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Knicks 97, Kings 99: "Classic Knicks fake comeback"

The Knicks dug themselves a hole early Thursday night in Sacramento before mounting a comeback in the fourth quarter that would fall short. DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo held the lead, prolonging the Knicks' losing road trip.

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Rajon Rondo Lives To Kill The Knicks: Part XII

In the early going, the Knicks coughed the ball up no fewer than three times trying to thread the needle to Robin Lopez on the right baseline. He was hardly paying any attention any of the three times, and so the ball flew into the baseline cameramen with about 85% the speed with which it was passed. Two of the perpetrators were Sasha Vujacic and Lance Thomas from near the top of the key. Neither of those two players should be trying to create from the top of the key. Vujacic, specifically should not have gotten first quarter minutes in any of the Knicks games so far this season, but because he played well in garbage time last night and may or may not have deprived Salt Lake City residents of free chicken, he was tapped to run offense for an ostensibly competitive professional basketball team based in New York City. I can’t believe I just wasted so many words talking about Sasha Vujacic. Please bench Sasha Vujacic forever.

Kyle O'Quinn got some first quarter spin, immediately threading a pass to Langston Galloway for a shooting foul. Throughout most of the night, O'Quinn seemed eager to reclaim his spot in the rotation. He played somewhat credible defense and stayed contained and opportunistic near the rim offensively. Collectively, the Knicks offered up a dull effort in the first and trailed by eight heading into the second frame. Jerian Grant popped into the game to start the second and was immediately exposed defensively in transition. He also coughed the ball up stupidly twice, resulting in a much shorter leash than perhaps you'd expect from an athletic rookie on the second night of a back-to-back. Interestingly, Carmelo Anthony and DeMarcus Cousins received early burn in the second quarter.

At one point,Kristaps Porzingis hit a wide open three before sloshing around with Ohio native and Greek grandfather Kosta Koufos beneath the basket, which I think may have resulted in Kuofos calling Porzingis the bee word. Koufos was called with a technical, but Carmelo Anthony missed the free throw while Jose Calderon stared into the inside of his own head.

The Knicks continued to force offense via entry pass attempts to Lopez, which continued to be swallowed alive one by one, until DeMarcus Cousins caused a bit of an uproar by murdering Robin Lopez right where he stood in Sleep Train Arena. Sacramento law enforcement was called and Cousins was put in Dickensian shackles and hauled away to keep company The Man in the Iron Mask. Rest in peace Robin Lopez.

Throughout the remainder of the third quarter, the Knicks continued to resemble gassy babies on both ends of their bodies on both ends of the court, steadfastly gripping a deficit hovering between nine and nineteen.  Arron Afflalo attempted to relocate his offensive rhythm with mostly poor results, while Carmelo Anthony lobbed midrange shot after wayward midrange shot. Anthony continues to receive less-than-adequate love from the officials, which he has handled with less than aplomb. Sure, I'm not getting smacked, swatted, and buffeted every night, but I don't think the proper response is to stick to jumpers.

During the fourth quarter, the Knicks mounted a genuine comeback attempt behind frenzied defense and a more competent offense spearheaded by Lance Thomas, whose timely threes and swing passes led to the longest stretch of offensive continuity of the game (week?). The Knicks' competence proved temporal. The middle of the fourth quarter, during which time they cut the lead to five, the Knicks committed a series of offensive fouls and shattered their newfound continuity. Regardless, the Knicks found themselves in a dogfight with five minutes to go. DeMarcus Cousins and Kristaps Porzingis took turns giving each other fits, which is relevant for multiple reasons. Notably, Derek Fisher decided on a crunch time lineup of Calderon, Vujacic, Thomas, Anthony, and Porzingis at center. Porzingis eventually took advantage of his quickness to take Cousins off the dribble after failing to properly manage double teams for most of the period.

Despite some impressive plays on each end from Kristaps, Cousins mostly got the better of Porzingis down the stretch. Carmelo Anthony finally hit a jump shot with exactly one minute left in the game to pull the Knicks within two, which they hadn't sniffed for hours. The Kings kept the distance while the Knicks were relegated to fouling, right down until a finally possession spurred by an Arron Afflalo steal on a botched Sacramento inbound play. Down by two with 4.6 seconds remaining, the Knicks drew up a play for Carmelo Anthony, who launched a contested three pointer from 28 feet, which didn't miss by as much as you might think, but enough to lose the game. Carmelo Anthony can be expected to take flack for his inability to recognize that he had more time to find a better shot, as well as a 7'3" teammate wide open directly underneath the basket.

However, cameras later showed that Anthony was pretty clearly fouled by Rajon Rondo dribbling down the court, so it would be difficult to pile on too much.

Good teams do not leave comeback attempts in the hands of the officials because good teams beat the Sacramento Kings. Blizzy_Blake nailed the headline quote, and the Knicks' disastrous road trip rolls on unabated. This game fluctuated between unwatchable and genuinely feisty, with Porzingis and Cousins providing highlights. Rondo confounded the Knicks through a fourth generation, and one more comeback attempt has fallen short. The Knicks take their 10-14 record into Portland Saturday night in an attempt to claim a victory of the Trail Blazers despite a probable career night from Damian Lillard.