Photo Credit: via Associated Press

Fizdale has finally found a starting lineup that works for the Knicks

After a lot of experimentation, it seems like the mad scientist David Fizdale has finally found a formula that works for the New York Knicks. In the last two games, Fizdale concocted a starting lineup of Emmanuel Mudiay, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh, and Enes Kanter. All players have performed superbly early in games to keep the Knicks in contention to possibly win at the end. Fizdale has cured the sluggish start ailment that has haunted the Knicks during their six-game losing streak.

The other ailment that has haunted the Knicks is their inability to close out games. The solution Fizdale has come up with is to stay with the players that have the hot hand. In the last game against the Boston Celtics, Fizdale stuck with Trey Burke, since he had the hot hand, and Frank Ntilikina despite both players starting on the bench. This move made sense because Burke was hotter than Miami on summer nights and Ntilikina put the clamps defensively on anyone he guarded.

Emmanuel Mudiay and Allonzo Trier stepped up for the Knicks

Against the New Orleans Pelicans, Fizdale took a different approach. Burke was colder than the arctic temperatures outside in New York City, and Ntilikina had a positive impact but minimal. The Knicks needed scoring especially since Hardaway Jr. was also struggling to find the range. The two players that stepped up were Mudiay and Allonzo Trier.

Mudiay and Trier combined to score 52 points, and both players lifted the Knicks to a 114-109 victory over the Pelicans. Both players also combined to score 20 of the Knicks final 22 points in the game. Mudiay led the Knicks with 27 points, and Trier contributed with 25 points. Every key basket the Knicks needed, Mudiay and Trier provided them through the duration of the fourth quarter.

Mudiay and Trier dominate the fourth quarter

Midway through the fourth, the Knicks fell behind by nine points after Julius Randle made an easy two at the basket. Afterward, Mudiay went to work. Mudiay scored consecutive baskets to cut the Pelicans lead to five, and after Randle made two free throws, Mudiay knocked down a three to bring the Knicks within four. At this point, the Knicks seemed to be “moving and grooving” to quote the great Knick Walt “Clyde” Frazier.

Later, Mudiay made one of two free throws to complete his solo 9-2 run. The Knicks trailed by three with 3:18 remaining then the first iconic moment came. Trier had a mismatch with Nikola Mirotic on him. The scouting report on Trier is that he loves to go right, but against Mirotic, Trier went left instead. Trier drove past Mirotic with ease and finished with his right hand at the rim to bring the Knicks within one. That play electrified the Madison Square Garden crowd.

After his electrifying play, Trier knocked down two free throws to give the Knicks a 104-103 advantage over the Pelicans. As the Pelicans continued to miss shot after shot, the Knicks continued to ride their momentum. Mudiay followed up Trier’s free throws with a pair of free throws of his own. What followed afterward was the second iconic moment of the game.

Mudiay seals the game late for the Knicks

Vonleh set a screen high for Mudiay. Mudiay dribbled around the screen to get away from Jrue Holiday and drove hard to the basket. Anthony Davis was there to protect the paint, but Mudiay shifted his body in mid-air past Davis and finished with a reverse layup. Mudiay’s basket gave the Knicks a 108-103 lead with 34.1 seconds remaining. The magnitude of that play was so great, the DJ at MSG should have played 50 Cent “I’m the Man” for Mudiay because he was the man after his clutch performance.

New Orleans Pelicans and New York Knicks stats

Davis strolled into MSG and notched a double-double in a losing effort. He finished with 33 points and 12 rebounds. Holiday played well and contributed with 22 points and 8 assists. Mirotic scored 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Also, Randle made an impact off the bench, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Besides Mudiay and Trier’s dominating performance, Kanter and Vonleh each had a double-double. Kanter had 17 points, 12 rebounds and Vonleh had 14 points, 11 rebounds.

The Knicks will take their two-game winning streak on the road to take on Fizdale’s former team, the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

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