In the final minute of Friday night’s game, there was little doubt who would have the ball in his hands for the Nets. Kyrie Irving would control the game and take the last shots.
Two games into the season, the Knicks are still trying to figure out who will be in the game.
After swapping the starting lineup that he had put in place for the season opener, coach David Fizdale altered plans on the fly again this time.
Elfrid Payton was in the starting lineup at point guard. But after the Knicks fell in a huge hole, they were scrambling for answers. They turned to Allonzo Trier for an offensive boost and hoped someone could find a way to close out what eventually became a 113-109 loss.
“We have depth,” Fizdale said. “We’ve just got to get them all to play on the same night and get them clicking on the same night. But that’s going to take time, obviously. We’ve had three weeks together. But the fact we have the kind of grit that doesn’t lay down; those are two playoff teams we lost to on the road that we had a chance to win those games. Luckily, we get a chance to play tomorrow.”
After the Knicks turned a 19-point deficit into a three-point advantage on RJ Barrett’s driving layup with 3:41 remaining, they never scored again. Barrett missed the free throw on the play and the Knicks then misfired four times — each by a different player — and turned the ball over three times.
In the uncertain world of the Knicks, there were no assurances that Payton’s promotion would last longer than Friday night. He had 10 points and two assists in 24 minutes. Fizdale has told the point guard candidates that it is a fluid situation that will change with performance. And that, he said, is what provided the opportunity for Payton.
“His play,” Fizdale said. “He played really well. I like the way he quarterbacked the team, the way he pushed the pace, the way he defended. It was all the things I’ve been asking . . . I tell all those guys, I’m going to keep making you earn it and it’s always flexible.”
Though the Knicks may have thought about finding a player with a defensive mindset to counter Irving after he scored 50 in the opener, this time the object of Fizdale’s affection was Trier, who provided an offensive spark. He started the first game and missed all three of his field-goal attempts. Against the Nets, though, he contributed 22 points and shot 6-for-7, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.
Kevin Knox, who shot 4-for-4 from three-point range, had 16 points. Wayne Ellington, who didn’t even enter the game until the fourth quarter, hit three three-pointers.
“We’re a resilient group,” Julius Randle said. “We know we’re going to keep fighting. There were plenty of times we could have folded throughout the game, but we stayed together. We were able to put a run there and gave ourselves a chance to win. Unfortunate turnovers down the end.”