New York Knicks’ Opening Night Victory a Tale of Two Halves

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks entered their season opener with a ton of confidence and high expectations. In the hard-fought win over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Knicks pulled out a victory that was both electrifying and incredibly infuriating.

After racing out to a 25-point halftime lead, the Knicks collapsed, allowing the Bucks to take a brief fourth-quarter lead before sealing the deal at the very end. Let’s take a look at how the boys in orange and blue looked in their first regular season action of the year:

Defense

The Knicks’ defense jumped all over the Bucks at the beginning of the game. They mixed in full-court pressure at times, forcing the Bucks to get into their offensive sets late, leading to rushed shots. They were also a terror in the passing lanes, with Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert flying all over the court and sparking fast breaks.

The Knicks went on to force 24 turnovers in the game and Tyson Chandler looked like he was in top form. He’s always been a great rim protector, but he’s never amassed a ton of blocked shots. In the opener though, he emphatically swatted five shots and did a tremendous job walling off the paint in the early going.

Andrea Bargnani got the bulk of the minutes at center in a disastrous third quarter (the Knicks surrendered 33 points in the third but just 50 over the rest of the game), and he looked absolutely lost on the defensive end. He provided very little in terms of help on defense or rebounding, and he got absolutely bullied by Zaza Pachulia.

After holding Milwaukee to just eight points in the paint over the first three and a half quarters, they got to the basket whenever they pleased with Bargnani on the floor. Overall, the Knicks got outscored by 11 points when Bargnani was playing, a stark contrast to their plus-18 point differential with Tyson manning the paint. Fortunately, the defense tightened back up at the very end, once again led by the strong play of Chandler.

Offense

The Knicks showed off some gorgeous team basketball and very crisp ball movement early in the game. They also looked to push the tempo more than we’re used to seeing (they were the fifth-slowest team in the league last year). Shumpert’s offensive development is one of the Knicks’ key storylines to monitor this season and he showcased some nice versatility on offense, scoring on off-ball cuts and drives to the hoop in addition to his already-potent outside jumper (which was a bit off). He also cashed in at the free throw line, going 5-for-5.

The second half was mostly a disaster offensively. Whereas the first half featured smooth offensive sets and quick ball movement, the second half was full of erratic passes and Mike Woodson staredowns. The Knicks, last year’s best team at protecting the basketball, coughed the ball up 22 times, squandering possession after possession and allowing the Bucks to claw their way back into the game.

Both Bargnani and Beno Udrih struggled to find any sort of rhythm as the offense collapsed, while Raymond Felton was on the bench nursing a strained hamstring.

The opener could serve as a nice preview for the Knicks’ season. Fans got to see the Knicks at their best and their worst. Now, they have to figure out how to look like their first-half selves consistently.

Chris Harrison is a New York Knicks and NBA writer for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @chris_harrison1.