It was Kids’ Day at the Garden on Sunday afternoon. There were kid announcers, kid reporters, kid dancers and a poorly executed baby race at halftime that turned into more of a sit-in.
While youth was a good thing as far as the pageantry was concerned, it didn’t serve the Knicks well during their final minutes against the Celtics. Boston erased a 95-92 Knicks lead with a 12-0 run and wound up cruising to a 113-104 win in a game that was a lot more competitive than that sounds.
What ruined the Knicks was a bevy of turnovers in the final minutes as their offensive execution and decision-making suffered under the pressure of the Celtics defense.
“We had four or five turnovers that lead to four or five 3s for them,” coach David Fizdale said after the Knicks’ sixth straight loss. Later he added, “The turnovers sparked them and they capitalized on each one of them.”
Late-game collapses have been common this season, apparently caused by a variety of reasons that all seem to center on the Knicks being either a young team in age or a young team in development, which aren’t necessarily the same thing.
With 19-year-old rookie RJ Barrett, 20-year-old Kevin Knox, 21-year-old Frank Ntilikina and 21-year-old Mitchell Robinson being viewed as the foundation of the franchise, the Knicks can certainly claim to be a team with plenty of “kids” on the roster.
But there must come a time, sooner rather than later, when the Knicks start to play with a level of maturity where they can close out games like the one that eluded them against the Celtics.
“We haven’t figured out how to close it out,” Fizdale said, adding, “My job is to keep figuring out how to get them to do it.”
If this keeps up deep into this season, it won’t be Fizdale’s job much longer. At 4-16, the Knicks have played 20 games this season after team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry said they would view the year in 10-game intervals. No one can be sure exactly what that means if 12 games under .500 this early doesn’t constitute a need for change somewhere.
Fizdale doesn’t deserve to be fired at this point given the Knicks roster was constructed with nine new faces. He’s still searching for an established point guard, though Dennis Smith Jr. finally looks like he has his legs back after totaling 17 points and seven assists Sunday. Smith could get a hard look as a starter if Ntilikina misses time after suffering an upper-back injury against the Celtics.
Meanwhile, Robinson’s habit of silly fouls hasn’t gone away as the 7-foot center fouled out early in the fourth quarter, clearing the lane for the Celtics’ late rally.
“It does hurt us when we can’t play him significant minutes,” Fizdale said of Robinson, who had six points, five rebounds and no blocked shots in 19 minutes.
One positive in the youth movement was Knox responding to not playing for the first time in his NBA career Friday night by starting in place of the injured Marcus Morris. Knox had a decent game with 11 points on 4 of 9 shooting, but still has a long way to go before becoming an impact player.
The Knicks think they’re close, viewing being competitive against good teams like the Celtics as “real positives.” Fizdale also pointed out that poor free-throwing shooting has cost them wins.
“If you go through eight or nine of our losses, we either didn’t shoot enough of them or we missed the ones that we did get,” the coach said.
That type of reasoning can only be accepted for so long. It’s almost like teams are toying with the Knicks until the final minutes when most NBA games are decided.
Fizdale needs to figure out how to get his kids to grow up.
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