The Knicks can’t blame their defenseless performances on Carmelo Anthony anymore.
Beating the drum on becoming a defense-first organization, the Knicks allowed the Nets to run up 93 points after three quarters when the central characters were on the court. The Nets held on for a 115-107 victory in the preseason opener at the Garden.
While Anthony made his debut in Tulsa, Okla., rookie French point guard Frank Ntilikina made his Knicks debut off the bench. He shot just 1-of-7 in 18 minutes but looked smooth in ably running the team with his pass-first philosophy.
Tim Hardaway Jr., starting his second stint with the Knicks, bagged a team-high 17 points, making 5-of-11 from 3-point range while Kristaps Porzingis added 15 points with on 6-of-14 shooting.
New point guard D’Angelo Russell paced the Nets with 19 points.
Jeff Hornacek looked irate when he called timeout with 1:24 left in the third after another open jumper by Spencer Dinwiddie. None of the Knicks’ main rotation players saw the court in the fourth quarter.
The new managerial regime is emphasizing defense-first but the Knicks allowed the Nets too many 3-point buckets. The Nets were 8-of-19 from downtown at halftime. The Knicks often were in scramble mode, chasing open Nets’ shooters.
Kristaps Porzingis shoots over Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on Tuesday.Bill Kostroum
Ntilkina, who missed the Orlando summer league with a knee injury, got his first taste of NBA ball with 6:33 left in the first quarter, receiving a big roar from the crowd as he entered. He picked up three assists in his 6 minutes 33 seconds and stepped up to bag a 3-pointer. He would have had four assists but center Enes Kanter blew a layup after a pretty feed on a drive. It was a rough night for Kanter, who was picked up in the Anthony trade.
Ntilikina’s lone first-half error was having a bounce pass picked off by Trevor Booker, who glided the other way for an uncontested dunk.
He was a minus-8,
The Knicks took an early 18-10 lead with Ramon Sessions starting at the point, pushing the pace. But they frittered it away and the Nets led 59-57 at halftime. After Ntilikina came out, Sessions, signed as the Frenchman’s mentor, pulled him over to chat.
Newcomer Doug McDermott, making the start at small forward in place of Anthony, scored nine points in the half, hitting his first 3-point attempt, scoring on a fast-break layup and a monster driving dunk down the lane. He has impressed Hornacek in training camp and could nail down the job after also being obtained in the Anthony trade eight days ago. He didn’t score in the second half in limited action.
Ntilikina, who hurt his groin Monday, likely costing him a start, was relaxed before the game.
“No way to be anxious, no way to be nervous,’’ Ntilikina said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s basketball and I’ve worked for it and
I’ll try to get more experience every game.’’
Porzingis, introduced last during pregame intros, took a team-high 11 shots in the first half, making just four and finishing with 10 points. He was active on the defensive end with a block and four rebounds. Hardaway Jr. was 3-of-5 from the 3-point line and scored a team-high 11 points in the half.