Tim Hardaway Jr., Frank Ntilikina lead Knicks past Hawks again

Tim Hardaway Jr., Frank Ntilikina lead Knicks past Hawks again

ATLANTA — The Knicks are unbeaten … against the hapless Hawks.

The starting backcourt of slumping Frank Ntilikina and ailing Tim Hardaway Jr. teamed up to lead the Knicks past the Hawks 112-107 Wednesday at State Farm Arena.

Hardaway returned after a one-game absence caused by a sore back to score 34 points against his former team. Ntilikina, meanwhile, returned to life with 14 points while shutting off rookie sensation Trae Young.

In extending their good play from that season-opening splash over Atlanta, the Knicks moved to 4-8 — with half their wins coming against the Hawks. Young, the so-called next Stephen Curry, was held to 13 points on 5-for-18 shooting.

The scoring star instead was Hardaway, who hurt his back in Washington on Sunday during a nightmare performance and rested Monday against the Bulls. The Knicks can’t compete this season without him.

Hardaway made 16-of-20 free throws — a career-high in makes and attempts — while shooting 8-for-22 from the field. His 15-point third quarter broke open the game after the Knicks trailed by three at halftime.

In his second stint with the Knicks after an internship with Mike Budenholzer’s Hawks, Hardaway has been the No. 1 option and scoring stud virtually every night. He entered the night averaging 23.3 points.

“No one expected it, people capped him off at what he was,’’ Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “I didn’t believe in that and I challenged him to step up for this team and be a good teammate. I’m proud of the way he’s approached it.’’

Ntilikina, who had missed 13 straight 3-pointers the previous four games, got in the groove and sank 5-of-10 shots, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range. He also harassed Young before fouling out with 5:27 left.

“You try to stay confident by the work you put in every day,’’ Ntilikina told The Post. “I kept shooting it when I was open. Today I made them. Thank coach for keeping me confident.”

“Frank is being Frank,’’ Fizdale said. “He did a heck of a job setting the tone defensively. He got his 3-ball going again. We didn’t want him to wallow in that. We were pumping him up to keep shooting it.’’

Fizdale also credited recently demoted center Enes Kanter (17 points, 11 rebounds) for his help defense on Young.

“It was two guys — Frank and Enes,’’ Fizdale said. “I was happy with how Enes set down and slid his feet tonight. He’s taking it to heart and thriving to improve.’’

Undrafted rookie guard Allonzo Trier continued with a hot hand, scoring 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including a clutch 14-foot bucket that lifted the lead to six with 2:20 left. Meanwhile, the Knicks got nothing from prized lottery-pick Kevin Knox in his second game back from an ankle injury as he went scoreless (0-of-6 from the field, 0-of-3 on 3-pointers), playing just nine minutes.

A sparkling 35-18 third quarter opened an 87-73 lead as Hardaway erupted. Fizdale also credited the Knicks’ hustle for loose balls.

Hardaway had been in a little rough patch, including last week’s loss against the Pacers when he faded late.

“Just being in a familiar arena and just trying to take the game into my own hands,’’ Hardaway said. “I can just remember from the Indiana game how many opportunities I had to take over and put my name on the game and I didn’t take advantage. I knew in Washington I was a little passive and didn’t get anything going. I was just trying to get my rhythm back.’’

Emmanuel Mudiay (11 points, three assists and five rebounds), a suspect 3-point shooter, drained two 3s during the surge and then hit a huge fallaway with 30 seconds left for the backbreaker.

The good play of Mudiay and Ntilikina kept third-string point guard Trey Burke fastened to the bench, even after Ntilikina fouled out. It was the first game in which Burke didn’t play since the days after he signed with the Knicks in January last season.

The Hawks made a frantic rally and Miles Plumlee’s massive putback jam got them within 93-89 with six minutes left, sending the small crowd into a frenzy.

Ntilikina then hit one of his bigger shots of the season, nailing a pressure-filled 3-pointer from the left wing to put the Knicks up seven with 5:40 left. He fouled out 13 seconds later, but the Knicks survived.