New York Knicks: Trey Burke’s reemergence not enough as Nets pull away

Brooklyn Nets Rondae-Hollis Jefferson (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Rondae-Hollis Jefferson (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks had a chance early on, but the Brooklyn Nets dominated the second half to take a 109-99 win.

When isn’t the ever-changing New York Knicks rotation the story of the night? The exiled veterans always seem on the outside, looking in, until an injury occurs or someone steps up. This time, it was Emmanuel Mudiay‘s injury that created an opening.

This should have been Frank Ntilikina’s night to shine. Mudiay robbed and ran away with the Frenchman’s point-guard job in November and never looked back, with this left shoulder strain deterring him in the interim.

Ntilikina opened as the starting point guard against the Brooklyn Nets, missing his first three shots, but hitting the next two. It paced him for a decent evening, only for that last make to become the 20-year-old’s last attempt of the night. He finished with 18 minutes played.

While the capped time was attributed to someone else’s performance, it’s disparaging to see Ntilikina’s night stall. Unlike previous benchings, though, head coach David Fizdale was forced to sit the sophomore due to frequent foul trouble, resulting in a sixth in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Trey Burke played after sitting via coach’s decision for the previous three games. He exploded, as usual, after games-long layoffs with 25 points and five assists, on 10-for-19 shooting, in 33 minutes; only Tim Hardaway Jr. topped his on-court time.

Burke’s as streaky as anyone not named Hardaway or Mario Hezonja, but he’s always ready upon re-entering the rotation. Mudiay’s injury at least means he’ll sustain this opportunity, even leading to a starting role by Sunday or some time afterward.

That’s unfortunate for Ntilikina if that’s the case, but his play in 2018-19 has not warranted major minutes. He should receive them, as the Knicks prioritize youth and aren’t winning games any time soon (just three victories since Dec. 1), but Burke is potentially making this decision difficult for Fizdale.

Otherwise, this became a letdown night for the Knicks. They were tied at 60 with the Nets in the second half, but lost grasp on a first-half lead. Behind six Brooklyn players in double figures, they tore past New York in the second half, including a surprise 19 points from Theo Pinson and 17 points and 16 rebounds from Ed Davis. It resulted in the 109-99 final score.

  • Another absence for Enes Kanter. The Barclays Center crowded even chanted his name. Unless another big man is hurt, there’s no sign of the Turkish center re-entering the rotation. End this saga now, for everyone’s sake, before he complains publicly, again.
  • Noah Vonleh was red-hot in the first quarter, scoring 14 points. He only had eight the rest of the way, but finished with a career-high 22 points and added 13 rebounds. No Mudiay allowed him to step up.
  • Hardaway’s inefficient nights are normal at this point. He has just four games of 50-plus percent shooting since Nov. 14. This game was just 2-for-14 from the field.
  • Allonzo Trier followed his explosive Rockets game with a quiet 13 points.
  • Courtney Lee made a cameo for four minutes, returning to the bench for the rest of the game.
  • Mitchell Robinson‘s four blocks were among the few positives from this game. He only had two fouls, as well.

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The New York Knicks will return to action on Sunday, Sunday, Jan. 27, against the Miami Heat, at 7:30 p.m. ET. It’s Dwyane Wade‘s penultimate game at Madison Square Garden.