"Wins and losses are just information," is a phrase Derek Fisher uses fairly frequently.
Fisher’s point, we think, is to avoid getting trapped in the moment. Don’t believe everything is perfect after a win or that the sky is falling after a loss. Learn from mistakes made in a game -- regardless of the result -- and use the lessons to improve going forward.
It seems to be a sound philosophy for a team attempting to rebuild in a major media market.
If the New York Knicks have applied Fisher’s mantra to their past 11 games, they probably learned a lot about themselves.
All of their opponents during that stretch were over .500; they won five of the 11 games.
A 5-6 record is no reason to throw a parade, of course. But considering the Knicks started the 11-game stretch at 1-4, the final record should give them reason to be optimistic.
Below, we take a look at three things worth noting during the 11-game period:
A different Melo? Carmelo Anthony has been handing out assists at or near career-high rates for most of the season. We’ve covered that in-depth here. But the past four games, in particular, showed how effective both Anthony and the Knicks can be when he shares the ball.
Anthony has averaged 4.8 assists per game over the past four games, more than one assist higher than his season average. His passing has also created 12 points per game for the Knicks. That’s three more points than his season average.
Maybe it’s just coincidental, but the Knicks played four of their best games of the season during that stretch. They beat Atlanta at home and on the road and topped Miami on the road before losing to San Antonio.
The final play of their one-point loss to San Antonio on Friday was indicative of Anthony’s approach to passing. He had the ball in his hands with the Knicks down one. Instead of taking a contested shot, Anthony drew three defenders to him and found Jose Calderon in the corner for a 3-point attempt. Calderon’s shot didn’t fall. It was the right play, but the wrong result and maybe something worth applying Fisher's philosophy to.
One thing to watch with the Knicks going forward: will Anthony continue to share the ball and trust in his teammates as explored here? It certainly seems to be something he’s committed to.
Porzingis pushes forward: Kristaps Porzingis had one of the finest offensive games of his young career on Friday against the Spurs. He finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds while going up at times against LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan. It was type of performance that we saw with greater frequency earlier in the season before Porzingis' scoring dip.
Is it a sign of things to come for the rookie? Maybe. It's way too early to draw any conclusions.
But as ESPN’s Luke Knox points out, Porzingis has been making a consistent impact on the defensive end for New York. He and Robin Lopez have helped establish the Knicks as one of the top rim-defending clubs in the NBA.
According to Knox, Porzingis is one of the NBA’s top defenders when measured by his opponents field goal percentage on shots within six feet of the rim. So the rookie seems to have plenty of value, even when his shot isn't falling.
One more factor worth keeping an eye on with Porzingis: he played a little more than 1,000 minutes last season in Spain. He’s approaching that total already and will likely eclipse it on Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks. He's already on pace to more than double his minutes total from last season.
It will be interesting to see how the Knicks approach his minutes from here on out.
Fisher pushing buttons: Fisher has been criticized often this season for his in-game substitutions and general decision-making. But the second-year coach deserves credit for a recent rotation tweak that seems to be paying dividends. Starting with the Knicks' home game against the Hawks on Jan. 3, Fisher cut his rotation from 10-11 players to nine. The move left Kyle O'Quinn and Sasha Vujacic out of the rotation and increased minutes for Porzingis and Lopez.
The Knicks have won four of five since the switch, and at least some of the success should be attributed to Porzingis getting minutes at center in the second unit and playing more alongside Lopez.
It will be interesting to see if Fisher sticks with this rotation or continues to tweak his lineups. One more note on Fisher: his Knicks have struggled at times to execute coming out of a timeout. But on Friday against the Spurs, the Knicks ran a solid out-of-bounds play coming out of a timeout that ended with an alley-oop to Porzingis. We assume that was Fisher’s call, and if so, it was a good one. Fisher then elected not to call timeout on the Knicks’ last possession, which ended with the Calderon missed 3-pointer. You can certainly quibble with that decision if you’d like. It seemed like a solid one from our perspective as it didn't allow San Antonio to set up its defense.
Looking ahead, the next test for Fisher and the Knicks is to find some consistency.
New York has had four separate losing streaks of at least three games, and three separate winning streaks of at least three games. Are they in the midst of another losing streak? We’ll find out Sunday night when they host the Milwaukee Bucks at the Garden.