Derek Fisher and the New York Knicks got back on track Saturday night as they came out victorious and spoiled the Washington Wizards home opener.
In Carmelo Anthony’s third regular-season game since undergoing surgery on his left knee this offseason, he helped the Knicks outpace the Wizards while going 11-of-18 from the field and putting up 37 points in a 117-110 New York victory. Melo was also on fire from long range, where he went 4-of-5 to fuel his offensive outburst.
The win this weekend marked the second road win for the Knicks in the young NBA season. After closing out the game in the fourth quarter and outscoring the Wizards 30-20, Fisher really liked what he saw from his group when it comes to their drive to work together as a cohesive unit.
“They really do desire to become a team and this type of game really forces you to be a team and either figure out how to win it or kind of break apart and not be a team,” Fisher said. “They showed up and definitely showed a lot of teamwork out there tonight.”
In Saturday’s contest, Melo logged 36 minutes of action which was five minutes longer than the second most utilized Knick, forward Robin Lopez. Anthony also hit one of the most important shots of the night with 1:40 to go in the fourth quarter to put the Knicks up by two. D-Fish was impressed with Melo’s game from a physical standpoint due the minutes he has been logging early in the season coming off of knee surgery, especially against a tough team like Washington.
“I thought[the Wizards physicality] brought the best out in Melo,” Fisher explained. “He was really good. There was a composure and poise to everything that he did, he got the shots he wanted when he wanted them. He also made plays to make other people better.”
Langston Galloway also had an impressive game as he didn’t appear phased by the pressure late in the contest. Galloway led all reserve scorers on both teams coming off the bench with 14 points while also knocking down two of his three attempts from beyond the arc. He also chipped in with seven boards, four assists, a steal and a block.
Fisher wasn’t surprised one bit by the poise shown by Galloway and other young players, as he’s says it’s something a lot of them exhibited over the course of last season.
“[Last year] we saw a lot of the confidence, the moxie and the mental toughness that often time takes years for players to develop but [Galloway] has it as a young player. We feel like a couple other of our young guys have it and that’s why they’re comfortable out there on the floor,” Fisher said.
The Knicks continued to see encouraging sings from both their rookie prospects in Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant. Porzingis finished the night with eight points and six rebounds while Grant came off the bench and scored seven points, a couple rebounds and made a few solid defensive plays that earned him three steels. Both rookies logged 21 minutes of action.
Robin Lopez was the team’s most reliable rebounder against the Wizards. Lopez came down with eight boards and also chipped in with eight points. On the defensive side of the ball, Lopez was a force as he led the Knicks with two blocked shots.
Kyle O’Quinn and Lance Thomas proved again to be reliable assets for Fisher and the Knicks coming off the bench. The two forwards combined for 22 points, with Thomas having an impressive shooting performance going 6-of-8 from the field. O’Quinn didn’t put up the big rebounding numbers he posted in the Knicks first couple games, but he did contribute with a couple boards and a blocked shot.
Last year, the Knicks struggled closing out tight games, and it has certainly been a facet of the Knicks play that D-Fish wanted to work on this season. Derek feels that more of a veteran presence in this group has made a big difference when it comes to the Knicks ability to close out games.
“I think that guys who haven’t had this experience before, it’s tough to step in to it. We feel like a lot of the guys we added this summer, they’ve been in these situations before, they’re comfortable making these plays,” D-Fish said. “Overall I still think that even the guys who were with us there last year that those experiences helped them a lot. We knew starting this season out playing against good teams that we were going to be in a lot of close games.”
Through it all, the New York offense has shown some terrific improvement. The Knicks averaged just 91.9 points per game last year, but they’ve hit triple digits in all three game so far this season en route to the best scoring average in the Eastern Conference: 113.3 PPG.
“They are not running the same offense as last year,” said Washington point guard John Wall. “They added some more pace to their game, they are running more pick-and-rolls, and they put us in tough situations where we had to rotate and they were getting offensive rebounds and putbacks.”
Joe Flynn of SB Nation’s Posting and Toasting counts himself among those who have been impressed by Fish’s influence on New York’s start:
Fisher deserves a good deal of credit for all this. He showed real growth by the end of last season, and it has carried over so far into 2015-16. I, for one, was so caught up in complaining about the starting lineup that I ignored how well the team actually played in the first week of the season.
As a way of making it up to him, here are some of the positive signs of Derek Fisher’s coaching aptitude:
The Knicks are third in the NBA in offensive efficiency, scoring 111.5 points per 100 possessions. We knew they’d probably have to score at an elite clip to outpace their defense, and so far they have.
The offense has done the serious damage despite two rough shooting nights for Carmelo Anthony, not to mention the complete absence of presumed No. 2 scoring option Arron Afflalo. In the 47 minutes Melo has been on the bench this season, the Knicks are averaging a preposterous 126.4 points per 100 possessions.
The Knicks (2-1) will be back home on Monday to take on the San Antonio Spurs (2-1). Last season D-Fish and the Knicks spit the season series with the Spurs, dropping the first matchup 105-99 in San Antonio and coming out on top back at Madison Square Garden later in the season 104-100.
The Spurs dropped their season opener to the Thunder but have since rebounded with a 102-75 win over the Brooklyn Nets and a 95-87 triumph over the Boston Celtics.
The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. ET and be aired on MSG.