What a way to start the (pre)season!
In a game that felt more important and was way more contentious than any preseason game has any business being, the Knicks managed to pull out a close 124-121 overtime victory over the Dwight Howard-less preseason version of the Wizards to get the 2018-19 season going.
Look, first off... I don’t know if I just haven’t seen a preseason game go to OT in a while or what, but I could’ve sworn that they just had ties in the NBA preseason like a soccer friendly if the score was knotted after four quarters. How wrong I was! And quite frankly, we would’ve been robbed of a great Damyean Dotson OT performance otherwise!
The game was back-and-forth all night. The Knicks’ biggest lead was nine, and the Wiz five, but as I said at the top, this game was strangely contentious for a preseason game. Maybe just a lot of pent up summer hormones?
At any rate, the Knicks showed out! David Fizdale’s run-first offense was on display early and often, with guys almost fighting each other for the right to rebound the ball and get the break going. And with all the young legs on this team, Fiz’s fast-break-heavy style seemed to fit like a glove. Honestly, the way the Knicks played the game tonight felt like a game of NBA 2K all night — every player’s eyes were up at almost all times, and it was a hell of a lot of fun.
With the obvious caveat that it was preseason, Fizdale acquitted himself quite well for his first game, including the impressive feat of playing every single eligible player (17 guys!). So since it’s late and I’m tired and I’m watching this game on DVR, I’m going to forego the usual meaty notes and instead just give some quick-hitting analysis about each player tonight (it’s a rare treat to see literally every player get at least a few minutes of run):
Kevin Knox: Knox is a damn NBA player. It did not matter at all what caliber of player was in against Knox in this one. Starters, bench guys, whatever — Knox just did the damn thing. He finished well at the rim. He shot 2-of-5 from deep and 4-of-9 overall for 13 points (which would’ve led the team if the game ended in regulation). He snagged 10 boards. It’s very clear that Knox is at the very least going to turn out a serviceable role player in the NBA, and we could very well have a future star on our hands here. Look out, league.
Mitchell Robinson: Ditto for Mitch! As Dirkstaps Pauzingis said in the comments, “Mitch is gonna be scary when he gets stronger.” And, quite frankly, my guy is already pretty damn scary:
Mitch just never stopped moving during his 16 minutes out there tonight. If there was a rebound, he was within a foot of it almost every time. He was clearly hungry for lobs and dunks as well (as he should be, I think the dude could jump over a house). And, perhaps more important than his six points, seven rebounds and a block, Mitch only fouled three times tonight, which was his biggest weakness at Summer League.
Oh, and he had a little kerfuffle with Markieff Morris. But we’ll cover that another time. Tomorrow, maybe.
Frank Ntilikina: Frankie (as expected) struggled a little with looking for his own shot again on Monday, but all in all he played a clean game. Had a positively lovely floater in the first quarter. And he and Knox both posted a team-leading +7 plus/minus. I’ll be patiently waiting for when Frank unleashes Confident Frank again like he did in the second Summer League game.
Lance Thomas: Surprisingly, Lance got like nuclear hot to start the game, and ended up shooting 4-of-5 for 12 points. I’m not gonna freak out over a 30-year-old journeyman getting hot in preseason, but it definitely took me a little aback.
Enes Kanter: Look, I’m not gonna sit here and shit on Kanter or anything, but nothing about his performance was particularly interesting. He threw his weight around. He scored a few times inside. He ended up with seven points and five boards in 12 minutes (the lowest minute total for any starter, tied with Tim Hardaway Jr.). Kanter just is who he is. He took one jumper with someone in his vicinity and it was enough to convince me that I don’t ever really want to see him use that 3-pointer he showed in his summer workout videos in a game this year.
Allonzo Trier: He’s definitely been surprising me, and it seems like he’s an NBA player. Trier had 13 off the bench, and shot 6-of-6 from he free throw line. The kid’s definitely an NBA scorer, and his handle’s pretty slick:
Yeah, I’ll take some more of that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Knicks converted Trier’s two-way deal to a standard contract heading out of camp.
Noah Vonleh: Vonleh was low-key my MVP tonight. He just came out with those tree trunk legs and threw his weight around. He clearly wanted to destroy Jason Smith, and I fully support that. Guarantee this man’s contract already:
Noah Vonleh showing some power and I don’t care what the call is, it’s preseason and this was ferocious pic.twitter.com/2hXXqfzFfD— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) October 2, 2018
Trey Burke: Burke wasn’t exactly mini-Iverson this game, but he did alright. Seven points in 14 minutes. He put Austin Rivers in a spin cycle and made a slick mid-range jumper while fading out of bounds in the second quarter, so that was fun.
Damyean Dotson: Dot didn’t really get in until late, and then he erupted in overtime to secure the win for New York (and lead the team with 14 points scored). I think Dotson’s a super fun player to watch when he’s playing loosey-goosey and isn’t, as Clyde might say, “aiming his shots.”
Isaiah Hicks: Hicks didn’t get in until the later stages of the fourth quarter, at which point he came in like a bull in a china shop and steamrolled some poor Wizards guy for a layup. That’s all I remember him doing.
Ron Baker: Ron did some very Ron things. He came in, played some good D, moved the ball around, and — gasp — he went 2-for-2 from the field and ended up with 7 points. OK, maybe not a perfectly typical night for Ron. The efficient scoring was new.
Tim Hardaway Jr.: Can’t believe I forgot about Tim until now (I’m not rearranging any of these, this is all just a 1:30 a.m. stream of consciousness), but I kinda shut him out of my mind once he missed what felt like his first 20 3-pointers of the year. Here’s hoping he gets that cold streak out before the regular season starts this year.
Mario Hezonja: OK, yeah, I’m legitimately ashamed that I forgot about Hez until now. He played quite well! He was making mostly good decisions out there. Three-of-six for the night for eight points, to go with five boards and two assists. Five turnovers though, but I think in general he was a positive out there.
Kadeem Allen/Tyrius Walker/Luke Kornet: It’s pushing 2 a.m. right now and I’m like super tired, so forgive me because I know I said I’d review each player, but I’m just gonna lump these three together. If you skip past their plays you won’t miss a ton in this game.
Emmanuel Mudiay: I think our own Jonathan “Stingy” Schulman put it best about Mudiay in the P&T Slack channel tonight: “He’s the guy that needs the whole floor to dribble, so you don’t know where to space out for him and you can’t cut.”
And that’s it. I’m sleepy now. Good night, guys and gals! Welcome to the new season. I think we’re in for a fun one.