Thanksgiving is an off-day in the NBA so the New York Knicks took the day to rest up and enjoy after a draining victory over one of the best teams in the East on Wednesday.
The Knicks went on the longest run in franchise history en route to a comeback win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. They were down big at halftime but scored 28 points in a row in the third quarter to take a lead for good and win 108–100.
Coming from behind happens all the time in the NBA, but it’s exhausting. Two days later, the Knicks are in Atlanta against a Hawks team that’s feisty but knows it’s rebuilding. New York is a two-point favorite at Phillips Arena.
From 10:23 to 2:23 in the third quarter on Wednesday, the Knicks scored 28 points without allowing the Raptors any. The starting five played about six of the eight minutes. Lance Thomas replaced Kristaps Porzingis at around the four-minute mark and Doug McDermott came in for Courtney Lee for the last five points of the run.
Everybody in that starting five of the Knicks played at least 32 minutes, including Jarrett Jack. He’s the first guy worth mentioning because, despite not putting up big numbers, he’s had a profound impact on the Knicks’ success. New York started 0–3. Jack didn’t play in the first two games and came off the bench in the third. Since being inserted into the starting lineup in the next game, Jack has led the Knicks to a 10–4 record.
Frank Ntilikina isn’t ready for the big-time and Ramon Sessions isn’t really a point guard. So the Knicks gave Jack a shot to play for his eighth team in his 13th season out of Georgia Tech. I was just starting my college basketball craze when Jack led the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Final against UConn but I remember that he was the uncontested leader of that team. He had to take a backseat in the NBA but Jack has always played good basketball in whatever situation he is thrust into.
In this case, it’s a facilitator, game-manager, do-anything-it-takes-to-help-the-team role and Jack has flourished. Not only is he running the offense around four guys who have shot the ball well this season (Porzingis, Hardaway, Kanter, Lee), but he’s serving as a valuable mentor to Ntilikina who can now flow as part of the second unit.
The other guy in the Knicks’ starting five that I want to bring up is Enes Kanter. While he has stirred up Turkey’s politics, he hasn’t amassed many critics of his play since coming to the NBA. But those who were critical of his performance on the court aren’t any longer due to his stellar defense. He’s always shot well but this season has been his best — he’s fourth in the NBA with a 63.5 field goal percentage and he’s converting nearly 91 percent of his free throws. Oklahoma City would be thrilled to get that sort of production out of its number three option…
The Knicks may not be as well-rested as they would like coming off the holiday but I also suspect some of Jeff Hornacek’s fiery halftime speech might still be in the front of their minds as the game against the Hawks begins. There are teams this year’s Knicks expect to beat on the road and Atlanta is one of them.
Free Pick: New York -2
Atlanta Hawks • Kristaps Porzingis • NBA • New York Knicks