Harris DeckerInside Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, a guard was in the starting lineup that many fans in attendance were eager to see. He has become one of the best young guards in the league and seems to be putting up big numbers night after night. Kyrie Irving is the guy a lot of fans came to see, but Tim Hardaway Jr. is the guy they will remember.
The Knicks were hot from the get go last night. Once again, Carmelo Anthony set the tone, hitting 5 of 10 in the first quarter, while racking up 18 points. Feeding off of Anthony as he often does, J.R. Smith got off to a fast start as well, scoring 11 first quarter points and adding a pair of threes. The Knicks were up by 17 after the first quarter. Despite the hot starts for Anthony and Smith, it would be Hardaway Jr. who would electrify the crowd as the game progressed.
After playing just three minutes in the first, hitting a single 3-pointer, Hardaway Jr. saw his minutes spike in this game with Iman Shumpert on the shelf. He took full advantage of Shumperts absence and the blowout nature of the game, feeding off the Cavs anemic defense.
In the first three quarters, Hardaway Jr. scored 11 points on 4 for 7 from the field. In the fourth quarter, with the game well in hand, he exploded for 18 points on 7 for 10, including 4 for 7 from behind the three-point arc. With six threes, he tied the Knicks rookie record and continued the Knicks streak of playing loose, fun basketball.
Hardaway Jr. ended the night shooting 65% from the field and 50% from three-point land. His downfall of course is his defense where he was beat a few times by the likes of Irving, CJ Miles and Jarrett Jack. Still, you can live with average defense when you have a guy like Tyson Chandler roaming the paint. He cleans up a lot of mistakes by the young guard, blocking 3 shots last night and making his presence felt on both sides of the court.
There is a long career ahead for Tim Hardaway Jr. He has shown flashes all season and that culminated last night in a career night. He won’t soon forgot a night like that and while Irving and the Cavs were left holding their heads, Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks to their fourth straight victory.