Kevin Knox finally came to play, but the Knicks dropped a close game in Brooklyn to the Nets after a Caris LeVert game-winning layup before time expired.

The season premiere of Friday Nights Knicks did not disappoint. The Knicks traveled to Brooklyn to face their crosstown rivals for the third time in three weeks. Unlike the previous two meetings, this game is the first that actually mattered. The Nets came in fresh off a close loss to the Pistons in Detroit. That desperation was just enough, as the Nets edged the Knicks 107-105.

You could tell who was coming in off a loss. The Nets hit the ground running and controlled the pace for most of the first half. They also had the paint on lock. They won the board battle in the first half, 31 to 16. Jarrett Allen was the main beneficiary of poor switching, scoring his first eight points without breaking a sweat.

Despite getting beat in almost every possible area, the Knicks managed to hang around. Enes Kanter and Tim Hardaway Jr. took the initiative in the first quarter. Trey Burke and Kevin Knox joined in to help in the second. The lack of ball movement (just six assists in the first half) led to 37.5 percent shooting from the floor.

In the second half, momentum flipped. After a quick timeout by Fizdale, everyone started to lock in. The defense had more energy which transferred some momentum on offense. Frank Ntilikina, ironically enough, was the key catalyst for the third quarter surge. His initiative had a noticeable effect on his teammates who got going soon after.

The final quarter saw a shift back to the mud. It was a grind, but some timely buckets kept the game close. Fizdale closed the game with Knox joining the starters in place of Lance. His ability to hit shots was something Lance simply cannot offer. In addition to some big shots, Knox’s activity on the offensive boards played a big role in second chance points that wasn’t there in the first half.

Let’s see what else stuck out from tonight.

Sluggish Start

The Knicks are not a good enough team to coast through any quarter, let alone the first. The offense was walking in quicksand from the jump. Most of the quarter was an act of attrition to get buckets. The ball stuck with way too many one-on-one battles. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter carried the offense on by attacking the Nets at the rim. The veteran duo combined for the first 17 points of the game. Hardaway Jr. in particular took the initiative when it became evident Lance, Frank, or Burke were looking for their shot.

Defense was the biggest problem. Caris LeVert proved to be a tough assignment for Frank early. LeVert got into the lane at will. His penetration opened freebies from point blank range, mostly to Jarrett Allen, who started a perfect 4-for-4. As a team, the Nets scored 20 of their 31 points in the paint. The switching has to be much better, especially to start the game.

Rookie Report

Fizdale continues to insert his rookies towards the end of the first quarter. Tonight Allonzo Trier was the first man off the bench, followed by his rookie counterpart Kevin Knox. Trier was unable to replicate the blazing start he had in his first visit to Barclays, but Knox was able to pick up the slack.

For the first time in a few games, Knox attacked with the confidence we saw in Vegas. He started the night off with a drive and smooth pull up. Seeing the ball go in a couple times had a strong effect, as he did not hesitate to pull the trey ball when the offense stalled.

Knox’s aggressiveness continued for the rest of the night. He hit some big shots late, which should bode well for his confidence moving forward. Trier started to find his footing in the second half. The positive for Trier is he was still able to contribute without hitting every shot he took.

Mitchell Robinson was available to play tonight, but with a tender ankle, Fizdale opted to hold him out with a game tomorrow.

Third Quarter Knicks

Last season the phrase “third quarter Knicks” meant the team defecated the bed and likely lost control of the game. Not tonight. Fizdale cut out any lethargic start with a Popovich-esque timeout in the opening minute. After that, we saw a new team. The Knicks took the lead by suffocating the Nets en route to a 26-17 quarter.

Frank set the tone with seven points, looking like a rejuvenated man. You could feel the confidence oozing from him as he did not hesitate when he found his shot. After he hit that floater, you saw the bench get energized. That energy showed up on the defensive end where the Nets were unable to cruise into the paint nor were they given wide-open looks from deep.

Timmy Stepping Up

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s strong start has not gone unnoticed. He seems to have finally mastered the art of attacking relentlessly. His talent to be a 20-point scorer has always been there, but like J.R. Smith before him, Timmy had the tendency to settle for high difficulty jump shots.

Once again, he did not settle for those jumpers. He kept the pressure on the Nets by getting to the rack as much as possible. Thanks to he and Kanter’s assault down low, the game never got away from the Knicks after the first.

Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks in scoring once again with 29 points, along with Kanter, who also had 29.

Random Thoughts

  • Frank has looked most comfortable operating on the left side of the floor and tonight was no different. His first three from the left arc got him going and should be a spot Fizdale and company should look to get him the ball moving forward.
  • Knox may have played his way into more minutes tonight. His shot was falling, which was great, but what stood out most was his activity on the glass down the stretch. If he keeps that up, Fizdale might never take him out.
  • Caris LeVert has passed D’Angelo Russell as Nets top gun. It will be interesting to see if the Nets let D. Lo walk. If they do, would the Knicks be interested in another reclamation project?

The Knicks did a great job in the ball security department. They won the turnover battle in a landslide tonight, 22-3.

Up next for the Knicks is a quick turnaround at The Garden tomorrow night versus Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics.