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Mavericks 110, Knicks 97: “Tanktacular!”

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Kristaps Porzingis speaking to the media before the game was the high point of the evening.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday after practice, Courtney Lee said this:

“When you watch film, it’s just all effort. Effort is the key to everything. It takes no talent to run from the paint out to contest a 3-point shot, that’s just all effort. We have to get everybody’s effort. Everybody’s got to be locked in...It’s definitely frustrating...We’re making mistakes on our basic rotations that we’ve been doing all year. We’re still making those same mistakes. That’s the frustrating part...You should be mad at yourself if you watch film and your teammates are calling you out. You should not want to let them down, and if you’re seeing that it’s you repeatedly then you need to [adjust]. If you don’t make that adjustment, that’s just telling us you don’t care.”

How would the Knicks respond to this challenge? By losing 110-97 to the Dallas Mavericks, one of the few teams in the league below New York in the standings. Dallas, an 8-24 road team on a six-game losing streak away from home, won a road game by double-digits for the first time since before Christmas. Dallas, 27th out of 30 teams in scoring at 102 a night, put up 110.

When two teams this bad collide, you expect a certain outcome. Something along these lines:

You don’t expect your team to score 60 in the first half and only 37 in the second. Maybe you should. This was the Knicks’ 16th loss in 17 games, dropping them 20 games below .500 for the first time this season. Put an asterisk next to this one, true believers. Even for a team in full-tank mode, this was mortifyingly bad.

The Knicks led much of the first half, thanks in large part to the early aggressiveness of Emmanuel Mudiay, Enes Kanter’s rebounding and Michael Beasley hitting his first seven shots en route to 19 first-half points. There were some rather lovely moments.

New York was up as many as 9 in the first half, but by the break they were only up three. A microcosm of why: while your favorite player’s favorite player giveth, he also taketh away.

In a season rife with Third Quarters of Doom, tonight’s putrid fraud out-stinks them all. It was a buffet of bad news: it took over 10 minutes for any Knick besides Tim Hardaway Jr. to score. New York went almost seven minutes without scoring. Dallas ripped off a 19-0 run to turn a five-point deficit into a 14-point lead, during which time the Knicks missed all eight of their shots and had six turnovers. I lost count of how many possessions the Mavs got wide-open looks because of Beasley and Kanter’s general spaciness on D or their specific inability to act like a pick and roll is something they’ve seen before tonight. The Knicks scored a season-low 12 in the third and were hearing some boos. It honestly could have been worse. The booing. Not their play.

The fourth saw the obligatory fake comeback. but the Knicks never looked good enough on either end to make a sustained push. Ex-almost-Knick Dennis Smith Jr., who somehow ended up +18 for reasons I’ll never grasp, provided the salt for our wounds.

The Knicks are now only two games ahead of the Mavs for the 7th most ping-pong balls in May’s draft lottery. Still. This (non) effort was an indictment of anyone and everyone associated with this team. Every single person who attended the game tonight deserved a refund and free tickets to an arena somewhere else in this country where some other team, from the coaches to the players, actually puts in a full four quarters of giving a shit.

Notes:

  • Zero points, zero rebounds for Lee tonight. Not exactly a Mark Messier follow-through on those backpage quotes...
  • Trey Burke finally checked in with 3:00 left in the 3rd. 16 points in 15 minutes. Props to him for the hustle tonight. He missed a wide-open three late in the 4th that would’ve cut the gap to 4, but he hustled after it, nearly saving it. Burke tried his best on a night when that quality was missing for most of his teammates.
  • Remember how Beasley had 19 at the half? He finished with 21. His first and only basket in the second half came with 4:30 left in the game. The defense, though...it’s like Beasley is the little boy from The Sixth Sense and he’s out there seeing dead people everywhere. I can’t imagine any other reason for his preternatural flakiness on defense, especially in pick-and-rolls.
  • 15 rebounds in 21 minutes for Kanter. However evolution continues to re-shape the game we love, Kanter will have a place somewhere in that ecosystem.
  • 22 minutes, 7 points, 8 rebounds, a couple of steals, some defensive intensity and a couple highlights for Troy Williams. Liking what we keep seeing from him.
  • Harrison Barnes had — squints to make sure I’m seeing this right — 30 points. I watched all 48 minutes tonight and I swear to you there’s no way that happened. I’ll give him 14, maybe 16. No way 30.
  • A vintage Dirk Nowitzki rainbow straightaway three put the Mavs up 14 late. May have been our last chance to see him play. Such a wonderful player.
  • Eight points and a couple of three-pointers for Doug McDermott in his MSG return. OAKAAKUYOAK, McBuckets.
  • Nerlens Noel played 20 minutes tonight. Noel’s been in Rick Carlisle’s doghouse most of the season. He still saw more playing time than Frank Ntilikina.
  • On one sequence early in the game Mudiay pushed on a break against DSJ, and when he dribbled into him it was like a running back with 20 yards of momentum behind him hitting a safety who’d been standing still. Smith bounced off him, noticeably. I’d forgotten Mudiay only played 12 games in the Chinese Basketball Association before being drafted to the NBA. Hard not to be excited by his youth and physical gifts.
  • On the next possession Mudiay drove baseline and threw an ill-advised cross-court jump pass that was intercepted and led to a Harrison Barnes three. Hard not to wonder if he’s missed too many developmental benchmarks between high school and now to ever reach his potential.
  • As soon as I finished typing that, Mudiay hit another three. Getting the sense Mudiay is going to be for the Knicks what Oliver Perez once was for the Mets. All “Yeahs!” and “Nooos!” and no in-betweens.
  • With five minutes left, Dallas had 30 points off Knick turnovers. New York had 4 off Mav miscues.
  • Paging Jeff Hornacek:
  • Luke Kornet didn’t play tonight. Again. Was he lost in a wormhole? Does his two-way contract only allow him to play against the Raptors? Get him in the game!
  • I don’t miss watching Howard Eisley botch fast breaks. I don’t miss Al Harrington being the #1 option. Someday, I won’t miss Lance Thomas clanking threes.
  • Eight points and three rebounds in 12 minutes for the Mavs’ Jameel Warney, the first NBA player ever to hail from Stony Brook University. Warney’s success excites me because I teach at SBU, where I work with lots of student athletes. Maybe you don’t care. I get it. I care, though. Congratulations, Jameel!
  • Maybe the rest of us will never make peace with one versus the other. But at least they’re cool with each other.
  • This is cute.

Quoth Russ: “Tanktacular!” The panzer division welcomes the Philadelphia 76ers to MSG Thursday. You should watch. Really. It’s a no-lose: it’s virtually impossible for the Knicks to not play better than they did tonight, and if they don’t, then you’ll be witnessing historic boobery. See y’all then.