Coming into Monday’s game against the Nets, the Knicks had effectively hit rock bottom. Just 24 hours before, the team had squandered a 19-point lead at home to the Pelicans. KP was in a shooting and confidence slump. Ntilikina had been MIA on offense the last week. And the team fell five games below .500 for the first time this year.
But nothing says bounce-bank like seeing the Nets on the schedule. The team delivered a high-level performance that saw both Porzingis and Ntilikina have strong games, and the bench contributed 70 points for an easy 119-104 victory in Brooklyn. With a seven-game road trip looming, this was a much-needed confidence-booster for a team facing their most important stretch of the season.
PORZINGIS WAKES UP: Before Monday’s game, KP claimed to have had an epiphany. He acknowledged that he’s been forcing up too many shots in an effort to live up to his billing as the “first option.” He now realizes that to be the leader goes beyond scoring. Against the Nets, he focused on letting the game come to him and making the “right play.”
This approach resulted in one of his best shooting games of the season (8/14, 26 points). He was also a terror on defense, grabbing 9 rebounds and two blocks. He appeared relaxed and did everything in the flow of the offense. And the biggest thing for me was he appears to have his stamina back.
NTILIKINA SHOWS LIFE: With Jarrett Jack having logged heavy minutes the night before, it was up to Ntilikina to handle the PG load. The rookie responded by nearly dropping a triple-double (10 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds). We’ve been begging for him to look for his jumper and he did, which allowed for more floor spacing and better ball movement. There were still a few times where he passed up shots when driving into the lane, but we have to trust that’ll come with more experience.
BENCH MOB: Every bench player aside from Joakim Noah saw the floor and contributed. New signee Trey Burke hit his first jumper as a Knick and managed to dish out two assists in eight minutes. Even with the limited time, you could see his ability to get to the rim will prove very valuable when the offense breaks down.
The Nets’s leaky defense had Michael Beasley looking like Shawn Kemp in the fourth quarter. After a slow start (3/8), Beasly started abusing Brooklyn in the post and scored with several dunks, including a putback on his own miss. In 29 minutes, he was 10/18 from the floor with 23 points and 10 rebounds. The other big contributors were Kyle O’Quinn (11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) and Doug McDermott (13 points).
New York begins their road-trip on Wednesday night against the Grizzlies.