POSTED: Nov 15, 2014 1:43 AM ET
Despite 46 points from Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks couldn't find their way into the the win column against the Jazz.
NEW YORK — Knicks head coach Derek Fisher saw a breakthrough in a home loss to the (previously) 3-6 Utah Jazz on Friday night, a game in which Carmelo Anthony had to score 46 points and bank in a game-tying 3 in order for his team to even a chance to win in overtime.
Jazz vs. Knicks
Gordon Hayward drops 33 and Trey Burke hits the step-back triple buzzer beater to seal the win for the Jazz over the Knicks 102-100.
The game never reached overtime, because Trey Burke Taco Bell'd the Knicks with a step-back jumper over J.R. Smith. But less than 15 minutes later, Fisher was downright giddy in answering a question about his message to his team in the wake of its seventh straight defeat.
"Excitement," Fisher said, "belief in who we are and what we're made of. That was New York City right there. That was New York City."
Where most observers saw more bad pick-and-roll defense, more clunky Triangle offense that got bailed out by tough shot-making, and an injury to a critical two-way player (Iman Shumpert), Fisher saw effort and resiliency.
"We still have some things to clean up, for sure," Fisher said. "But when you question what these guys are made of, their commitment to the team, if they're worrying about themselves, go back and watch that game. That's a team right there, and we're going to get rewarded for what just happened tonight and what's happened these first 10 games, because they keep coming. There's no quit in that team right there.
"That's all we need to see as coaches. That's all fans want to see. That's all management wants to see. That's what this is about."
The Knicks' win in Cleveland, spoiling LeBron James' homecoming, was a long time ago and seems rather meaningless at this point. If it weren't for the Philadelphia 76ers, New York would be in last place in the Eastern Conference. The new offense has been bad and the defense has been worse.
But Fisher saw progress on Friday. And he saw it in one particular possession in the first quarter after the Knicks had put themselves in an 11-point hole.
"We had one defensive possession that changed the game tonight," Fisher said. "That's how quickly things turned. That's what we're trying to help our guys understand. Don't just look at the last play and Trey Burke hitting the basket. The game is won in that one play in the first quarter.
"The score was 21-10. You go back and look at it. And they could not move the basketball. We were at the level on our screen-and-rolls. We were communicating. We were moving. We got a stop and the game turned from there."
The Knicks got back in the game and eventually built a five-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. But then they proceeded to allow the Jazz to score on eight straight possessions, unable to stop Derrick Favors' rolls to the basket.
"Over the course of certain stretches, we allow ourselves to kind of lose sight of defensively what we go into the game talking about, in terms of our defense," Fisher said. "As guys start competing, they start getting passionate, they get back into the game and the emotions are up, some of the details they lose a little bit."
Fisher is trying to remake a defense was disorganized last season, with players often losing track of opponents in a scheme that switched most pick-and-rolls. So, as the Knicks try to learn the Triangle offense, they're also trying to learn new defensive principles. But Fisher believes they can overcome some of their individual deficiencies and ultimately become a better defensive unit.
"It's about the team being able to defend and not isolating any one player as a good or not-good defender," Fisher said before the game Friday. "If you adhere to good defensive team principles, you'll be in the right positions. Now, whether or not every guy is fast enough to close out to a 3-point shooter a little better or jump higher than another guy, maybe there's some variance there. But in terms of our overall defensive concepts and strategy, everybody can do that."
Right now, there appears to be a steep learning curve on both ends of the floor. But Fisher has told his team to put things in perspective.
"You think about our team and our roster," he said. "We got guys from different countries, different backgrounds, parts of big cities in New York and Chicago, places where a lot of kids didn't make it out. So learning a new offense and learning some new defensive strategies is easy compared to the challenges they had to fight just to get here."
If this coaching thing doesn't work out, Fisher could do well as a motivational speaker, a guy who can somehow see a deflating loss as his team's best moment and have a kumbaya moment in the face of a 2-8 record. Maybe in his mind, one possession can turn a game around and one game can turn a season around.
The Denver Nuggets come to Madison Square Garden on Sunday, providing an opportunity for the Knicks to get a win out of a four-game homestand that has seen them lose in similar fashion to two teams - Orlando and Utah - that aren't expected to sniff the playoffs.
"It's easy to smile when it's going good," Fisher said. "But what are you made of when it's going bad? We're going to keep our head up. We're going to keep our chest out. We're going to keep fighting, because we got another game on Sunday, and we're coming back to get a win."