Nowitzki was disappointed when he couldn’t reward the fans in Boston with a basket as they desperately cheered for him to make one during the game’s final minutes. But after a solid warm-up on Wednesday, he felt good about his chances at the Garden, where he came in averaging 24.9 points in 17 games, his highest average in a road arena.
“I knew if I get a chance I was going to step into some,” Nowitzki said.
Kevin Knox scored 17 points and Trey Burke had 16 for the Knicks, while Kanter had 5 points in nine minutes. Tim Hardaway Jr. was 2 for 11 for 6 points.
Fans began chanting “We want Kanter! We want Kanter!” in the third quarter. Kanter, a former starting center, waved from the bench and clapped along, and then was actually inserted into the game a few minutes later. That ended a streak of four straight games in which he didn’t play.
“He just yelled out my name, and I was like, ‘Yo, really?’” Kanter said, referring to Coach David Fizdale. “I even looked around, like, ‘Is he serious?’ And then I got up, and the fans starting clapping, and I thought, ‘This is really happening.’”
He kissed the Knicks logo at center court when he walked onto the floor.
Kanter’s first shot was an air ball before he got on the board with a dunk.
Fizdale has made it clear that he’s focused on playing young big men such as Noah Vonleh and the rookie Mitchell Robinson, but he wasn’t happy with them Wednesday and turned back to Kanter.
“I didn’t feel the bigs were playing at the level that I want them to play at. I don’t want those minutes to feel like entitlement,” Fizdale said. “Like I’ve told Enes, any chance I could get to squeeze you in there within the framework of what we’re trying to do with the young guys, I’m going to do it. I want to be upfront and stick with that.”
The Knicks finished January with a 1-12 record. They were 2-12 in December.