ORLANDO, Fla. — No tanks.
The Knicks began their youth movement Thursday night and played with energy and enthusiasm for 48 minutes. It was their most spirited effort in a long time and resulted in a 120-113 victory over the Magic that snapped an eight-game losing streak.
“We got to play like that all the time,” Trey Burke said after scoring a season-high 26 points. “We’re still trying to win games. I know a lot of people think otherwise. It’s not in our DNA to go out there and lay down.”
Jeff Hornacek has said he will play the younger players more, and he wasn’t kidding. In his fourth game as a Knick, Emmanuel Mudiay got his first start, replacing Jarrett Jack, who did not play after starting the previous 56 games. Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina and Burke each played at least 23 minutes.
Mudiay played the least (23), but that’s because Burke was having a terrific game and Ntilikina played strong defense throughout. Both played 30 minutes and shared the backcourt for the last 15:47 as the Knicks (24-36) outscored Orlando 39-28.
Burke shot 12-for-22, had six assists and did a good job of pressuring his man in the second half. Ntilikina had seven points, two blocks and a steal in 30 minutes. He blocked shots by 6-9 Bismack Biyombo and 6-8 Mario Hezonja, both at the rim. Mudiay finished with eight points, five rebounds and four assists.
“They all contributed extremely well,” Hornacek said. “Trey with his scoring and the way he played and controlled the pace. Emmanuel got us off early in the game with his scoring. He was calling good plays. For someone that’s only been here a week, he was calling out the plays nice. And then Frank obviously gave us some big plays. The combination of those three was hopefully something we get all the time.”
Said Mudiay, “It’s going to make all of us better. It’s a healthy competition, having each other’s back out there.’’
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 23 points, Kyle O’Quinn had a 14-point night and Enes Kanter added 12 points and 12 rebounds.
The Knicks aren’t trying to lose to get a higher draft pick. With Kristaps Porzingis out for the season and the team falling out of the playoff race, they made an organizational decision to play the young players more to develop and evaluate them.
The players were into it and wanted this game. The bench went wild after Lance Thomas swatted Biyombo and Ntilikina denied Hezonja.
Aside from Jack and Troy Williams, who was signed to a 10-day contract Wednesday, every active Knick — including rookies Damyean Dotson and Luke Kornet — played in the first half. Williams made his Knicks debut in the fourth quarter and scored four points, two on a difficult reverse layup.
Mudiay started alongside Courtney Lee, Hardaway, Michael Beasley and Kanter. But Kanter played 21 minutes and Lee 14.
Hornacek played two young point guards together for nearly 34 minutes, including the last 17:14 of the game. With Burke rolling — he scored eight points in the fourth quarter — Hornacek stuck with him and Ntilikina down the stretch.
“We’ll probably see a bunch of that this year, if a couple guys are going good,” Hornacek said.
“When you’re in the game at the end of the game, you’re obviously doing something because you’re helping produce, you’re helping this team win,” Burke said. “That’s my mindset going forward, continuing to build off of games like this.”