The effort to win this Sunday afternoon game began on Saturday morning when the Knicks gathered before practice for a long meeting — attended by Phil Jackson — where the players aired out their frustrations and also their expectations. Also, out of it came a determination to not allow what’s happened to Knicks teams in the past happen to this group. This is a team consisting of 10 new players.
Jackson didn’t speak. Instead, he listened.
So against the Atlanta Hawks, despite being without Joakim Noah (illness), the Knicks came out for a usually sleepy noon start much more focused and energized. There was a much more honest effort on defense, compared to the previous game in Washington, and the offense had much better flow and patience. The energy was sparked by Kyle O’Quinn, who got the start against Dwight Howard, and finished off by rookie Willy Hernangomez, who battled Howard through the fourth quarter.
Paul Millsap was frustrated that the Hawks, one of the NBA’s top teams at both ends of the floor, would struggle as they did against, as he put it, “one of the worst defenses in the league.” The Knicks held the Hawks to 40 percent shooting and just six of 21 from three-point range. They also won the rebounding battle, 50-48.
Carmelo Anthony had 31 points to lead the way and much of his scoring came within the flow of the offense. Kristaps Porzingis put up a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds and Derrick Rose (10 points, 7 assists) dominated his matchup with Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder (1 point, 0-for-8).
We’ve seen performances like these already this season, but the issue has been seeing them on a consistent basis.
The next test comes Tuesday against the Trail Blazers at The Garden, where the Knicks have won four straight. They’ll try once again to get to the .500 mark.
We’ll be on the air for Knicks Game Night at 7 PM.