After losing a lead they had for the majority of the game, the Knicks—dogged by Mario Hezonja—snatched a comeback victory away from Brandon Ingram and the Lakers in LA.

The New York Knicks triumphed in a late-game thriller against the Los Angeles Lakers led by the unlikely hero of “Super” Mario Hezonja.

From the onset of an unusually good start, a gut feeling that the Knicks were going to choke and lose in the fourth quarter was omnipotent. So, I opted to revel in their first quarter supremacy where they took a 17-point lead. In the first four and half minutes, the Knicks shot 5-of-8 from three-point line with Kevin Knox and Tim Hardaway Jr. knocking down two apiece and Noah Vonleh draining one. Four of these three-pointers were assisted by Emmanuel Mudiay. They ended the first quarter outscoring the Lakers 39-25.

Unfortunately, this hot start was short-lived as the Knicks lead slowly dwindled away. Although Enes Kanter, coming off the bench for the third consecutive game, was off to a rough start, he and Trey Burke singlehandedly stopped the bleeding as the Lakers mounted a comeback. Ironically, a big reason for the Lakers’ resurgence was the abysmal interior defense that Burke and Kanter allowed. Burke, an undersized defender, and Kanter, a lackadaisical post defender, were a perfect storm of ineptitude on defense in the first half.

Down the stretch of the game, both teams struggled, however. The Lakers slowly pulled themselves out of the hole they dug themselves in the first quarter thanks to re-energized big man JaVale McGee. McGee abused the Knicks, shooting 6-of-7 in the third quarter alone.

So, if the Knicks won, what saved them?

Four-Wing Lineup

What turned out to be the saving grace of the Knicks was head coach David Fizdale putting all of his cards on the table. He understood that his current roster lacked bruisers and opted to utilize the quick, athletic wings available to him. Enter: Mario Hezonja.

Hezonja had only played 4:36 in the Utah blowout and hadn’t appeared in the four games sandwiching that lopsided loss, so his name being called seemed like a surprise. By the end of the night, Super Mario made everyone remember who he was.

His first trip to the line helped spark the comeback the Knicks needed to tie the game and eventually take the lead. It’s unclear whether Fizdale’s original game plan was to run the Lakers into the ground by pushing the ball so hard that Luke Walton’s five had no other choice than to foul, but it worked. A slow, arduous team game, the Knicks took advantage of the Lakers’ sloppy defense and ended the game with 34 made free throws out of 41 attempts. Once Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s offense stagnated, it seemed like smooth sailing for the Knicks.

Speed kills, and it got the Knicks win column in double digits.

Key Plays

The play that ignited the Knicks was Hezonja’s emphatic jam. A few possessions later he had a key steal that sealed the deal, but this play is what fired up the rest of the wings on the court and demoralized the Lakers to the point of no return:

Knox, who was off to his patented hot start, was quiet through most of the other three quarters. When his name was called late in the game the reigning Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month was cool under pressure and hit a late-game floater off the glass that was crucial for a big team win.


  • Frank Ntilikina left the game after one minute of action with a left ankle strain. The NY Post‘s Marc Berman reports Ntilikina is in a walking boot. NorthJersey’s Chris Iseman says the second-year guard is day-to-day. Expect to see more Allonzo Trier at the point if this injury sidelines Ntilikina for more than the game.
  • The Lakers scored 60 points in the paint. This is indicative of the Knicks being devoid of a rim protector and having shoddy perimeter defenders who cannot deny the drive. They miss Mitchell Robinson on the court and I do, too.

#KnicksTank has been put on hold for one night and one night only. With the rest of the road trip just as perilous (if not more) as the last game they could stand to lose all the way back home. However, this win, should be taken as a step in the right direction of team chemistry and a team identity.