Let’s be frank: the 2018/19 Knicks campaign will be only be remembered for what went wrong, rather than what went right.
They say you never win anything with kids, and right now, the proverb couldn’t be truer as the young Knickbockers have faced a rocky path in their infant years (or in some case, just year) in the NBA. However, amongst the doom and gloom, there have been a few nuggets of glory to leave New York fans wanting more and more, and here in no particular order are my top 5 moments of the season.
Buck Wild in MSG thriller!
I’m going to start with my favourite game of the season, a real ‘pound your chest and scream New York’ type of clash with Eastern Conference champion hopefuls, the Milwaukee Bucks. Live on TV over here in the U.K., I have to admit, I didn’t see a way that the Knicks could stop human bulldozer that is the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. However during the first quarter, one of the least memorable players from the 2018/19 campaign ended up providing one of the most ballsy moves of the season, when Mario Hezonja dunked on Giannis, before controversially stepping over him as he head back to play defense. Yikes.
The Knicks started the game very well, letting it fly from three early on and grittily defending their own basket, the game started to get away from them, and with three minutes remaining in the third quarter they were down by 16 points. However, thanks to 3-pointers from Kevin Knox, Tim Hardaway Jr and Damyean Dotson, the Knicks were down just four going into the fourth. There good work looked like it had gone to waste when the Bucks opened up a new 13 point lead with 5 minutes 46 seconds left, but step up Emmanuel Mudiay. With four minutes left, Mud scored nine points including a game-tying 3-pointer to take the game to overtime. Tack on seven more for the Congolese born point guard in OT, and the Knicks took the win 136-134. MSG was rocking.
Burke Busts down Boston
Trey Burke was a streaky shooter to say the least, but since stepping up from the G League, he proved that on occasion he could set a game alight with his hot hand. For the 2018/19 season, this never became more apparent than on the 22nd November during a road game against the Boston Celtics. The Knicks were on top from the first moment, taking both quarters one and two by eight points, giving them a 16 point advantage by half time. Given that there was just under ten minutes to go and the Knicks had extended their lead to 20 points, in very much Knick fashion, that lead became just four with only 1 minute 4 seconds remaining after a 36-20 Boston run.
However, Burke, who shot 11 of 20 from the field, including four out of his six 3-pointers, hit two timely shots deep in the fourth to kill the confidence of the Celtics, and help nudge the tiring Knicks over the line for a very, very big win against our rivals from the north.
That’s our rook!
In reality, the New York Knicks are a long way off from competing with the Philadelphia 76ers, especially this season with their new sort of super team of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. However on January 13, the Knicks gave Philly a real run for their money, spearheaded by first round rookie, Kevin Knox. With most of the team having an off-night, and players such as Tim Hardaway Jr not being involved, Knox took it upon himself to keep New York in the game.
Down 16 at the half, the Knicks won the third quarter 32-17, cutting the deficit by just one point going into the fourth, with Knox top scoring for the visitors with nine. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for Fizdale’s men as Philly flexed their muscles to see out and important win for their play-off push, but Knox’s career high 31 point night definitely pleased many Knicks fans.
Well, if we’re going to talk about a breakout game for our rookie first round pick, we may as well continue to talk about the time Mitchell Robinson had himself a game during the win over the Orlando Magic on February 27. Having recorded a double-double in the previous game, a win over the San Antonio Spurs, Robinson out-did himself with a whopping 17 points, 14 rebounds and an emphatic 6 blocks! The Magic have clearly done something wrong to Mitch to get this sort of treatment from the 7 footer, as he blocked an earth-shattering nine shots earlier in the season.
The Knicks weren’t particularly thriving during the game, trailing by 14 after the first quarter, and still down by 12 going into the fourth. However, the Magic folded like a pack of cards in the final quarter, as the Knicks went on a 30-13 run to pick up just their 13th win of the season
A New Beginning
I was just as gob-smacked as the next Knick fan when the news emerged of the blockbuster trade that saw Kristaps Porzingis force his move away from MSG and to Dallas. Taking Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr and Courtney Lee with him, it was time for a new era for the Knicks, who acquired Dennis Smith Jr, DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews as part of the deal. Although Matthews only turned out for the Knicks twice before being allowed to leave when the buyout window opened, Jordan and Smith Jr have become staples in the starting five.
It took seven attempts to finally record the first win since the trade, and thanks to Smith Jr top scoring with 19 points, the Knicks rolled the Atlanta Hawks over 106-91, with Jordan grabbing himself a 13 point and 10 rebound double-double.