The New York Knicks got the best of the Charlotte Hornets the second time around and Derek Fisher’s vision for his squad is finally starting to come to fruition after stinging together a solid stretch of games.
The Knicks defeated the Hornets by a score of 102-94 in a game where ball movement was key and Kristaps Porzingis continued to show flashes of his high-ceiling potential. Through the first 12 games of the season, D-Fish is starting to see his squad play more cohesively as a team, which was one of the main objectives from his perspective going into the season.
“The objective for this team coming in this season was not about perfect execution and X’s and O’s and what kind of plays you’re running and what the rotations are. The objective was to become a team first and then we’ll worry about the rest later,” Fisher said. “They are reaching that objective playing as a team, even when it’s not good, they’re still a team. Everything else that we hope to do can be built on that.”
A big part of the game for Fisher and Co. was also the Knicks’ ability to create scoring opportunities. The team finished the night with 22 assists—indicative of the ball movement Fisher has wanted to see from his squad this season. Even after the impressive performance, D-Fish knows the Knicks are still capable of being better.
“That’s an area that should always be high for us because of the way we play and guys have to be ready to catch and shoot the ball within a split second. We had some guys that missed some layups and some easy shots that would have gotten us a few more assists, but percentage wise, 22 assists on 36 made field goals is a really good number,” Fisher said. “But we can be even better honestly. I think that we can continue to move the basketball at higher clip and continue to be a team that really averages a high number of assists every night.”
Porzingis had a record setting night for the Knicks, becoming the youngest player in franchise history with 25 points and ten rebounds in a game. Porzingis started off the game on fire as he racked up 17 points and nine boards by halftime. The final stat line for Kristaps was incredible as he finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 10-for-17 from the field. The Latvian rookie also showcased a seasoned move as he wowed with a dream shake reminiscent of one of the all-time greats: Hakeem Olajuwon.
Porzingis has been the headlining story of the Knicks so far this season. Before he showed what he was capable of against top competition, many thought that it could be a long process for the rookie before he became assimilated to the NBA style of play. So far, that has not been the case and Porzingis has been impressing on a nightly basis with his mature level of play. D-Fish has not been surprised by the rookie’s game, citing that he’s gotten the chance to watch Kristaps play every day for the last few months.
“I guess if I hadn’t been seeing him every day for months now maybe I would be surprised but you see this ability, whether or not he will be able to do this nightly we don’t know at this point, but because of the combination in those skills and those abilities at some points it’s going to all come together,” Fisher explained. “You could see that he’s getting more comfortable each game. To me the best part about it is a lot of it is happening naturally in the flow of the game. To me that’s the sign of really good basketball player.”
Fisher also noticed how instrumental Carmelo Anthony has been when it comes to creating chances for other players and making those better around him. D-Fish also emphasized the role Melo had in spacing the floor and allowing guys like Porzingis to be more aggressive offensively. Anthony has been forced to carry the scoring load throughout his entire career, but Porzingis’ big night allowed him to play more within himself and set up teammates for success.
“I think there’s always a balance for really good players in terms of balancing and getting themselves going nightly and then finding ways to allow room for other guys to operate and have some space to play their game,” D-Fish said. “I thought Melo found a really good balance with that tonight. Some of the extra passes he made get other guys opportunities I thought was really energizing to our team.”
Melo finished second on the team behind Porzingis with 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds, five assists and a couple blocked shots in 37 minutes of action. Arron Afflalo also helped the Knicks offensively, chipping in with 16 points, three rebound and three assists while shooting 7-for-15 from the floor.
With the Knicks rotation at full-strength, Fish was asked if he has a better sense of the rotations and combinations he’d like to use as the season progresses. He was hesitant to say that anything was set in stone, but he did reiterate that many guys are stepping up and showing they can contribute in impactful ways on a nightly basis.
“We have guys that are showing capabilities night in and night out that if they get a turn they can play,” D-Fish said. “Kevin Seraphin’s really come on the last couple games…Arron’s presence is impactful for us because he has a confidence and a swagger in him and a belief in himself that I think spreads amongst his teammates.”
Seraphin built off the opportunity he has been given the last few games and finished the night with ten points, five rebounds and four assists in 20 minutes off the pine. Seraphin also helped out on the defensive side of the ball as he recorded two big shot blocks in the contest, tying him for the team lead.
Even though the Knicks did eclipse 100 points in the game, defensive play was a big part of the victorious outcome last night. D-Fish was very pleased that when his team struggled finding its shot, they were able to make up for it with elite ball movement and hard-nosed defense.
“They just found a way to win even though we didn’t shoot the ball that well percentage wise from the field,” Fisher said. “They relied on their defense. It’s seem like we went forever without being able to score a bucket but we made it difficult for them to score as well.”
Fisher and the Knicks have a couple days off before they embark on a back-to-back to close out the week. On Friday the Knicks are slated to be on the road to square off against the Oklahoma City Thunder then are scheduled to travel to Houston on Saturday to take on the Rockets.
Last season New York split their games against the Thunder and dropped both contests against the Rockets.
Friday’s game against the Thunder will tip off at 8 p.m. EST and be aired on MSG. Saturday’s contest will also tip off at 8 p.m. EST and be broadcasted on MSG.