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Knicks’ Bench Dazzles in Blowout Victory Over Hornets

Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Ntilikina scored a rookie-high and Hornacek gives Jack time to shine in a rolling win over Kemba and the Hornets, breaking New York’s nine-game losing streak.

A few days ago, Coach Hornacek made a comment about the mindset this team should have as the season moves toward a close. He took a lot of flack for perhaps the wording or because people just aren’t big fans of his as a coach. At any rate, he wasn’t wrong. Weathering the storm with your second biggest scoring option not being consistent and a rookie that hasn’t had the chance to play without reins means the rest of the team has to hate losing. Despise it. Loathe it.

Tonight’s matchup versus the Hornets exhibited how having that attitude can translate into great team play.

Although the first quarter was shaky, the Knicks’ youngins turned it around in the second quarter. Trey “Iverson” Burke continues to be a burst of energy when his number is called. He contributed 14 of the bench’s 72 points in the first half alone. Burke’s dazzling handles leave his man dancing on defense, and his quick feet allows him to get open, knocking down shots from anywhere he wants:

Troy Williams, who recently signed for the remainder of the season, also took the floor and added instant offense. While Williams isn’t known to be a deft three-point shooter, he squared up for three attempts in the first half and made one to help give the Knicks a seven-point lead at the half.

The second half—which we know to be an area of weakness for the Knicks—featured a focused group of guys that were awake on defense, too. Lance Thomas, who is outright putrid offensively this season, continued the staunch defense he’s known for. Not only did he do an insane job two-stepping with Walker in the first, but he chipped in a couple of deflections leading to Knicks’ scores on the other end.

For once, the Knicks were able to maintain that pressure against a Hornets team that shoots just about 45 percent per game. The Hornets ended the game at 33 percent with All-Star Kemba Walker logging 25 minutes and a -13 for Charlotte. The final score: 124–101.

What worked well
  • I mentioned Lance Thomas and his defense. The Knicks did extremely well on switches, but Thomas particularly was brutal on the perimeter. Thomas is the perfect example of “you don’t have to score to be a factor.” Despite his three points, he kept up with Kemba Walker and notched two steals:

  • The bench! Say what you will about tanking, but when the young guys are playing well, it’s easy to forget about the next great hope. Even Isaiah Hicks, who wasn’t remarkable in Westchester, got some highlight moments tonight:

  • Frank gets buckets! We’ve been waiting for that break-out game from the rook. And he’s had the opportunities literally right there. His career-high 15 points tonight was topped off by a four-point play. He also sealed the victory as the team’s second-leading scorer with a +20 for the game.
What didn’t work well
  • With a win like this against a fellow draft-focused team, there isn’t anything to complain about. That being said, it’s disappointing that it took a quote of exasperation from Hornacek to light a fire under these guys in the absence of KP.

Hornacek was able to empty the bench, thanks to a strong third-quarter stand. Six players scored double figures, and the team shot 46 percent from beyond the arc. These are the wins that can tip the scale mentally among a group of guys who have repeatedly said they wanted to compete this year. A losing season can easily position the young guys to be much improved going into next season when they show this kind of promise.

Check out the Knicks Film School breakdown of Saturday’s win:

Fan of Knicks/Cuse hoops, Panera sandwiches, Avion Tequila, and a good whiskey. Invested in improving your 40 time.

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