NEW YORK (AP) — The nervous Knicks had missed their first nine shots and just needed somebody to make one to get them started.
Turned out to be a fan.
And once he made a halfcourt shot, the basket really opened up for Tim Hardaway Jr. and the Knicks.
“I think that might have been the reason we turned the game around,” coach David Fizdale said.
Hardaway scored 31 points, sparking the Knicks during their franchise-record, 49-point second quarter, and New York beat the Atlanta Hawks 126-107 on Wednesday night in their first game under Fizdale.
Hardaway had 16 points in the period, when the Knicks matched the Hawks’ point total for the entire first half. New York led 72-49 at the break.
Trae Young finished with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists, shooting 5 for 14 in his NBA debut. Taurean Prince scored 21 points for the Hawks, who were overwhelmed in their first game under Lloyd Pierce.
“Definitely some things that we haven’t been doing coming from preseason,” Young said. “But this is just one game, so I am not too worried.”
Four other Knicks scored at least 15 points, including rookie Allonzo Trier, who had such a powerful third-quarter dunk that Fizdale apologized for celebrating too much. Rookie Kevin Knox finished with 10 and was just 4 for 16.
Hardaway and the Knicks started slowly, as he had missed his first four shots and the Knicks took a timeout trailing 10-2.
During that break, George Holmes of Northport, New York, nailed a halfcourt shot to win $10,000, and suddenly the New Yorkers couldn’t miss.
“He made that basket a little bit more bigger for us going out of that timeout and I thank him,” Hardaway said.
Frank Ntilikina made a 3-pointer out of the timeout to get the Knicks started on a 12-0 run and then they really took off in the second quarter.
That was especially true of Hardaway, who made his next eight shots against his former team. He fell seven points shy of Patrick Ewing’s franchise record for opening night, and perhaps could have gotten closer if he needed to play more of the fourth quarter.
Young, the No. 5 pick in the draft and the first player to lead the nation in scoring and assists in the same season as a freshman at Oklahoma, said he felt butterflies Wednesday. He recalled that he shot airballs on his first shot in high school, college and Summer League, saying he wanted to avoid that again.
He did, knocking down his first shot as a pro, a runner in the lane late in the first quarter. But he missed his other six shots in the first half and the Hawks were outscored by 19 points in his 17 minutes before halftime.
Hawks: Pierce congratulated Hawks radio play-by-play voice Steve Holman for working his 2,500th game, counting playoffs, Wednesday. Holman started his career with the team in March 1989. … Atlanta plays its first three games on the road before facing Dallas in its home opener next Wednesday.
Knicks: The Knicks’ record for any quarter is 53 points in the fourth quarter against Seattle on Dec. 26, 1967. … The Knicks opened at home for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
Vince Carter began his 21st season by starting at forward and scoring 12 points. Pierce said the Hawks’ research Wednesday found that only Robert Parish was an older opening-night NBA starter than the 41-year-old Carter. He stands out so much on a young Atlanta team that the Hawks’ average NBA experience drops from 3.65 years to 2.63 if Carter is excluded.
FRIENDS AND FOES
Fizdale and Pierce played against each other in college, when Fizdale was a senior at San Diego during Pierce’s freshman season for West Coast Conference rival Santa Clara.
“Lloyd caught a lob on my head from Steve Nash once,” Fizdale recalled. “I still haven’t forgave him for that but we’ve been friends a long time and this is obviously for both of us a big moment.”
Hawks: Visit Memphis on Friday.
Knicks: Visit Brooklyn on Friday.