NEW YORK--Ten observations from Hawks 99, Knicks 96 at Madison Square Garden. . . .
1. At last, the Hawks were competitive into the fourth quarter. They finished strong for their second victory in the past seven games as the Knicks bumbled. It appeared Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis might finish off the Hawks when he scored five points on four possessions in the final three minutes, all of them on fine plays. But Mike Muscala and Kent Bazemore both made open 3-pointers in the final minute, with Muscala's score pulling the Hawks within one and Bazemore giving them the lead for good. Then Knicks forward Tim Hardaway Jr. stepped on the sideline while taking an inbound pass and Dedmon made a free throw.
2. As soon as Bazemore received a pass from Muscala in the left corner, his teammates on the Hawks bench stood up in anticipation of the go-ahead 3-pointer.
"Everybody on the bench already was in a pose," Hawks center John Collins said. "We knew that was going in. That's his spot. The way he wound up, shot it, I knew it was going in."
Said Dewayne Dedmon: "That's cash. As soon as Baze took it, I knew it was going in. I have faith in my guy."
3. Bazemore was a defensive pest, as always. But until his big 3-pointer he couldn't convert some good scoring chances in the fourth quarter, including two missed free throws with the Hawks down 89-86. (Bazemore made the third free throw after a bizarre do-over.)
"I almost got down on myself late in the stretch," Bazemore said. "A couple missed free throws, some missed layups at the rim, some bad fouls on the defensive end. But my guys corralled me, kept my head up and kept me motivated. When the time came I was ready to make a play."
4. Save for New York's 33-point third quarter, the Hawks gave the kind of scrappy, energized defensive effort that had been missing for a while. The Knicks (16 turnovers) were lazy with some of their passes (as were the Hawks) but, to my eye, the Hawks contributed to that. They hounded the passing lanes and generally made it difficult for the Knicks around the basket. The Knicks failed to score on their final four possessions, including Hardaway's missed 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds to play.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer: "The guys were really locked in. I thought we denied a little bit, disrupted their timing, disrupted their angles. Everything just goes up a couple notches at the end of the game and I thought our guys did that well."
5. With Ersan Ilyasova (illness) out, Budenholzer paired Dedmon with Miles Plumlee in the starting frontcourt. The two had played four minutes together before today. Dedmon checked Porzingis and Plumlee was on Enes Kanter. There were other starting options to consider — Muscala, Collins and Luke Babbitt — but I think Dedmon was a fine choice. He’s agile enough to chase Porzingis, long enough to challenge his shots and bulky enough to provide some resistance inside.
6. Dedmon helped keep Porzingis (22 points on 19 shots) under control for the most part and also produced 11 points on nine shots and 14 rebounds. Porzingis (five blocked shots) helped to keep the Hawks away from the basket. Plumlee was mostly good while playing 20 minutes. He provided defensive grit early with a strip of Kanter and an outstanding block of a Porzingis dunk attempt.
7. Dennis Schroder (2-for-16 shooting) was blowing by slow-footed Knicks counterpart Jarrett Jack but couldn’t finish at the rim. Schroder also missed open teammates several times while trying to force shots in traffic or shoot over bigs. At least Schroder’s defensive effort and focus were pretty good. But his struggles shooting 3's continued: 0-for-4 today to drop to 53-for-189 (28 percent) on the season. He’s on track for his least-efficient shooting season since he was a rookie.
8. The Hawks got a few friendly bounces from the MSG rims. Muscala had two jumpers roll around before falling through, Marco Belinelli had a 3-pointer bounce three times before dropping and a Dedmon dunk popped out before dropping in.
9. Muscala had a very good scoring game (15 points on eight shots) and made big plays in the final minute. In addition to his 3-pointer that trimmed the lead to one point, Muscala got a good contest on Kyle O'Quinn's jumper on New York's next possession and passed to Bazemore for the go-ahead 3-pointer.
10. Collins had a rough day. He wasn’t strong with the ball and made some suspect passes (three turnovers). Collins had just two defensive rebounds in 22 minutes. His lack of length showed up while trying to defend Kanter (10 points on 10 shots, three offensive rebounds) around the basket and challenge Porzingis' jumpers on the perimeter (though, in fairness, even long defenders have trouble with the latter).
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