Knox proved his hot shooting in December isn’t going away—but the Knicks’ semblance of a calm and controlled lead in the second half was nowhere to found in their latest defeat, this one to the claw of the Hawks.
It was a game of two halves, this tightly contested game between the New York Knicks (9-25) and the Atlanta Hawks (8-23). The Knicks ended up walking off the floor with a bad taste in their mouths, eventually losing to the Hawks, 114-107.
New York entered the game having lost three of the last four and eight of the last nine. If the team’s intents and purposes include winning, this was the perfect rebound game for our struggling bunch. The Atlanta Hawks, however, are also bottom-feeders of the NBA, and they also needed a win for morale sake.
The first half was electric for the Knickerbockers. The team was shooting over 50 percent from both the field and beyond the arc. Perhaps the players were finally getting friendly rolls on the rim—or perhaps the Atlanta Hawks defense is just that bad. Totaling 69 points in the first half, the Knicks were led by Kevin Knox, who dropped in 17 points in the first quarter.
It was the most that we have seen Kevin Knox, which is a sign that his confidence is higher than ever before thus far into the season. In tandem with Emmanuel Mudiay, the Knicks sat comfortably ahead of the Hawks at halftime. The Knicks have recently struggled coming out of the half, a regression from earlier in the season when the 3rd quarter was their best quarter as a team.
Having not scored until late in the first half, Trae Young was awfully quiet, almost too quiet. Sure enough, his aggression picked up coming out of the half and completely changed the dynamics of the game. Previously, it was the Knicks who were getting all of the steals, deflections, and offensive rebounds, now it was the Hawks.
Young’s ability to pick apart the Knicks’ defense in pick-and-roll situations was, and forever will be, this team’s kryptonite. Young picked up the pace in the second half, getting to the line and setting up other teammates, like John Collins, who ended up with an effective 17 points, 16 rebounds, and four assists. The Knicks lost the lead with nearly four minutes remaining and never got it back.
Here are a few takeaways from tonight’s game.
Kevin Knox is still on fire
For Kevin Knox, the game is slowing down for him at a rapid pace. Prior to tonight’s game, Knox has scored 19.6 points and 6.1 rebounds over the last six games. His offensive firepower continued to show tonight when he erupted for 17 points in the first quarter.
Hitting his first 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, Knox has remained the steadfast mindset of shooting once he catches the ball. The problem for him has been maintaining that mindset the entire game, not just for one half. After his first half performance, Knox once again seemed to shut down his aggressive mentality and remained quiet for the rest of the game, despite finishing with 24 points.
17 POINTS IN THE FIRST. pic.twitter.com/fvFZWaDQuw
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) December 22, 2018
Taking a total of 17 shots, and hitting eight of them, Knox is engraving his place in this Knicks rotation as a go-to scorer. Now that Tim Hardaway Jr. has gone ice cold and is dealing with an injury, someone else needs to step it up.
Trae Young is mean
The Knicks did a great job of shutting down Trae Young in the first half. Having scored his first points late in the second half, Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina were doing a very respectable job of keeping him in control.
A talent like Trae Young, who’s such a talented scorer and passer, can’t be contained for too long. Eventually, he’s going to get something going. And he did.
Pairing up with John Collins in the pick-and-roll, the two were a dominating force against the injury-plagued Knicks. Enes Kanter was being taken advantage of once again, and the Knicks missed Mitchell Robinson’s ability of defending the paint and the perimeter. It was Trae Young’s ability to find his teammates like Alex Len, Kevin Huerter, and Kent Bazemore on the perimeter that made the difference tonight. Even when he’s not the prolific scorer we know he is, he is a game manager and has complete control of this offense.
“Mud” is also mean, but we like him
In the last seven games, Mudiay has more 30-point games than he has had previously in his entire career combined. In the last 10 games, Emmanuel Mudiay has just found “it.” He’s averaging 19.1 points, 5.7 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game and hasn’t showed any sign of slowing down. His shot looks smoother than ever, he looks in control of the offense, and he’s finishing at the rim at a consistent rate.
YEAH MUD pic.twitter.com/nGoH8EGPwZ
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) December 22, 2018
Most importantly, however, Mudiay is averaging over 30 minutes per game over the last 10 games, and Fizdale has showed complete confidence in this young man. Still just 22 years old, perhaps Fizdale views Mudiay as the point guard of the future and not Frank Ntilikina—who had a very rough night.
Emmanuel Mudiay has certainly established himself as an NBA rotation player. In order to prove that he’s more than that, he must keep up what he’s been doing at a consistent rate. The last 10 games can’t be a blip on the radar, and the stats need to transfer over to wins. If he can do that, Mud will have a very pleasant rest of the season.