Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

FINALLY the Knicks WIN!

Ladies and gentleman, it has finally happened! The New York Knicks won a game! Atlanta natives, don’t be surprised if you spot a few players from New York partying tonight at your local high-end clubs. Coming into tonight’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, New York had a franchise-worst 18-game losing streak. Now, the players’ shoulders should feel a bit lighter after tasting their first victory since early January.

First and fourth quarter performances were key for the Knicks

The key to the win was a strong first quarter and strong fourth quarter performance. New York jumped out to an early 14-0 lead to set the tone in the first quarter. Atlanta mounted a comeback in the second quarter, but the Knicks regained the lead and kept pounding away in the third quarter. Once the fourth quarter arrived, the Knicks looked like a competent NBA team for once.

Going into the fourth, New York held a nine-point advantage. Throughout the quarter, New York maintained its lead — then the unthinkable happened. Luke Kornet nailed a dagger three with 2:17 left to push the lead to 15 and seal the 106-91 victory for the Knicks. Many players contributed to the win tonight. In the first quarter, Dennis Smith Jr. led the early charge.

Dennis Smith Jr. led the early charge for the Knicks

Smith Jr. contributed six points to the early 14-0 lead, and he assisted Damyean Dotson and Kornet on made buckets during the run. Overall, Smith Jr. led the team with 19 points on an efficient 7-10 shooting on the court. Also, he tallied seven assists for the game. Smith Jr. played like a true point guard. He remained aggressive on offense scoring the rock, he set up his teammates for makeable shots, and he took care of the basketball (only committing one turnover). Besides Smith Jr., the other Knicks who stepped up to the plate were Kadeem Allen and John Jenkins— two players called up from the Westchester Knicks.

Westchester’s finest, Kadeem Allen and John Jenkins, showed their worth

Both players ended up with 14 points, and they both played a vital role in helping the Knicks to a long-awaited victory. Lately, Allen has shown his worth. In his last four games, including tonight, he scored double-digit points. He competes on both sides of the floor, and he has a pitbull mentality when the ball is in his hands. Also, he has developed a decent jumper from deep. In the fourth, Allen made some key baskets which helped propel the Knicks to victory.

Jenkins hasn’t gotten many minutes since being called up from Westchester, but tonight, he showed his potential. Known as a sharpshooter, he didn’t shoot particularly well from deep (2-6 from three-point range), but he made key baskets in the first half to help the Knicks maintain their early lead.

Allen and Jenkins performances against the Hawks will give coach David Fizdale something to think about during the All-Star break. With the return of Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay from injury looming, it’ll be interesting to see how Fizdale will split playing time between the four guards.

Knicks players and team stats

Other Knicks who shined tonight: Kornet finished with 11 points on 3-16 shooting. He didn’t make many shots, but he nailed the big three that shut the door on the Hawks. Dotson finished with 13 points and played good defense throughout the game. DeAndre Jordan added another double-double to his name (10 points and 13 rebounds).

As a team, the Knicks held the Hawks to under 40% shooting (33-91) on the court and outrebounded the Hawks 52-41. Since the arrival of Jordan, the team’s defense and rebounding has improved greatly. Therefore, a Knicks win was bound to happen sooner or later. Unfortunately for the Hawks, they were the victim of the Knicks heavily built up frustration as a result of losing so many games in a row.

Atlanta Hawks stats

Dewayne Dedmon led all scorers with 21 points. Trae Young has been one of the more impressive rookies this season. He had a double-double (16 points and 11 assists). Kent Bazemore had a productive game off the bench. He contributed with 16 points.

Next stop on the road to Zion

The first half of the season has finally come to an end. Despite the win, the Knicks maintain the top spot in the Zion Williamson standings with an eye-popping record of 11-47. The “Knicks Tank” got dented tonight, but it’s still in good working condition. The next stop on the road to Zion is the All-Star break. Kevin Knox will be performing in the NBA Rising Stars Challenge, and Smith Jr. will be competing in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

Hopefully, Smith Jr. can win the Slam Dunk title. It’ll give Knicks fans a championship to celebrate.

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