The Knicks weren't the only ones who bounced back from their first game. Their first-time coach did, too.
Derek Fisher removed Amar'e Stoudemire from the starting lineup against the Cavaliers and replaced him with Quincy Acy. Jason Smith started at center in the second half instead of Samuel Dalembert. Rookie Travis Wear played significant minutes -- and guarded LeBron James -- and Tim Hardaway Jr. was a spectator for most of the night.
Fisher might not go this way all the time. But one night after the Knicks looked overmatched against the Bulls, they played like a savvy, experienced team against the Cavaliers, and everything Fisher did worked in their surprising 95-90 win.
"We showed a high level of trust and confidence in each other and they just executed basic things that we've been teaching and working on," he said after getting his first win as an NBA coach. "They showed a lot of patience and composure, and those are the things that we need as we move through this season."
Few gave the Knicks a chance to beat the Cavaliers in James' homecoming game in an atmosphere that felt as if the NBA Finals had hit Cleveland. But the Knicks, who host Charlotte on Sunday night, stayed focused amid the chaos and continually made plays.
"It could have easily distracted us," Carmelo Anthony said. "I thought we did a great job of kind of embracing the moment. It was challenging for us before the game to really lock in on trying to win this basketball game."
James seemed a little overanxious, missing eight of his first nine shots and committing eight turnovers. The Knicks did a good job of mixing up coverages, and Anthony, Wear and Iman Shumpert all saw time on him.
"The Cavaliers are still trying to find out who they are and how they're going to play the game," Fisher said. "For us, I thought the ability to put anybody in at any time to keep bodies fresh was huge for us."
The Knicks started slowly, missing 13 of their first 19 shots, and seemed to go away from the triangle offense before finding their rhythm. They shot 31-for-50 the rest of the way and had 30 assists -- seven by J.R. Smith, six by Anthony and five by Shane Larkin -- on their 37 made field goals.
It was a marked improvement from their 24-point loss to the Bulls, after which Smith and Shumpert essentially said the Knicks gave in. Chicago has a tendency to make teams look bad. Anthony called what happened "a shocker" and said "they did something we hadn't seen before and we adjusted to that."
Like his team. Fisher showed composure and belief in his players. He quickly went to Stoudemire after the more mobile Anderson Varejao gave Dalembert problems. Dalembert didn't play after the first quarter. Fisher didn't hesitate to go to Wear, who was expected to play in the D-League this year.
Fisher also didn't rush to reinsert Anthony early in the fourth quarter after Cleveland trimmed a seven-point deficit to one. Anthony returned with 6:35 left, seemed fresh and knocked down a huge jumper over James to put the Knicks up five with 25.9 seconds to go.
"Just trusting the work that we put in and making sure that these guys understand that they're not on this team by accident," Fisher said. "If we didn't believe that they could play on this level, they wouldn't be here.
"[This] should serve as a great example the rest of the season that if everyone remains committed to the team and ready to play, we're capable of doing some really good things."