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New York 100, Dallas 96: “Actually...”

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Two wins in their last four road games? Give.

NBA: New York Knicks at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

On a night when former Knick Derek Harper’s number was retired by the Dallas Mavericks, the referees decided to get in on honoring Harp’s legacy as an old-school defensive demon by officiating as if it were 1992. That the Knicks emerged as 100-96 victors is more a testament to the Mavs’ suckitude than the Knicks putting forth any classic effort. But a win is a win is a win, especially for a team missing two of their top scorers in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Michael Beasley, a team that’d lost three in a row and seven of eight, that was trying to avoid falling four games under .500 for the first time this year, that had lost their last three games in Dallas and 17 of their last 20 there.

New York hasn’t won a road game when trailing after the first quarter this year, so it was uplifting to see them up eight after the opening frame. The Knicks hit nine of their first 11 shots, many of them post-ups, tip-ins and driving buckets in the paint from Enes Kanter, who had a double-double by halftime. A Doug McDermott three upped their lead to 11. 11 was also the number of points Kristaps Porzingis scored in the first. Meanwhile, Dallas was missing alllll the three-pointers, finishing 6 of 24 from distance despite the presence of Hall-of-Fame point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

Kyle O’Quinn once again offered a small dose of dominance, blocking shots and defending the perimeter on one end while assisting and posting-up and throwing down baseline dunks on the other.

Dallas had no interior defense to speak of and the Knicks pounded it down low, almost always from the left side of the court, repeatedly. If not for too many turnovers, the game may have been over by the half. And if I hadn’t failed to ever meet Cintia Dicker, we might have been married and lived happily ever after. Despite shooting well and getting contributions from numerous players, the Knicks went into the half up only four.

In the third, a Courtney Lee long jumper followed by a Lee three put New York up 10, and it felt one of those games against a bad team where even though it’s in their building, you know you should win. So you relax. I started noticing Porzingis had some cut or marks above his left elbow that looked like that unamused emoji, the one with the closed eyes and unsmiling mouth. But the Knicks are nothing if not accommodating guests, so they decided to score just two points over basically the last 6:00 of the third.

In the fourth the officials decided to get their inner Lebowski on and stop doing their job. The players were increasingly clutching, grabbing, pushing, pulling, fouling and kvetching. Wesley Matthews was feeling his oats.

Still, with 4:30 left the Knicks were up 90-77. Lee missed a tough runner, and all hell broke loose. It took just two-and-a-half minutes for Dallas to rip off a 15-2 run bookmarked by Devin Harris threes, to tie it at 92. Harrison Barnes missed a shot that could have given Dallas their first lead. With a minute left, Porzingis missed a jumper on what should have been Matthews’ ninth foul of the night, but O’Quinn grabbed the tough offensive board and the Knicks called timeout. Porzingis then airballed a fadeaway and the Mavs were off and running, but Barea’s attempted alley-oop to Dwight Powell was deflected by O’Quinn.

Jack gave the Knicks the lead for good with a running floater off a KP pick, his only hoop of the second half; Devin Harris drilled Jack hard enough to warrant a 15-yard personal foul. Harris drove and kicked back to Jose Juan Barea Mora de la isla de Puerto Rico, who missed a three. Courtney Lee hit four free throws to seal the deal.

Tonight’s fake Dallas comeback comes on the heels of a fake comeback in their prior contest, a home loss to Chicago. That’s consecutive games the Mavs have played against teams who seemed to have things all sewn up before nearly blowing it and hanging on in the final minute. Those are the kind of games where both teams feel like they’ve lost. 4 losses in 2 games? Everything really is bigger in Texas.

Notes:

  • Lee’s consecutive free-throw streak is now at 43 in a row, one shy of the club record set by Chris Motherfucking Duhon.
  • Kanter + KOQ combined = 28 points and 29 rebounds. That’s why Willy Hernangomez checking in early in the second quarter wasn’t even a blip on my radar.
  • Ntilikina vs. Dennis Smith Jr. round one goes to Frank Pentangeli, a.k.a Frankie Five Angels (his hands are divinely inspired on defense; each finger is an angel; just go with it). 7 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, two blocks and a steal for Ntilikina. G.O.A.T. D.S.J. finished with 11 points on 5 of 14 shooting with 5 assists and a couple steals. Best get in line behind Shabazz Napier next time King James is anointing false messiahs.
  • Frank opened the fourth with a lovely scoop layup. Soon thereafter, there was an eclipse sighting.

When the teenage rookie wasn’t Fenris eating the Mav guards, he was calmly contesting their actual future Hall-of-Famer.

As for Barea/Ntilikina, part deux:

  • Dirk and KP. Then, meet Now.
  • 29 and 8 for Porzingis. He did not shoot well. Ask me if I care. I do not. I have waited years for this franchise to develop a meaningful young talent who can impact the game beyond scoring or shooting prolifically. I got one now. It’s enough.
  • Only one field goal and five points for Nowitzki. I remember the unjust criticisms he endured for years, the barely-couched xenophobic slants. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Can’t help noticing how much KP bitches about calls/non-calls. Part of me feels this is a good thing: he’s your would-be star, he should push for star treatment. Part of me feels just shut up and play. Part of me is regretting the meatball hero I ate for dinner tonight.
  • Speaking of bitching about calls: Dallas native and former Knick Kurt Thomas was in the crowd tonight.
  • You know who’s found a real nice chemistry? O’Quinn and Doug McDermott.
  • I have a dream...that one day...the Knicks will have a 3-on-1 fast break, their shooting guard will pull up for three, that guard won’t be Courtney Lee, and that guard will make the three.
  • So, regarding Derek Harper. Such a mensch. The ‘94 Knicks had been rolling along fine until their point guard, Doc Rivers, ran into the dastardly duo of Vlade Divac and Anthony Peeler and was injured, done for the year. Here are five impressive facts about Derek Harper:
  1. He raised his scoring average every year through his eighth season, from 5.7 as a rookie to 19.7 as a 29-year-old. He is also possibly single-handedly responsible for the NBA abolishing the hand-check, step one in creating and ushering in the pace-and-space NBA Jam league that exists today.
  2. He once hit seven threes in a closeout playoff game, at a time in history where seven threes in a game was a big deal and the Knicks closing teams out in the playoffs wasn’t.

3. In 1994 the Knicks were down 3-2 to the Pacers and in an absolute dogfight to try and survive game 6 in Indianapolis. The game was all tied up in the last two minutes. Watch those last two minutes. Harper’s defense, leadership, and clutch shooting cemented his place in my 15-year-old heart forever.

4. Harper once instigated an epic brawl with JoJo English right in front of David Stern’s fat-cat capitalist mug.

5. My fiancee’s been flu-ridden the past four or five days, which has left me to handle more of the child-raising than usual. And we only have one child. And I’m still tired from the increased workload. Harper was raised as one of 9 siblings by a single mother. When the alien invasion arrives, single mothers are our only chance of survival.

  • Harper’s number was supposed to be retired four years ago, but in keeping with his post-2011 tradition of disappointing his fan base, Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban decided not to until now.
  • That woman in the Metro PCS commercial whose man gets ticketed by the police, and then she says to him “All right, well, let’s go. Slowly. Like your network.” She’s so negative! So quick to blame her man and separate herself rather than build him up when he’s down. You can do better, dude!

Quoth xobserverx: “Actually...” That word sums up tonight. The Knicks struggled, but actually you could view this game as a young team learning to win a road game they should win, which is still new to them. For once they didn’t get blown out in the third quarter, but actually if they hadn’t turned it over so often in the first half the game would have been over by then. They led from wire-to-wire, which is impressive, but actually they could easily have fallen behind multiple times in the final two minutes, and had they trailed they may never have overcome the collapse. The Knicks’ next game is home Wednesday against Chicago, which seems like another game they should win. Let’s see.