Knicks offseason moves pay off against Clippers

NEW YORK -- Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry don't sit near the media at home games, so it's hard to know exactly how they felt about Monday night's 22-point win over the LA Clippers.

But it's safe to assume both men walked out of Madison Square Garden in a good mood.

And why not? Several Knicks acquired by the executives in the offseason played key roles in New York's bounce-back 107-85 win.

Let's start with the two who came to New York in the Carmelo Anthony trade:

Enes Kanter had 12 points and 16 rebounds (six offensive) to help the Knicks mostly control Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the paint. (New York outrebounded the Clippers by 15.)

Doug McDermott had 16 points, including three 3-pointers in a 3:41 span in the third quarter that helped the Knicks expand a 2-point lead to 15.

And then there was the contribution of Perry's mid-September signing, Jarrett Jack. Jack, one of the biggest surprises of this young NBA season, had 11 points, seven assists and just one turnover in 25 minutes against Los Angeles.

Jack's line alone doesn't explain his impact on the game. The veteran had three points and two assists during a 10-0 second-quarter run that gave New York a 2-point lead. And later, after the Clippers had cut a 17-point New York lead to 2, Jack had three assists in a 1:43 span of the third quarter to help get the Knicks' lead back to 12. New York improved to 9-4 since Jack entered the starting lineup.

"He just had us organized," Jeff Hornacek said after Jack and the Knicks handed out 20 assists in the final 33 minutes of the game.

To Hornacek, the ball movement in the final three quarters of Monday's game was a continuation of what he has seen for much of the season. He believes ball movement and player movement are among the biggest differences between this year's team and last season's squad, which featured isolation-heavy players in Anthony and Derrick Rose.

"This group of guys, there are some really good guys who cut off the ball," the coach said, mentioning Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and McDermott. "We're not standing around as much, having one guy just go to it."

The numbers support that theory. The Knicks entered play on Monday 11th in assist ratio, up from 23rd last season. Opposing scouts say McDermott deserves credit there because he is constantly moving off the ball.

In addition to McDermott's off-ball movement, Hornacek credited him on Monday for making the right reads on defending the pick-and-roll. The coach also praised Kanter for impacting the game with his defense on Jordan, his rebounding and his screen-setting, all while taking just four shots.

"He didn't force anything," the coach said of Kanter. "... He played his role perfectly tonight."

We're barely a month into the season, so it's silly to grade offseason moves at this point. But what happened on Monday night was further evidence that the Knicks' front office did well with the Anthony trade.

Of course, the Knicks didn't exactly beat one of the NBA's elite on Monday night. The Clippers have lost nine in a row and are missing Danilo Gallinari and point guard Milos Teodosic.

Heading into the season, many would have predicted that New York would be the team on a nine-game losing streak at this point. And it would've been easy to predict that the Clippers would be thriving behind two elite big men (Griffin and Jordan).

Instead, Hornacek and the Knicks have figured out how to win games behind strong play from Kanter and Kristaps Porzingis (25 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks).

"One thing about this team, everybody knows what they're going to do, everybody knows his role," Kanter said. "We're just going out, playing basketball and having fun."

Yes, for one night, all of the pieces fit perfectly for the Knicks. It won't always be this easy, of course. But you can be sure that Perry and Mills, who sit in the arena seats once occupied by Phil Jackson, left the Garden feeling good about what they saw on Monday.