Despite losing mostly competitively, the Knicks’ five-game losing streak still stings. They can erase that with a win over neighbors Nets.
The Knicks had a full weekend to take in their scintillating clash with the Warriors on Friday night, and learn from it. Before Kevin Durant turned MSG into Rucker Park in the fourth quarter, New York had every bit of business winning that game. David Fizdale’s lineup tweak proved to confirm many of the thoughts we have had since the start of training camp. There is good basketball to be played with this group of guys; it’s more so a matter of putting them in the right place to succeed.
In typical little brother fashion, the Nets also had a nice showing against the defending champs last night. Unlike the Knicks, the Nets played catch up most of the time, but did cap the game off with a 37-27 fourth quarter. Kenny Atkinson will use that fourth quarter as motivation tonight as they travel across the East River for yet another intercity clash.
You On Point Frank? All the Time Fiz
Before we proceed any further…look at the young point guard!
Amazing what happens when you put guys in the best spot for them to flourish. Frank Ntilikina was far and away the best thing to happen on Friday. Fizdale finally tossed him the keys to the car and Frank responded as well as we could’ve hoped. In addition to playing respectable defense on Steph, he tied a career-high 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Most importantly, his aggression was at an incredibly high level.
The key thing now is to keep that momentum going. With Kristaps Porzingis and Kevin Knox out, Fizdale should be focusing every ounce of his energy on Frank’s development. The Knicks fell off late in the fourth after the game was tied at 96 when Fizdale waited too long to get Frank back in the game.
This may be a fuego take, but Frank could very well be the second-best player on this roster at the moment. It’s time his minutes start reflecting that.
Mix & Match
Fizdale’s lineup shakeup also benefited Trey Burke. Burke is a fun player to root for, just not in the starting lineup. His scoring potential screams future sixth man. On Friday night, he filled that role well as he scored 15 points off the bench. This is where Burke yields the most value—he’s much better as the top option on a bench unit.
One surprising switch that Fiz made was benching Enes Kanter. According to Kanter, Fizdale challenged him to lead the second unit. That sounds cool, but then I remembered my job also challenged me to work overnights. It’s just a nice way of saying, “We like you, but we’re moving in a different direction for the future.” Kanter wasn’t enthusiastic about his demotion, but it was obvious that New York’s defense was better when he was off the court. Where that leaves Kanter in the immediate future is anyone’s guess. Kanter’s minutes tonight will give us a clearer picture of his expected role.
Our favorite Knick Emmanuel Mudiay returns to action tonight!
What does Mudiay’s return mean? We already know how much Fizdale loves him. That love could lead to his first troubling decision as head coach. There has been zero proof that Mudiay deserves to start at point guard, or even lead the second unit. Yet there are rumblings of a possible point guard dilemma with Emmanuel’s return.
There is no dilemma. Frank is the deserving starter. He and Tim Hardaway Jr. are a more than capable backcourt, as Friday night showed us. We also saw Mudiay stumble and bumble his opportunities to start. The best move for all parties involved is for Mudiay to follow same path Damyean Dotson had to follow. Dotson worked scrap minutes until he got his shot. If Mudiay truly wants to make a role for himself this season and beyond, he should be asked to do the same.
Spotlight: Frank Ntilikina
Not to sound like a broken record, but I cannot emphasize the importance of Frank as a point guard enough. He passed his toughest test Friday. Now comes the consistency, both for Frank and Fizdale. Can Frank bring the same energy he brought for Steph—and even KD—against D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, and to a much lesser extent, Spencer Dinwiddie? Keep him at the point to see what happens.
Frank struggled to corral LeVert in their first meeting, so will Fizdale give him the assignment again or look to Damyean Dotson? On offense, you want to see Ntilikina continue to search for his shot. Most of us watch the games and have same reaction Clyde does—shoot the damn ball Frankie.
- Kevin Knox should be back soon. His father let it be known that his son’s ankle sprain was not as severe as it looked. If Papa Knox is to be believed, he could return between November 2 and November 10. Even so, he could end up needing an additional 2-3 weeks to heal.
- Courtney Lee remains out with a neck/chest injury.