New York won for the eighth time in 11 games and eighth out of nine at home, defeating Sacramento 106-98. The Knicks are two games over .500 for the first time since you were a dream and a speck in somebody’s eye. They opened doing that thing where they put the opponent in the penalty three or four minutes into a quarter, and all the Knicks save one were bricking. But the Kings are bad, which helps, margin-of-error-wise. And Derrick Rose couldn’t miss, and was getting whatever he wanted in pick-and-rolls. The other Knicks joined in the fun and the Kings couldn’t make a shot.
After a first-half that saw them up 21, the second half was parabolic: a 16-0 Kings’ run in the third wiped out the Era of Good Feelings and made a game out of what had been a quarter-season celebration of ascendancy. The Knicks built it up again to start the fourth, the Kings came back again, but every time a big rebound was needed, a big block, a big bucket, it was New York getting them. Some games have a nail-in-the-coffin moment. The Knicks buried the Kings in a well-made coffin with lots of nails in it. Rose. Brandon Jennings. Kyle O’Quinn. Kristaps Porzingis. Carmelo Anthony. They all had big moments late. That’s why they’ve been winning. That’s why they won.
- Jennings salvaged multiple hopeless possessions by drawing fouls in their dying seconds. Got out ahead of the field on multiple occasions for big baskets. Hit some threes. Hit a 50-foot fling trying to draw a four-point play. It is remarkable how much better this team’s backcourt is, and deep, than it’s been in a looong time.
- Also: I never figured he’d have the impact defensively he’s had so far.
- Another night of clutch rebounding and D from Kyle O’Quinn, who had a highlight rejection of DeMarcus Cousins driving for a dunk. I’ve been waiting over a year to accept KOQ as superior to Jason Smith. Tonight, I accept it.
- In an even greater highlight, O’Quinn again blocked Cousins, then dribbled the length of the floor past the entire Sacramento team and dunked. FARTDOG is to the Knicks’ defense as IDGAF is to the Kings’.
- When KOQ and Justin Holiday are on the floor together, I feel like every rebound is their loved, well-fed, warm child, and the world a very fine place.
- Holiday started in placed of the still-injured Courtney Lee.
- Joakim Noah was back in the lineup. Two points, five rebounds, five fouls, 25 minutes.
- The Knicks had 14 offensive rebounds. It felt like they all came in the first half.
- Arron Afflalo returned. If you’re into that sort of thing.
- I have no statistical data to support this claim. But I feel Carmelo is getting open looks on a regular basis like he hasn’t since Jason Kidd in 2013.
- The best player the Knicks drafted between Patrick Ewing and Kristaps Porzingis was David Lee. Not because Lee was especially great at anything. But because every year, he added something to his game. KP missed nine of his first 10 shots. But while that was happening, he was blocking shots that led to fast break points. Pulling down 14 rebounds, several in traffic. When he wasn’t scoring, he was helping in other ways. His cathedral ceiling continues to grow. Lee started off as an ancestral Hernangomez, with worse D but better hops, and grew into an All-Star. If Porzingis blazes a similar arc, he’ll be the greatest Knick ever.
- The touch returned in the second half. Once tonight KP took Willie Cauley-Stein off the dribble from the three-point line, driving and finishing with a sideways hook-shot fling sorta thing.
- When life gets you down, never forget: there are an infinite number of parallel where the 2015 NBA Draft saw the Knicks take Cauley-Stein with the fourth pick.
- Late in the game, Sacramento busted out the Hack-A-Noah. If you missed it, don’t worry: he missed all four free throws. Badly. So you’ll have a chance to see it again. I like Hack-A-Whoever. Someone confronting weakness in a meaningful moment, in front of a live audience? That’s, like, freebasing drama. Give.
- DeMarcus Cousins. What a player. 36 points. 12 rebounds. 4 assists. 3 blocks. 16 free throws. If technical fouls didn’t result in ejections, Boogie would be a quadruple-double threat every nighs: points, rebounds, assists, T’s.
- Big man bias exhibit A is Patrick Ewing not having a head coaching job. Exhibit B: At a critical point in the fourth quarter, Cousins, guarded by Noah at the top of the arc, drove right, then left, then spun and crashed into Porzingis at the hoop. He’d clearly decided “I’m a star. We need points. I’ma just barrel down this here lane and get a hoop or some harm.” No call. Exactly the same move your Paul Pierces, Dwyane Wades, and LeBron Jameseses do all the time.
- The Kings were dumb enough to foul Noah intentionally with under two minutes, which would let the Knicks pick anyone to shoot a free throw and then keep the ball. But the Knicks out-dumbed Sacramento by calling timeout just before the foul.
- The first-half Kings crystallized the dark side of the modern, position-less, pace-and-space ethos. They could. Not. Make. A. Two. Point. Shot. But they launched mad threes and hit enough to not fall behind by triple digits.
- During their 16-0 run in the third, Sacramento played a great defensive possession, forcing Anthony to try and get a shot off as the shot clock was expiring. They blocked the shot and could have been out on the break, but the refs stopped them in their tracks by calling a 24-second violation. Take a lesson from soccer, NBA: swallow the whistle when making that call benefits the offending team.
- Kosta Koufos successfully dunked over Porzingis. Somewhere in all that there’s a joke about Kosta and Koufos and Kryptonite and K’s. You figure it out.
- There was not a single second I thought the Knicks might lose this game. Morally, the Kings had no business winning. They are a rudderless, motley crew, assembled with either no awareness of the ebb and flow of the cosmos or a flagrant disregard for it. They are a bad team, the worst kind of bad team: aimless, wasting the one star they have, unable to revitalize through the draft because they don’t draft high enough for no-brainers and where and who they do draft always busts. And yet, they have an incredible fan base they don’t remotely deserve. Reminds me very much of the Isiah years here.
- With 15 seconds left and Sacramento inbounding, a “Derek Fisher” chant broke out. Two thumbs up, Garden crowd.
- Does Holiday owe Lance Thomas money? On consecutive fast break opportunities, Holiday forced difficult, unnecessary passes to Lance.
- I used to have this friend who I liked the less I saw him. If I didn’t see him for months or years and we got together, I’d walk away thinking “Man, I always forget how fun that dude is.” But if I saw him again the next day, I was quickly reminded of everything about him that bugged me. I feel something similar whenever Sasha Vujacic checks in.
- I should mention Vujacic hit his shots, including a tough jumper early in the fourth as the Knicks were building their lead back up, in addition to rebounding and moving the ball well. Last year he played over 900 minutes; this year he’s on pace for less than half that. Less = more.
- Eight Knicks had 4+ rebounds. I have no idea if that’s special, but it makes for a pretty box score.
- Omri Casspi got out on a break and for a hot second I thought he was Peja Stojakovic.
- Matt Barnes has a man-bun. Somewhere John of Patmos scribbles away, furiously.
- Since his time as a Knick, whenever I see Barnes I think of Rudy from Malcolm X.
- While Cousins and O’Quinn were matched up together, Clyde Frazier described them both as “pugnacious.” That led me to imagine them in a bar fight. That led to this: if there were a fighting tournament featuring every active NBA player, who’d you pick to win?
- Given the NBA can never stop boasting about its charitable efforts, how about the league start fining announcers who complain about teams “letting their foot off the gas” for letting 20-point leads get cut to 15 or 10? Been hearing this crap my whole life. For the love of Malthus: if you’re up 20 early and win by 40, that’s remarkable. That’s the anomaly. Regression to the mean? Entropy? Everyday people.
- Another announcer bias I pray to see die off reared its ugly head tonight. Around halftime Mike Breen pointed out — rather moralistically — that the Knicks did not shoot well, but were saved because of their efforts on defense. He’s not wrong. But that same approving tone is conspicuously absent when teams play bad D but stay in the game thanks to their shooting.
- An MSG graphic showed Porzingis is the first player with five straight games with two or more three-pointers and blocked shots since Chris Morris in 1990. Any chance I get to include Chris Morris in a recap, you best believe it’s coming. Fun Morris memory #1: he once wrote “Please” on one shoe and “Trade Me” on the other. Fun Morris memory #2:
Quoth LatviaFTW: “We have evolved into fake blowouts.” Just another stop on the highway to heaven. New York next plays Tuesday in Miami, 24 hours before hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers. Midweek hot takes are a-coming.