The night began with a video montage, and Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and Carmelo Anthony speaking about the team, the season and what could be. But then the game began and the Knicks and their fans were given a reality check.
They couldn't use the same formula that resulted in their impressive opening night win in Milwaukee. The Knicks' bench couldn't bail them out this time.
They played a superior team in their home opener Thursday night, and trailed by as many as 22 before falling, 112-101, to the Hawks at the Garden.
The Knicks, who trailed by double figures the last 25:11 of the game, probably aren't as bad as they played Thursday night. Just like they're not as good as they looked against the Bucks. It's more than likely somewhere in between.
They have plenty of wrinkles to iron out, still don't have their full lineup and their starting unit does not look in sync, particularly on defense.
The Knicks' backcourt of Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic were several steps slow and badly outplayed by Atlanta starters Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver.
Teague finished with 23 points and seven assists and Korver 15, on 6-for-8 shooting from the field. Vujacic, starting for the injured Arron Afflalo, and Calderon totaled eight points. Calderon was 0-for-5 from the field.
Anthony scored a game-high 25 points. But he shot 10-for-27 from the field, and missed all seven of his three-point tries. Robin Lopez scored 18 and rookie Kristaps Porzingis had 10 points and eight rebounds in his regular-season Garden debut.
Porzingis received the loudest ovation of the night after he stole the ball in the backcourt, spun around Paul Millsap and went in for an uncontested fastbreak dunk in the third quarter. It was one of the few times the Garden was energized.
This game began in a fashion similar to the opener in Milwaukee. The Knicks were down early and Anthony and Porzingis struggled with their shots.
Fisher hoped the second unit would provide the same spark as it had Wednesday night, but the Hawks' lead actually grew with the subs on the floor. Atlanta ended the first quarter on a 13-2 run and took a 30-20 advantage into the second quarter.
The bench came to life in the second, scoring the first 11 points to put the Knicks up 31-30, but the lead didn't last long. Many of the Hawks' starters came in after that and rattled off 15 of the next 19 points.
The Knicks had trouble staying with Korver, who scored five in the run that gave Atlanta a 45-35 lead with 4:46 remaining. Actually, they had trouble staying with most of the Hawks.
Atlanta shot 25-for-45 in the half and 13-for-23 in the second quarter. The Hawks outscored the Knicks 31-14 in the final 7:37 of the second quarter and built a 61-45 lead at the break.
Anthony made his first two shots in the third quarter, cutting the Hawks' lead to 65-51.
The crowd tried to spur the Knicks on after Porzingis' slam. But Teague got wherever he wanted on the floor, especially against Calderon, and scored 11 consecutive Atlanta points during one stretch as the Hawks went ahead 79-57 with 5:42 remaining in the third quarter.