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Kings 102, Knicks 99: ‘There hasn’t been a tank battle like this since WWII’

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NBA: New York Knicks at Sacramento Kings Kiel Maddox-USA TODAY Sports

So, the New York Knicks lost in particularly gut-wrenching fashion Sunday night. Wanna watch?

Yes, that is young Sacramento big man Skal Labissiere—he of the 29 total three-point attempts this season coming into the game—splashing a three-point dagger. Labissiere averaged 0.6 three-point attempts. The Knicks climbed out of a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit only to lose on THAT shot.

The refs called a technical foul on #OAKAAK Zach Randolph for running onto the court to celebrate, but Courtney Lee missed the free throw. Yes, that’s the same Courtney Lee who set a franchise records for consecutive free throw makes earlier this season. Clyde cried out in agony even before the ball hit the rim—”I could tell by the trajectory.” Pure Knicks. As P&T’er Russ noted, the tank battle in this one General Patton would have been proud to witness.

Notes:

— I should start off by saying I was 100% wrong about Kyle O’Quinn. I’ve been on the “trade KOQ” train for years now. But the bearded big man has improved by leaps and bounds this season. No longer does he hold the ball interminably at the top of the key; now he gets rid of the ball quickly and with purpose. This pass was particularly sweet.

Swerve

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O’Quinn was a beast in the fourth quarter: 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 3 assists. He almost single-handedly brought the Knicks back from what appeared to be an impossible deficit. He even hit the game-tying free throws before the Labissiere shot. Dude played his heart out. I’m gonna hope against hope that the Knicks re-sign him in the offseason.

Trey Burke had his right wrist wrapped and appeared strangely hesitant to shoot in the first half. What’s the deal with that wrist, Trey? The lack of shooting, combined with some poor transition defense on Frank Mason produce the worst half of Trey’s young Knicks career. I’ve been joking that our man Trey stole Isaiah Thomas’s little man magic, and since Thomas has played much better of late, a part of me wondered if IT had taken the magic back.

And then the second half happened. Burke scored all 11 of his points and dished all 6 of his assists in the third and fourth quarters, but his contributions went far beyond the offensive end. After getting torched by Mason on several occasions in the first two quarters, Burke put the clamps on late, blocking two shots and doggedly pursuing Mason and De’Aaron Fox. It was one of the finer displays of point guard defense I’ve seen from a Knick in quite some time. O’Quinn and Burke deserved to win this game.

— You know who else deserved to win? Frank Ntilikina. The rook took the reins of the offense when Burke struggled in the first half (the less said about Emmanuel Mudiay,the better), dropping 5 dimes. It was one of those composed performances that screamed “YES, I’M A REAL POINT GUARD.” And then there was the defense. Bogdan Bogdanovich was straight-up murdering the Knicks from beyond the three-point arc in the second quarter. Frank took over the Bogdan assignment following a timeout and unleashed the tentacles of the French Kraken, bottling up the Serbian. All told Kings plahyers shot 1-8 when guarded by Frank.

— Yeah, Jeff Hornacek didn’t play Frank down the stretch. Not even when they needed a defensive stop. Gotta have VETERAN PRESENTS. I won’t miss you when you’re gone, Jeff.

This was probably the most winnable game of the Knicks’ road trip. Alas.