The New York Knicks toppled the Atlanta Hawks from start to finish. Who stepped up for interim coach Mike Miller’s team along the way?
While not the continuation of a winning streak, the New York Knicks walked out victoriously for the third time in four games on Tuesday night, defeating the Atlanta Hawks. It was a dominant night from start to finish, featuring a 24-point lead at the half and terrific performances up and down the roster.
The Knicks are still just 7-21, but they are gaining momentum. From their latest win, who stepped up for them over the 48 minutes?
Dennis Smith Jr.
Stat Line: 8 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 3-for-5 shooting, 1 3-pointer
Somewhat surprisingly, interim coach Mike Miller brought Dennis Smith Jr. into the game after not playing the third-year guard in back-to-back matchups. The result was overly positive: eight points, five rebounds and five assists in just 12 minutes. Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina played 20 and 17 minutes, respectively.
It briefly seemed like a bleak situation for Smith Jr. With the other point guards playing well and better than him, the North Carolina State product joined Allonzo Trier at the end of the bench and would seemingly have a problem regaining minutes.
This started with Payton’s return from a strained hamstring. As the team steadily welcomed him into the mix, the offense started to flow, superior to anything seen in the first quarter of the season. Along with defensive lapses, Smith Jr. had the shortest leash of any point guard.
However, a revitalization like this stems well for his positioning in the rotation. Perhaps Miller just sought a way to get Smith Jr. out of this season-long slump, and if Tuesday night was any indication, it worked. Consistent production is needed moving forward, but so far, so good.