Tim Hardaway Jr. David Fizdale
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Knicks take advantage of a lesser foe on the back of Tim Hardaway Jr. and David Fizdale’s new-look offense was on full display.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK — The season is starting off brilliantly for the New York Knicks. They took the floor in front of an energetic crowd and took the Hawks’ lunch money. The game was over at halftime after a record-setting offensive explosion — New York broke a franchise record by scoring 49 points in the second quarter.

Tim Hardaway Jr. led all scorers with 31 points, 16 of which came during the record-setting second quarter. The de facto first option was nothing short of brilliant tonight. He was forcing in the first few minutes of the game, but David Fizdale called a key timeout at the eight-minute mark in the first quarter, down 10-2, and the Knicks followed it up by going on a 12-0 run out of the break.

When asked what he told his team during this critical juncture, Fizdale chalked it up to first-night jitters.

“Both lineups went through it actually,” Fizdale said. “When I put in the second unit they did the exact same thing. They were just so jacked up. I just took the timeout to settle them in and let them know that the game will come to them.”

That’s exactly what happened following the timeout. Hardaway found his groove after struggling in the first few minutes of the game and he took control of the offense. Hardaway got to the line early and he credited a trip to the free throw line as a reason for his impressive performance.

“I think it was getting to the line and seeing two go in and then I got my teammates involved. I got three quick assists, got some rebounds, pushed it and got some deflections on the defensive end. That’s what got it going.”

Enes Kanter spoke very highly of Hardaway and he thought Hardaway turned in an impressive all-around game. In his postgame scrum, Kanter spoke like the tremendous leader he is.

“I just want to give a shoutout to Tim. I think he played like an All-Star today. I’m not just talking about offensively. I told him before the game, I want you to lead us.”

So that’s the first All-Star mention of the season for these Knicks. But Kanter’s not wrong about Hardaway’s performance — it was All-Star caliber, if only for one night. Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce wanted to key on Hardaway, but there was no stopping Hardaway from decimating his former team.

“The basket was big for him tonight. Whether it was the three or getting in the paint off their dribble hand-offs. He got going. His teammates responded and played off what he was doing. Obviously 49 points in any quarter is just way too much and we couldn’t recover from that.”

Hardaway was the leading man tonight and he deserves a huge chunk of the credit, but David Fizdale’s imprint on the game was obvious. The Knicks were running a pick and roll or dribble handoff nearly every time down the court. The free-flowing offense worked beautifully and it was the catalyst for the second-quarter eruption.

At one point when the second unit was on the floor, the ball was swung around the perimeter as Noah Vonleh sought out ball screen after ball screen. It was a welcome sight after watching Jeff Hornacek led offenses for the last few years. Not only was the offense effective, but it was also an exciting brand of basketball to boot. Will we see more of this type of free-flowing, fast-paced offense?

Fizdale doesn’t want to worry about changing too much from game to game. He wants to build off this performance and keep things simple for his team. When asked about the high frequency of pick and rolls and dribble handoffs, Fizdale said:

“Whatever we’re doing, that’s what we do. We really don’t have the luxury of being a team that can change game to game. We’re trying to build a system, habits. I’ve really been on the guys about sharing the ball, moving the ball, moving their bodies, and tonight they applied what we talked about.”

Expect to see a lot of pick and rolls and a ton of dribble handoffs as the season progresses. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Of course, the Hawks are going to be one of the worst teams in the league so this type of scoring output won’t be the norm. But nonetheless, this was an inspiring victory for a team that has every reason to be excited about the future.

Second Unit

Mitchell Robinson only played one minute in his career debut. He’s still working back from an ankle injury and Fizdale said that once Vonleh started playing well, they felt it was better to roll with him and let Robinson stay on the bench. Vonleh notched a double-double in 16 minutes.

Ron Baker was the first guard off the bench and he acted as a primary ballhandler for parts of the night. He still has his warts, but his toughness on defense and commitment to team basketball are excellent traits to have on a young team.

Allonzo Trier continues to impress. The rookie — who is still on his two-way contract for now — tallied 15 points on nine attempts.

Seven Knicks scored in double figures en route to the victory. Hardaway, Kanter, Trier, Knox, Vonleh, Mario Hezonja, and Trey Burke all scored double digits.

Trae Young spoke highly of Tim Hardaway Jr. Following the game, he told reporters, “He (Tim Hardaway Jr.) definitely had a good first half and then they were hitting some tough shots. They put up too many points for us. We know what we have to continue to get better at.”

Jeremy Lin returned to the birthplace of Linsanity. In regards to the crowd reaction in MSG, he told reporters, “I didn’t make too much of it. It was seven or eight years ago. For me, there’s a contingency that still comes out and supports me. I get it; I’m at a different place in my career. I just want to have fun. New York will always be a special place for me.”

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.