Allonzo Trier’s singular effort on offense masked the many defensive errors on New York, who crawled out of a deficit to move to 2-0 in preseason.

The New York Knicks might as well have taken an express train on Wednesday night to Brooklyn as they faced Kenny Atkinson’s Nets where they couldn’t find a stop. New York’s defense was hardly visible in a second tune-up game for the preseason. While defense is rarely expected from preseason matchups—the Wizards dropped 121 on Monday night in four quarters and an overtime—these young Knickerbockers were wholly ineffective against a motion-offense Nets squad. Well, at least that was obscured from Allonzo Trier’s statement game.

One of the first uncanny defensive lapses occurred in the first quarter, wherein rookie forward Kevin Knox failed to cover rising star Caris Levert as Enes Kanter, in a mismatch, had D’Angelo Russell feed a bounce pass to a cutting baseline Levert. Knox, unaware of both his man and the basket, fell victim to said lapse, giving Brooklyn an easy dunk.

I’m possibly being too hard on the burgeoning Manhattanites, though. The Knicks locked in on defense during the second half and imposed their will under the physical play of Enes Kanter. In addition, they held the free-shooting Nets team to only 8-of-41 from long range.

Let’s go through the highlights of the Knicks’ 107–102 preseason victory.


One bright spot on Wednesday evening, though, was the performance of undrafted rookie Allonzo Trier. Trier, a teammate of number-one overall pick Deandre Ayton at the University of Arizona, played with a feisty demeanor. Despite head coach David Fizdale’s insistence on ball movement and unselfish passing on offense, Trier seemingly thrived in halfcourt sets that stall and plays break down; in other words, Iso-Zo is real and legit.

Trier, who signed a two-way deal with the Knicks, made his case against the Nets to earn a roster spot outright. He made semi-viral notoriety on Monday night with a devastating crossover and bucket in D.C.—then in Brooklyn, he continued to isolate and destroy in one-on-one matchups. Allonzo succeeded with pull-up jumpers and hesitation moves that gave a sliver of space for the former Wildcat to slip to the basket. Zo scored 20 points in the first half alone on nine field-goal attempts and a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. Trier finished with 25 points and five turnovers in 26 minutes.

Not to get overly optimistic, but another positive we can mention was a slight uptick in aggressive offense from the sophomore Frenchman Frank Ntilikina. The not-a-point-guard, not-quite-a-shooting-guard first appeared to be hesitant early in the ball game but flipped the script on a possession that utilized the space-creating screen set by second-round pick Mitchell Robinson. The seven-footer Robinson provided enough room for the 6-6 Ntilikina to squeeze by his defender, notice a runway in front of the hoop, and take off for an impressive dunk off the pick-and-roll.

Frank later hit a three-pointer and would miss another attempt on a sequence that was preceded by a classic Mitchell Robinson blocking a three-pointer, saving the ball, and throwing it back for a fast break. Ho hum second-round pick sort of business I suppose.

A steal and impressive chase-down block off the glass for The French Prince filled up the stat sheet, but most importantly were the moments of aggression that often escaped him during his rookie campaign. Ntilikina finished with nine points on 50 percent shooting from the field, two rebounds, an assist, a steal, and two blocks.

Nonetheless, Trier’s explosive first half masked the defensive mistakes throughout the game. Brooklyn’s awareness of Enes Kanter’s immobility, in addition to the precocious Trey Burke’s diminutive size disadvantage on defense, had borne room for the Nets to create shot opportunities via the kick and drive. It wasn’t until the second half that New York could hold down the fort, forcing the Nets to be more physical—both on defense and offense, really. Kanter, in particular, exerted a physicality (perhaps it was his tough words on Jared Dudley’s offseason calisthenics) that was unmatched by Brooklynites Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis. Kanter, spinning and winning in the post, put up a Ewing-esque 22 points and 20 rebounds. From a macro perspective, though, it’s important to remember that often the Turk’s big stat line nights resulted in Knicks losses last season. So, tonight was a better sign that Kanter can be both efficient and within the natural flow of New York’s offense, versus stalling a set to post up and not taking the shots a defense gives him.

With the bench mob in the game, the Nets slowly creeped back. Given the overlapping schedule of the Yankees’ Wild Card game occurring simultaneously, I don’t think there was a soul inside Barclays Center that prayed for overtime. Mario Hezonja often guided the Knicks’ offense during this final stretch. It wasn’t smooth sailing, to be blunt, but the Knicks left Brooklyn with the win, and crucially, without overtime necessitated.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Courtney Lee was inactive again with a neck strain. Lee’s presence, curiously could affect the point guard “competition” as his 3-and-D lineup fixture could shape whether Fizdale grants more leash with the 6’0″ Burke at lead guard or maybe Ntilikina in the shooting guard spot.
  • Noah Vonleh had a few nice moments, including hitting an outside shot and blocking one on the other end of the court. Vonleh’s fighting for backup minutes. Luke Kornet never entered the contest.
  • Emmanuel Mudiay, for the umpteenth time, did not show anything worth merit. I think his sole highlight (or non-lowlight) would be that laser pass to Robinson for the alley-oop slam on Monday.
  • Frank shot 50 percent from the field and, again, really showed some defensive chops that couple into a tough question: how can you not play this young, defensive stud on a team without a true champion on that side of the court?
  • Robinson sprained his right ankle in the fourth quarter and did not return following his departure.
  • Third-stringers minutes watch: Damyean Dotson, Isaiah Hicks, Kadeem Allen, and Ron Baker. Hezonja played with that group but he found time with the second unit prior to “training camp invitees” time. Is the chemistry between Dotson and Baker legitimate? Yes. Will it matter by November? Not bloody likely.
  • Dotson hit a series of clutch late shots to seal the victory.
  • Knox tallied only seven points in 22 minutes to go along shooting 3-of-6 from the field, four rebounds, and an assists. Kev mostly fell under the radar—a potential weakness we documented going into the draft process—but he was nonetheless effective in his limited role on Wednesday, outside of the aforementioned defensive lapse.
  • New York only attempted 15 three-pointers; they made five. Just something to look back at as we all expected an increase in treys attempted with Fizdale on the sidelines.

 

The Knicks’ next matchup features the team hosting Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. Fly, pelicans, fly.