but D-Fish was most complimentary of his rookie’s competitive fire.
“He’s extremely competitive. That’s the part that’s easy to underestimate. When you look at him you don’t necessarily see a tough guy but he’s definitely competitive…and he’s still learning. That’s the thing. It’s his first year, a lot is coming at him but he’s doing a good job fighting through the ups and downs that come with playing in this league,” Derek said.
Lopez continued to excel in the system with 13 points, nine rebounds, two assists and a block in 27 minutes. Compared to how he was utilized in Portland last year, Fisher has been deploying his center a bit differently.
It took some time for Robin to get comfortable with his new offensive role in New York, but it looks like he is starting to figure it out and is becoming a real asset to the Knicks. Fisher explained that his improved play is a combination of a couple things including his health and familiarity with the system.
“It’s a combination of I think physically he’s continuing to feel really good about where he is…his endurance – I think he has some pop in his legs again in terms of being able to finish baskets around the rim,” Fisher said. “The second part of it is as he learns more about where the opportunities are offensively in our system that don’t really require a one-on-one package with post up moves. It’s really about being in the right spots at the right time so that you can just catch and finish.”
Afflalo and Calderon helped out in the win with a combined 20 points, five boards and 10 assists. The reserves came in clutch too in the winning effort. Lance Thomas led the bench with 13 points while Derrick Williams had a solid all-around output with eight points and six rebounds, including a couple energizing dunks to get the crowd going.
The Knicks (19-20) have a chance to get back to .500 against the Boston Celtics (19-18). A couple weeks ago the Knicks fell to the C’s 100-91 in Boston in the first meeting between the two rivals this season.
With the Knicks currently a game back of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Standings, a win would go a long way in getting Fisher’s crew into the playoff picture.
The game is slated to tipoff tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. and will be aired on MSG.