David Fizdale inserts Kevin Knox into starting lineup
Lately, wins have been hard to come by for the New York Knicks. Whenever the Knicks have hit a rough patch this season, which has been often, David Fizdale enters the laboratory to concoct a new Knicks starting lineup. After thorough experimentation, Fizdale decided to replace Mario Hezonja with the rookie Kevin Knox. This move isn’t surprising since Knox has been on fire lately. Unfortunately, this lineup change didn’t help the Knicks to overcome the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In the battle of two of the Eastern Conference’s bottom feeders, the lowly Cavaliers handed the lowly Knicks a 113-106 loss in Cleveland. Jordan Clarkson provided a spark off the bench for the Cavaliers. He scored a game-high 28 points, and Rodney Hood contributed with 23 points. While the Cavaliers played well and deserved to win, the Knicks helped the Cavaliers achieve their well-earned victory.
New York Knicks lost the game in the first half
New York stepped on the court with low energy, and the Cavaliers made sure to pounce on the Knicks early. After one, the Knicks gave up 39 points to the Cavaliers. Later, midway through the second quarter, the Knicks were down by 22 points. In the first half, the Knicks had too high of a mountain to climb to get back into the game. Both teams may currently be on the road to Zion Williamson, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of energy the Knicks had at the start.
There could be many reasons why the Knicks came out the gates slow. Maybe, it’s because the city of Cleveland lost its luster. Obviously, due to its prodigal son LeBron James leaving for greener pastures for the second time. Another reason may be the lack of excitement playing against a Cleveland team who are a shell of the team that competed in the NBA Finals last season. Whatever the reason may be, the Knicks should have found ways to get up for a winnable game.
Despite the slow start, the Knicks storm back in the second half
Cleveland may have pummeled the Knicks early, but in typical fashion, the Knicks came storming back. Midway through the second quarter, the Knicks found renewed energy to cut into Cleveland’s lead and trail by eleven, 65-54. Luckily, the Knicks didn’t lose their momentum at the half and opened the third quarter with a 13-2 run to tie the game at 67. At that point, the Cavaliers needed a lifeline because the Knicks stalked them down.
Kevin Knox began to heat up late for the Knicks
Both teams continued to battle afterward. In the fourth, Clarkson’s jumper lifted the Cavaliers lead to six, 105-99, with 2:26 remaining. What transpired after Clarkson’s basket was the awakening of Knox. After Emmanuel Mudiay knocked in two free throws to cut Cleveland’s lead to four, Knox nailed a three on the following Knicks possession. With Cleveland up one, Alec Burks tried to respond to Knox’s basket but failed.
Mudiay grabbed the rebound after Larry Nance’s attempted putback off of Burks’ miss and started the fast break. Alongside Mudiay, running hard, was Knox. In stride, Mudiay fed a bounce pass to Knox, and even though Matthew Dellavedova was in the way, Knox rose up for the one-handed hammer.
Rodney Hood sinks the Knicks
Knox’s slam gave the Knicks a 106-105 lead with 23.7 seconds remaining and reinvigorated the team. Unfortunately, Hood responded with a floater over Frank Ntilikina to push the Cavaliers back on top for good. Despite the Knicks poor play in the first half, the team showed fight which is always a positive to see from a young team.
Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina continue to perform
Both Knox and Ntilikina continue to perform well in big minutes. Knox finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds, and Ntilikina scored 16 points off the bench. Stats aside, what makes Knox’s and Ntilikina’s performances more special is the fact that both players are responding to criticism well. It wasn’t too long ago when the New York Post put out that damning article which heavily criticized their games. If Knox and Ntilikina continue to respond to criticism in a positive manner, the sky is the limit for both players.
Tim Hardaway Jr. may have to be benched for Kevin Knox
While Knox and Ntilikina continue to be positives for the Knicks, Tim Hardaway Jr. has become a negative. In his last ten games, Hardaway Jr. is averaging 16.5 points per game on 34% shooting which are way below his season averages. Usually, when a starter has been underperforming, Fizdale has replaced that player in the starting lineup this season. Now may be the time for Hardaway Jr. to experience the bench life.
Currently, Hardaway Jr. is the Knicks best player, but his shot selection at times is very questionable. His poor shot selection is the reason why he’s only shooting 39.5% from the field. Without Hardaway Jr. in the lineup, Fizdale can experiment with Knox being the first option on offense. Also, Fizdale can grant another deserving player a spot in the starting rotation. By making this move, the hope is Hardaway Jr. will respond positively and put up the same strong numbers he did at the beginning of the season.
With this loss, the Knicks have lost their fifth game in a row and sit near the bottom of the East with an 8-21 record. If the Knicks can’t pull some wins together soon, Fizdale may have to pull out the tank and give the youth the bulk of the minutes to develop them faster.