Tim Hardaway Jr. makes a bone-headed Bargnani impression as the Knicks can’t get a grip in another late-game catastrophe, this time at home against the league-worst Hawks, 99–96.

The Super Bowl Sunday matinee went exactly how you thought it would: both teams looked disconnected. There were a whole lot of bricks and not a ton of passes in the first half. The New York Knicks (23–31) starters in particular were awful. The collective starting unit shot an anemic 27.5 percent from the field and scored 21 points in the first half. Enes Kanter was goosed for the half and Porzingis couldn’t buy a basket. Had Trey Burke and the second unit not played well, then the Hawks could have ran away with this one by accident.

Nevertheless, things started to normalize by the third. Kanter got more involved (10 points and two assists) and the result was the team’s best quarter of the game. They carried the momentum from their 33-point third quarter into the final frame. Porzingis found his shot and poured in 11 fourth quarter points as he put the team on his back. But in typical Knick fashion, attention on defense slipped through the cracks. The  Atlanta Hawks (16–37) hit two late threes to take the lead late. Tim Hardway Jr. misfired at the end of regulation as the Knicks suffered yet another ugly home loss.

Sluggish Start

Was it the noon start time? Was it Super Bowl Sunday? There was some reason both teams looked like they didn’t want to play. The first quarter mirrored a random pickup game. The ball stuck on both sides with a lot of one-on-one matchups. Kristaps in particular played like the guy you never want on your team. He hit his first shot but after that he built a brick oven, missing on his next six attempts.

The starters managed to put up just 13 points but thankfully the second unit picked it up. The ball movement returned and—you wouldn’t believe it—but it equated to made baskets. In just two minutes they were able to regain the lead as they finished the quarter with a 7–0 run.

Timmy the Tortured

Timid Timmy was in full effect, he wanted nothing to do with scoring. Friday night’s performance (1-for-14) must have been in the back of his head because he was non-existent on offense. Hardaway Jr. took his first shot of the game late in the second quarter, a long three-point attempt. His second, and final attempt of the half, was a drive in where he avoided contact and blew a close-range shot attempt. Other than that, he played hot potato whenever the ball reached him, shooting 3-for-9 overall with two turnovers.

But, THJ looked like he found his way in the second. Enes Kanter did a nice job to get Hardaway going, but in the fourth his cold streak came back. He missed a technical foul shot (why he was the one to take that shot is a whole other question) but, crucially, he fired an ill-advised shot with 45 second left that gave the Hawks an extra possession. The snowball effect was a blow lead. Then, poor communication between Burke and Hardaway Jr. led to an out of bounds whistle with five seconds left in regulation with New York looking to tie the game. To cap it off, Timmy missed the final shot of the game that could have sent it to overtime.

We Want More

Trey Burke needs more minutes. This is starting to feel like an evergreen topic, but it remains true. When head coach Jeff Hornacek inserted Burke late in the first and third quarter, they were down. By the end of each quarter the Knicks had regained the lead thanks in large part to Burke’s free-shooting temperament off the pine. He finished second on the team in scoring with 14 points and was able to pressure the defense with his quickness, offering lanes for teammates to take advantage of while Hawks defenders were on skates.

Burke’s strong play was rewarded with crunch time minutes. He fed the hot-handed KP in the second half and once again was on the floor to stabilize the lead (after Hornacek mercifully yanked Jack after poor shot selection). Hornacek has been inconsistent with Trey’s minutes thus far, but it’s clear Burke is deserving of more playing time (especially if Ntilikina, who exited the game with right knee soreness).

Fuego Take of the Day: Porzingis Is A Different Star

This could be an extreme hot take, but maybe Porzingis isn’t the star we think he is. Surely, he can be still a star in the Association, but maybe on the defensive side of the ball. If you were asked to describe a consensus view of KP, maybe it would be “Dirk 2.0 with rim protection.” Maybe he is not the offensive savant Dirk is.

However, his true calling could be a defensive monster who can also be a great two option on offense. Porzingis had his greatest impact on the defensive side of the ball in Sunday’s contest. He had five blocks, altered others and four steals including this gem:

How many other seven-footers can do that?

As the team looks to build around him—he is still someone you build around—the focus should be on finding a top offensive option. Imagine how this team could look with a Kemba or Kyrie running the show (one can dream).

Closing Thoughts
  • Doug McDermott needs more playing time. His energy plays get the crowd into the game. An engaged MSG crowd could possibly be the Knicks’ greatest weapon.
  • Kurt Rambis is still employed by the Knicks. I’ll just leave that there.
  • The reason we did not see much Frankie today is because he was dealing with a sore knee. In his only action, Hornacek played him off the ball with Burke. Could off the ball be in the rookie’s future? It’s something worth keeping tabs on, but we know Frank flashes brilliance commanding floor general duties.
  • Kanter is more of a barometer for this team than I thought. After the sluggish first half where he went scoreless Kanter enforced his will in the third. It looked like it woke up the others, Hardaway Jr. in particular (although Hardaway sleepwalked through the final sequences of the match).
  • Why was Tim Hardaway Jr., who was frigid in the fourth, taking the last shot?
  • The trade deadline is this Thursday. I know the playoffs is always the goal, but you have to wonder how you justify a postseason run at this point. Today, a backbreaking defeat against the league-worst Hawks, was yet more proof that this team is not going to the playoffs.