The unheralded players — Emmanuel Mudiay, Allonzo Trier, and Noah Vonleh — were instrumental to taking down New Orleans in a home comeback, making it the Knicks’ second-consecutive win.
Hungover from a close win against their Eastern Conference rival Boston Celtics, the Knicks carried the momentum with them for a barn burner against the New Orleans Pelicans. Usually, it’s an opposing player setting MSG on fire, but this time Emmanuel Mudiay was the menace who would not be stopped. The Knicks’ 114-109 win had big moments. Let’s run then down.
Hot Start by Noah Vonleh
Like in the game against the Celtics, Noah Vonleh had a hot start. He went 3-for-3 from three-point range in the first quarter alone. He ended the quarter shooting 4-of-6 from the field overall. Fizdale’s comments about him being the most competent player among the Knicks were not unfounded. For a large part of the quarter he covered perennial All-Star Anthony Davis with fervor. The Brow is going to make shots, but Vonleh was smart enough to make him uncomfortable on every attempt he guarded him.
His impact on the game appeared to diminish over the course of the game, but 14 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and two steals stat line says Noah was all over the floor tonight, flourishing in the Draymond Green-ish role Fizdale has tasked him with paired up next to the limited Enes Kanter.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Point Guard Extraordinaire
Tonight, Mudiay played up to his potential. Hell, some might even say he even played past it. He scored 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting while hitting six of his seven free throws, many of the coming in crunch time as the Knicks took the Pelicans down to the wire.
Pushing the ball, Mudiay managed to barrel inside like he usually does, but instead of butchering scoring attempts his composure allowed him to score at an efficient rate. His points in the paint were imperative to this Knicks win. Especially this late game layup I’d never expect him to pull off, especially while defying Anthony Davis’ almost-infinite reach.
Mudiay trying to put the final nail in the coffin! pic.twitter.com/2Ktwg7HiQ7
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) November 24, 2018
Mudiay also played an important part in the Knicks defense on Friday night. While the rest of the team attended the block party, Mudiay ended the night with four steals. He even led a couple of fast breaks, one of which occurred after a scrum left players all of the floor. As a contributor on both end of the floor, Mudiay was excellent. This night is just another in a string of impressive performances by the 22-year-old.
Iso Zo had a game of his own as well. Trier reached a new career high shooting 9-for-12, scoring 25 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. struggled and never found a rhythm, but his backup happily shouldered the load of the scoring.
Getting to the rim at will, Trier torched the defense for high percentage shots and multiple trips to the charity stripe. He shot a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the three-point line and caught a body on a step back jumper.
When it came down to the wire, Trier was just as clutch as Mudiay.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME @ISO_ZO?!
One point game now. 22 points for Trier! pic.twitter.com/ZAsbjGsKf7
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) November 24, 2018
Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox show their age
The rookies played very little tonight and for good reason—they played themselves off the floor.
Mitchell Robinson fouled out in nine minutes and committed a flagrant foul on Davis, earning his place on the pine. He tallied two blocks and five points before he was disqualified. Knox scored five points on 2-of-6 shooting, but found himself benched as well.
Knox and Robinson let their team down tonight. Fizdale was forced to play Mario Hezonja, possibly the worst playing forward on the roster due to the two rookies’ collective immaturity. Their frustration fouls and altogether ineptitude led to him getting far more time than any coach should feel comfortable giving him. These growing pains on defense, usually plays away from the ball, are an ongoing problem that can delay their on-court development. Hopefully, they can overcome them soon.
Kanter Showing a Bit More
Enes Kanter had some impressive defensive plays tonight. He accrued three blocks—at least one on Anthony Davis, but still managed to have some unforgivable defensive lapses in his 33 minutes on the court. His 17 points and 12 rebounds were important in this win, although they weren’t the most exciting. Kanter’s ability to get a quick bucket for the team when the offense stagnated was a huge plus that can’t be overlooked. If he can consistently contribute on defense, his status as a net negative might go away.
Frank Ntilikina is a Glue Guy
Terms like “glue guy” seem like a title for a player you enjoy who isn’t actually worth a damn in sports like “game manager,” but if there’s thing Ntilikina is developing into it’s a glue guy. Besides an impressive heat check three pointer and a pair of free throws, Frank won’t wow you. But his two blocks tell otherwise. And the way the team reacts to him tells you even more. When Ntilikina takes the floor, especially with the young core, they have more focus and are better organized. He ended the game with a +6 plus-minus. Their raw talent can be distilled and focused into the high pace, sprinting sets that Fizdale once mentioned in press conferences. He still has a lot to learn, but if he can affect the game, specifically his teammates, in a positive measurable way already, he could become a forced to be reckoned with.
All in all, the Knicks played a tough, well-fought game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Mudiay and Trier shined in the absence of Trey Burke and Hardaway Jr. Vonleh and Ntilikina held it down while Knox and Robinson proved to be outmatched. With this win, the Knicks improved their record to 6-14.