Opening night probably didn’t unfold how they wanted, but the Knicks will still take the tight, 90-83, win over the frisky Bucks.
The Knicks likely envisioned unveiling their new-look roster — and arena — in a better light, especially since they were rolling to a seemingly blowout victory by forging a 25-point halftime lead. But the Bucks made sure to make it an interesting game due to large second-half runs.
Head coach Mike Woodson said prior to the opener that the key to replicating last season’s success is to dominate at home. That obviously didn’t happen, but the Knicks eventually stole the win.
“This unit is battle-tested from last season. This was the unit that we started down the stretch when we had that winning streak in the end,” Woodson said. “I thought we needed to make every defensive play that we needed to make down the stretch and Tyson [Chandler] was huge. ... I had to stick with the starters, even though they played a lot of minutes. I’ll need to get more out of the bench.”
The Knicks sandwiched a great start and furious finish with suspect play in between, as Milwaukee forced 22 turnovers and also forced the Knicks to play down to their competition — something that wasn’t lost on Woodson.
“We got sloppy with the ball. It was the first time since I became head coach here that we had this many turnovers. That’s not us,” said Woodson. “But give them credit for the pressure they applied in the second half.”
Pressure was certainly applied early to the Knicks’ newest shiny toy, sharpshooting forward Andrea Bargnani. The 7-footer only had six points on 3-of-9 shooting in 17 minutes of action. Bargnani, who was mercilessly booed as a Raptor as his time winded down up north, also heard the catcalls from the partisan Garden crowd early in his unveiling. The maligned forward was given the New York treatment after just a few minutes of work as a smattering of boos could be heard following his shot being blocked and then when he missed an open jumper a couple of possessions later. His honeymoon period officially lasted less than five minutes.
Woodson said he’s not worried about his new stretch forward, as it’ll take time for him to acclimate himself to the system, his teammates and surroundings.
“Andrea had a tough start but eventually he’ll figure it out. And it’s my job to bring it out of him,” said Woodson. “It’s just understanding what I want and him being able to find his niche. He’s capable of doing it. We just need to help better. I have to utilize and play him more. He’ll get his minutes and be back to playing how he used to play.”
Anthony did all he could to get others involved early, as his game-high 19 points came on just 16 shot attempts. Anthony wasn’t himself for most of the game, though, as his sluggish start allowed him to garner two quick fouls in the first five minutes of the game. And like his teammates, he didn’t perform well until the waning minutes, as he missed his first six shots of the fourth quarter until he nailed two big buckets in final two minutes to put the Knicks up for good.
Anthony shot 7-of-16 and went 2-of-8 in the final stanza. He allowed that his rhythm was perhaps spotty because of the way he allowed others to get involved first and not because of the stingy Bucks defense.
“It wasn’t them. It was more about seeing what everyone else could do,” Anthony said, describing his strategy of getting others involved first. “As far as scoring the ball, I can do that in my sleep, so it was more about the other guys gaining confidence and me taking over when I had to.”
Anthony was supported by the others, namely Raymond Felton (18 points), Iman Shumpert (16 points) and Tyson Chandler (10 points, six rebounds, three steals and five blocks).
He especially appreciated the effort his pivot gave.
“I saw Tyson ... the Tyson that I fell in love with,” said Anthony when recalling Chandler’s big defensive effort. “He saved us with two major blocks coming down the stretch [because] we had a rut in that third quarter. But they’re an NBA team, too, and they kept coming. But we were just more aggressive down the stretch. Our energy was great. We got in the passing lanes and got steals [and] got easy shots to finally put them away.”
Knicks notes ...
»Bucks starting point guard Brandon Knight went down on Milwaukee’s third possession with a strained hamstring and didn’t return.
»The Knicks improved to 41-27 overall in season openers and 36-32 in home openers. They’ve now won four straight home openers.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.