The New York Knicks opened up their season with a 126-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Madison Square Garden last night. The early offensive success without Porzingis is encouraging as the Knicks struggled offensively with their young star out of the lineup. Head coach David Fizdale has invigorated this young Knicks team with a new energy and the Madison Square Garden crowd felt that against the Hawks last night.
Tim Hardaway Jr. proved that he was capable of being the Knicks’ lead man as he exploded for 31 points on 10-22 shooting. His ability to create shots for himself was huge as he made eight straight field goals in the first half to put the game out of reach. Hardaway Jr. also showed that he is an adept passer as he dished out six assists without turning the ball over.
His placement at small forward alongside Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina in the backcourt gave the Knicks speed and up-tempo style that Fizdale wants to play in New York. Ntilikina struggled offensively as he shot 2-7 from the field and finished with five points, but his defensive presence on the perimeter was huge for the Knicks. Burke finished with 15 points and four assists and helped Ntilikina wreak havoc defensively as the Hawks turned the ball over 24 times.
The highly anticipated debut of Kevin Knox did not go so well as the rookie from Kentucky went 4-16 from the floor in 24 minutes. He struggled finding his shot throughout the game and was unable to get into a rhythm offensively. Knox showed flashes of potential in his debut off the bench, but needs to show more consistency if he wants to have a place in the starting lineup.
Enes Kanter proved why the Knicks kept him instead of Joakim Noah as he went for 16 points and 11 rebounds. His improved defensive play was huge for the Knicks as he altered several shots around the rim. Kanter’s improved all-around the game is a good sign for the Knicks as they are unsure of when Porzingis will return from injury.
The Knicks’ bench sparked the team last night as they exploded for 56 points. Noah Vonleh made a huge impact on his Knicks’ debut as he made all five of his shots for 12 points and 10 rebounds on opening night. His relentless play on the glass showed that he has a place in the Knicks’ rotation as he grabbed five offensive rebounds in only 16 minutes of action.
Mario Hezonja looked good in his Knicks’ debut as he went 6-14 from the floor with 15 points and three steals in 19 minutes of play. His ability to stretch the floor helped the Knicks attack the basket and his defensive versatility was something that the bench unit needed. Allonzo Trier made his NBA debut last night and did not disappoint as he scored 15 points on only nine shots.
His highlight dunk at the end of the third quarter showed his explosiveness, while his two blocks were a sign of his ability to play both ends. Fizdale played 11 guys last night with 10 of them playing at least 15 minutes, a good sign for a team that is operating without its star. The Knicks showed signs of being a team capable of competing for the playoffs against the Hawks, but they need to maintain the same level of play throughout the season.