NEW YORK -- Well, I think that was more fun than most people expected! The Nets topped the Knicks 107-105 on Friday night in what was a thrilling home opener, decided by a Caris LeVert lay-in with just one second left.
It was a disappointing last few seconds for the Knicks, and a game which saw some bad defensive mistakes. But New York's two neophytes had good showings, which is really all that matters. With that, some thoughts...
Both of these teams are very fun to watch
Last year, the Nets were an incredibly watchable young team, and then they added shot-blocking, afro-wearing post menace Jarrett Allen. The Knicks, on the other hand, have a 19-year-old Kevin Durant play-alike, a quote-machine at center, and a bunch of guards who will just cross up just about anyone and launch a trillion shots. Both teams are going to turn the ball over (shockingly, the Nets were the sloppier ones on Friday), but the brand of basketball is fast and fun.
It's also worth noting that both of these teams have something to look forward to in the future. For the Knicks, it's Kristaps Porzingis and a real shot at the postseason for years to come. And for the Nets, it's a Caris LeVert max contract.
While I kid, the feeling around both of these teams is overwhelmingly positive and that made for a tremendous atmosphere on Friday. Having sat in on many Knicks-Nets games in the past which featured some ugly play, this one definitely felt incredibly more engaging than previous years, rivaling the first-ever matchup between the two teams in 2012.
There's no getting around the fact that both teams are still rebuilding and will once again pick in the lottery. But there is some real talent being run out there on the floor, which is pretty cool.
Frank Ntilikina needs to play
After struggling to see the floor in the first half, David Fizdale deployed Ntilikina in the third quarter and saw fantastic returns. Ntilikina poured in a few hoops, added an assist, and played lockdown perimeter defense to help cool down a red-hot Nets offense, which was shooting 55 percent from the field.
It's unclear why his minutes have fluctuated the way they have in the first two games, but one thing's certain: He needs to play. Ron Baker's heavy usage would indicate that David Fizdale's commitment to defending opposing guards is unwavering. If that's really the case, Ntilikina should be seeing just as many minutes. The fact that he is desperately craving experience at the NBA level having only played 22 minutes per game last season also helps his cause.
He's averaged 34 minutes per game, which is good, but one might argue he should see even more time. It seems there has been a hesitancy to have him out there during several points in the season.
Kevin Knox is definitely good
While LeVert's game-winning layup was just out of his reach, Kevin Knox and his incredibly long arms were phenomenal in the fourth quarter. The Knicks wouldn't have been in this game without him. Knox played the entire final period, knocking down 3-of-6 shots, including one crunch-time three to tie the game at 93. He also pulled down four rebounds in the quarter, including one which wound up giving the Knicks their last lead of the game at the 2:43 mark.
Knox doing the dirty work under the boards and then hits the sweet jumper pic.twitter.com/whOOFR0OCN- Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) October 20, 2018
It's just game two, but you can already feel him growing up right before our eyes. He continued taking the ball strong to the basket and pulling up when he had space. He was getting looks in close so easily at times, there was even one instance where he missed a bunny because he seemed to be surprised at how long his strides were. Look at how his length helped him finish here:
This feels like Summer League all over again; we're getting our first look at just how special Knox can be.
David Fizdale makes sure the kids play defense
One other thing that's worth mentioning is this moment here, when David Fizdale came up to Kevin Knox following his late game-tying three...
After Kevin Knox hit this three to tie the game, David Fizdale wasn't celebrating- Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) October 20, 2018
He waited to chew Knox out for not getting over quick enough on an earlier defensive rotation
Fiz, the teacher pic.twitter.com/Xz6wm3FefR
That's right, Fiz was upset! That's because, according to Knox, he had been late on a rotation on the possession before, which was a big deal considering this wound up being a two-point loss. "It could have changed the game," Knox said postgame.