Two days after scratching and clawing their way to an overtime period on the road, the Knicks chose the other side of the coin on Sunday, blowing a double-digit lead to liven up the finish in Dallas. The problem tonight was turnovers, both throughout the game and down the stretch, as New York finished with nearly ten more giveaways than their opponent. Combine that with some hot shooting from the Mavericks and a 15-2 run materialized quicker than you could fathom the Knicks losing another game.
The run felt particularly hectic as the referees checked out on some truly dirty play. Porzingis’ elbows were hacked at every given opportunity, players went over the back for gang rebounds, and Jarrett Jack and Jose Barea swiped and pushed off one another until the blood started flowing. Mike Breen was incensed at all of this, blasting the officiating crew and trying to engage his guest host on the responsibility these guys have in dictating the physicality of the game. All in all, it felt like exactly the kind of game the Knicks would lose, choking away a fourth quarter lead on the road against a tougher, grittier squad.
Except no! Because, with the game all knotted up, Jack had a huge take to the basket to break the tie and take the pressure off his teammates. You might have wondered why he was in the game instead of Ntilikina, who’d had a massive block earlier and has the chops for this kind of ugly, defensive standoff, but Hornacek has continued to trust the 13 year pro to steady the team in these kind of high-pressure situations. (Hornacek also smartly played Kyle O’Quinn for huge stretches of crunch time after watching his team get painfully outrebounded towards the end of regulation in Miami). A couple of Dallas misses later, and some timely free throws from Porzingis and the “King of Clutch” Courtney Lee and the game was in the bag.
Other Notes for this Game:
Porzingis had a nightmare game shooting the ball, but still ended the contest with 29 due to his excellence at the stripe and by going 3 for 5 on triples. He finished with a game high 29 points, a team-high +10, and severely outperformed his idol Dirk Nowitzki who had gotten the best of him in seasons past.
The Knicks in general did a better job of putting 3s up in this contest, finishing with 16 attempts against just 13 in that overtime loss in Miami. Still, both of those numbers are well below their season average of 21, which ranks last in the league (!!!). New York has been surprisingly effective scoring the basketball all year, thanks to their assist percentage and offensive rebounding but that attempt number has to come up for this to be a truly modern offense.
As mentioned before, Courtney Lee not only leads the league in free throw percentage but is just 2 more makes away from breaking Chris Duhon’s record of 44 for the most consecutive makes in Knicks history. Hornacek was amusingly coy about refusing to acknowledge this in his postgame interview but there’s a good chance that Lee puts his name in the New York record books on Wednesday. We can’t lose to the Bulls three times in a row right?