Photo Credit: John Amis – AP Photo

Tim Hardaway Jr. leads Knicks to victory

In seven of their eight losses, the New York Knicks have blown leads in the fourth quarter. That stat may be alarming, but it’s not surprising. Usually, young teams have to take their lumps before they can finally grasp how to win close games down the stretch. Tonight, against the Atlanta Hawks, New York was able to learn from the lumps they’ve taken so far.

Led by Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 34-point performance, New York defeated Atlanta 112-107 on the road. Both teams battled in the first half, but in the third quarter, Hardaway Jr. exploded. He scored 15 points and played a vital role in New York’s 12-0 run to bury Atlanta in their house. It was a sweet homecoming for Hardaway Jr. who spent two seasons in Atlanta before returning to New York for his second stint with the Knicks.

Trier played a vital role in the Knicks win

In addition to Hardaway Jr.’s exploits on offense, New York’s three-headed backcourt monster also helped seal the win. The first head is Allonzo Trier. Since being signed as an undrafted rookie by the Knicks, Trier has been a revelation. He contributed with 16 points, and his shining moment came in the fourth against Kent Bazemore.

With under three minutes remaining, DeAndre’ Bembry made a layup to cut New York’s lead to four, 100-96. Atlanta was making a late surge to try and overcome New York, but Trier let the Hawks know that wasn’t going to happen.

On the next possession, Trier sized up Bazemore and drove left. As Trier drove, he stopped on a dime and dribbled the ball behind his back. That move sent Bazemore sliding like as if he was on a slip n’ slide. After seeing Bazemore slide out the picture, Trier nailed the 20-foot jumper to push the Knicks lead back to six. The second head on the Knicks three-headed backcourt monster was Frank Ntilikina.

Ntilikina and Mudiay were productive running the point

Ntilikina has been cold recently, but he finally regained his stroke against Atlanta. He scored 14 points, and he shot 50% on the court. His production was good on offense, but Ntilikina earned his stripes in this game on defense. Trae Young has been one of the best performing rookies this season, but Ntilikina put the clamps defensively on Young. He helped hold Young to only 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting. The last head on the Knicks three-headed backcourt monster was Emmanuel Mudiay.

Since recovering from injury, Mudiay has been a welcome addition to New York’s rotation. Consistently, he has been pushing the ball, and he offers David Fizdale a change of pace option at point guard. Ntilikina operates better in the half-court set, while Mudiay can push the tempo on fast breaks. Mudiay finished the game with 11 points and 5 rebounds.

Kanter and Vonleh dominated the boards

New York didn’t only have a monster in the backcourt. The two-headed frontcourt monster of Enes Kanter and Noah Vonleh combined for 28 points and 24 rebounds. Kanter finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Vonleh finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Atlanta team stats

Omari Spellman led the way for Atlanta. He notched a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Bazemore’s shooting performance was so bad that not even Stevie Wonder would have missed so many shots. He scored 16 points on 4-of-16 shooting, and he grabbed 7 rebounds. Taurean Prince provided 16 points off the bench.

Trey Burke‘s minutes may be in danger

With Trier, Ntilikina, and Mudiay performing well, Trey Burke’s minutes have dissipated. He logged zero minutes against the Hawks, and at the moment, it seems like the only way Burke can regain minutes is if one of Trier, Ntilikina, or Mudiay slips up. So far, Burke’s performances have been uninspiring unlike last season, and he has to find his form if he wants to get back into the Knicks starting lineup.

Key notes

Kevin Knox is still trying to find the range on his jumper since returning from injury. He scored no points on 0-of-6 shooting in nine minutes of play. Also, Hardaway Jr. had career-highs in free throws made (16) and attempted (20).

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