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Trail Blazers 118, Knicks 114: Scenes from a night of flairs and gut punches

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What goes up must come down.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at New York Knicks Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks debuted their 12th different starter of the season tonight. Their opponent, the Western Conference-leading Portland Trail Blazers, have had but one starting five. It was chaos versus order at Madison Square Garden. In a no less WTF juxtaposition, before the game Enes Kanter spoke to the crowd to encourage them to think of others and practice selflessness. Yes, that Enes Kanter. He spent the first quarter giving Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum open looks off every single pick they ran at him.

The teams went back and forth all night. Tim Hardaway Jr. followed up the first consecutive 30-point games of his career with yet another.

Although David Fizdale pulled Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox from the starting lineup, youth would be served.

On these Knicks, 23 is more middle-age than “youth,” but Noah Vonleh was bringing it, too.

As the first quarter ended, Nick Stauskas showed Allonzo Trier what can happen when you try the occasional buzzer-beater.

New York was up two at the half. Could’ve been five, but again Portland had some end-of-quarter magic, this time courtesy of Damian Lillard.

Meanwhile, in our nation’s capital...

The game was close all night. In one sequence in the third, after hitting a three-pointer, Kanter kept up his impression of the guard the Knicks have been missing for 20 years and set Vonleh up for the sweet stuff.

Counterpoint:

The Knicks played as well as you could expect for much of the night. There were glimpses; there always are.

But as is generally the case when the fourth-worst team in the league faces one tied for third-best, it felt like “when” rather than “if” until the Blazers took control late in the third.

McCollum was especially like “Nah.”

It looked like this was coming.

But then, Trey Burke. TREY. BURKE.

He went off for 12 early in the fourth.

Then he was benched with the Knicks in possession, down three, with a little over 3:30 left.

The Knicks were down two with two minutes left. McCollum came around a pick and Kanter, ever the good host, left him ample room to hit from distance. The Blazers, kindly guests that they are, committed dumb loose-ball fouls while in the penalty to keep the Knicks alive. But kill them with kindness, they say, so Vonleh’s four misses free throws in the fourth were what we call a “gentleman’s tank.”

There was still hope late. But then...well, is there a more painful way to lose than giving up a killer offensive rebound? I’d rather lose at the buzzer any day.

Fun game. Good fight. Bad loss. Worth it? Every ping pong ball helps.

Recap in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.