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Takeaways from the Knicks’ season opener

The New York Knicks let a close game slip away in the last seven minutes of the game, but they hung tight with the San Antonio Spurs in a 120-111 loss on the road. The Knicks aren’t going to be a championship contender anytime soon, but they hustled all game and actually made 16 steals.

Julius Randle, Marcus Morris and rookie R.J. Barrett led the way for the Knicks. Randle was a machine down low, collecting 25 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Morris got cold at the end of the game but led the team with 26 points and added four rebounds.

As for the rookie Barrett, he led the way with 21 points, five rebounds and two assists. Barrett was extremely confident in his first career regular season action. Although he wasn’t stellar defensively, he was much improved from college and even collected two steals in 37 minutes of work.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, the game slipped away with about seven minutes left in the game. After storming back in the first half from a 16 point defecit, it all fell apart in the fourth quarter. Leading 96-91, the Knicks went cold from the field and let San Antonio go on a 16-0 run. Eventually they ran out of steam and lost a tough one, but this year isn’t about results it’s about building a winning culture.

R.J. Barrett started at point guard

David Fizdale mentioned that the Knicks’ lineup would pretty much change every game until he saw consistency from his players, but it’s a good start that the third overall pick in this year’s draft was starting at point guard.

The Knicks have a logjam at both the forward and point guard position, as Barrett, Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. can all play the point. However, Barrett and Payton got the majority of the time at point, rightfully so.

Barrett had the second most minutes on the team at 37 and made the most of his time in the game, being an efficient 9-for-13 from the field. Payton also stepped up, scoring 11 points, swiping five steals and adding eight assists.

Barrett being at the point means that Fizdale at least has some confidence in the young star. If Barrett can turn into an All-Star caliber player, the Knicks will be thrilled. So far, so good.

Kevin Knox has some serious work to do

The only truly negative observation from the first game of the season, other than the loss, was that Kevin Knox almost looked lost on the defensive side of the ball. Knox knocked in 13 points, including 3-for-4 from downtown, but got beat multiple times by DeMar DeRozen near the paint and committed five fouls.

Knox was taken with the ninth pick in the 2018 draft by the Knicks. He was never known for his defense at Kentucky, but he’ll need to improve vastly if he’s going to play this season. Coach David Fizdale made no bones about it that each player has to earn their time.

Marcus Morris has stated multiple times that the Knicks are “dogs” and that they’re hungry to prove everyone wrong. With a defensive effort like that, Knox isn’t doing himself any favors. If he can’t play with the big boys, he’ll be on the bench.

This team has a lot of fight

This may be a completely different narrative in a few months but the Knicks have a lot of fight in them. They may not have the most talent in the Eastern Conference but they sure have a lot of tenacity.

It starts (as mentioned before) with Marcus Morris. The commitment to defense, as highlighted by their 16 steals, is definitely there, especially against a team that is so well-coached like the Spurs. Morris jumped ship from the Spurs to the Knicks in free agency, and is extremely committed to building a winner at The Garden.

Winning solves all, but having the right foundation in place is key to the success of the Knicks. They know they aren’t going to win a Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but if the pillars are in place for down the road it will be a successful season. The first pillar of defense was definitely there last time, despite giving up 120 points.

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