Eastern Conference Finals here we come! Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself, but every fan of the blue and orange has to be encouraged by the total team effort last night that lead to a shocking 114-95 win on the road over the Cavs. We saw everything you want to see from a young squad trying to find an identity: poise, scrappy defense, ball movement and hustle.
Will it be this good every game? No, but consistent effort like this will put them in position to be competitive every night.
KP and THJ PUT IN WORK: Porzingis and Hardaway went off to historic proportions. Porzingis had another 30-point game (first in franchise history to start the season with four 30+ point games out of five) and neutralize Tristan Thompson by getting him in foul trouble. Although most of KP’s damage was done in the first half, he had a few timely defensive stops in the fourth (including a block on D-Rose), and a three-pointer to push the Knick lead to 13 with less than three minutes remaining.
Hardaway came into this game shooting an abysmal 28%. Early on, the struggle continued until Tim just exploded from the perimeter. He was red hot behind the line (3/6, 50%). And once the close-outs came, Tim went aggressively into the lane to hit layups or fouls. When the smoke cleared, Hardaway finished with 34 points (11/19) and a +22 when on the floor.
We can thank these two for the reason the Knicks had a 29-19 lead after one quarter, and lead by as much a 19 late in the third.
LOCKDOWN: Unlike the first home game against Detroit, the Knicks didn’t fall apart when the Cavs made a second-half run. They slashed a 19-point lead to six before the Knicks exploded on a 27-7 run to break Cleveland’s spirit. Here the supporting cast shined. Frank Ntilikina struggled with his shot (2/5), but used his length for deflections, steals (2) and pushing the ball to keep teammates involved.
Courtnet Lee had his own milestone with his first double double (15 points, 10 rebounds) of his career. In fact, four of the five starters hit double figures. And the one who didn’t, Jarrett Jack, was the catalyst for the ball movement with nine assists.
The Knicks won’t get to rest on their laurels. They face the scrappy Nuggets at home tomorrow night to complete the back to back. Letdown or another momentum-builder?