Led by Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr., the Knicks have looked like a much better team than years past in the early goings of the season. After Hardaway was diagnosed with a stress injury in his leg following their game against Miami, the team knew they would be without their second leading scorer for a least a couple weeks. It has been up to the bench to make up the points in his absence, and as of late they done a solid job.
Out of the gate it looked like the Knicks would struggle mightily without Hardaway, losing their first two games after his injury in a close loss to the Orlando Magic before being manhandled by the Indiana Pacers. Hardaway’s contribution to the team this season is hard to replace. Through 21 games, Hardaway is averaging just under 18 points with three assists and four rebounds. He has brought a great energy and attitude to the team as one of the Knicks’ emotional leaders. In their last stretch of games, however, the team is figuring out how to win without Hardaway on the floor.
Since those two losses, the Knicks have won three of four, defeating the Grizzlies and Hawks while taking down the Lakers in an OT thriller at Madison Square Garden. The most impressive part of this stretch of games is that there isn’t just one guy that is stepping in and filling the void left by Hardaway. Each game has seemingly had a different hero off the bench.
One of the most improved players on the Knicks early on, especially since the injury to Hardaway, has been the rookie Frank Ntilikina. While Ntilikina’s passing and defensive ability have been showcased all season, it is his scoring that has seen a big upgrade. Prior to Hardaway going down, Ntilikina’s season-high in points was just 10. In the six games since, Ntilikina has scored 10 or more twice, including a career-high 13 against the Lakers. The rookie has finally found the confidence to shoot the ball, hitting 50 percent of his shots from behind the arc in this six-game stretch.
A big surprise, especially of late, has been the play of Michael Beasley. Beasley has shown an innate ability to score when called upon, shooting 52 percent from the field this season. Since Hardaway’s injury, Beasley has averaged 12 points per game on 53 percent shooting. He has provided a huge offensive spark off the bench, most notably playing an instrumental role in the fourth quarter and OT in the win against the Lakers.
Another player stepping up has been Doug McDermott. McDermott has been solid all year off the bench, averaging just under nine points per game on 40 percent shooting from behind the arc. Playing some increased minutes in the absence of Hardaway, he has averaged 11 points over the six game stretch shooting over 50 percent from the field.
While coach Jeff Hornacek has been starting Lance Thomas in Hardaway’s spot, Thomas has averaged just over four points per game this year. It would not be surprising to see either Beasley or McDermott inserted into that spot moving forward until Hardaway is able to return.
The Knicks next take on the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclay Center tonight at 7:30 before hosting Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder on Saturday.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new New York Knicks article is published, fill out our email notification form.