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New Orleans Pelicans 117, New York Knicks 116: “Almost“

The fake comebacks faking early this year

New Orleans Pelicans v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The New York Knicks’ preseason finale was a microcosm of their century: flashes of excitement, a dash of competitiveness, but ultimately disappointment. A spirited comeback fell short as New York fell 117-116 to the Anthony Davis-led Zion Williamson-led Nickeil Alexander-Walker-led New Orleans Pelicans.

Early on the Pels were scoring like peak Golden State; barely past the midway point of the first they had 24. Jahlil Okafor was swooping and hooping while the Knicks were in midseason form giving up wide-open threes. New Orleans led the entire half. Your Knick highlights were pretty much RJ Barrett bullying through/past Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday, both plus-defenders, on a drive that could have been an and-one, the kind that keeps you warm on cold winter nights when they’re losing to Charlotte. Another RJ bully drive followed by a three in transition brought the crowd to life for the first time tonight.

The second awakening came in the second half, after Mitchell Robinson blocked Okafor, leading to a Wayne Ellington three that cut the deficit to four. And yeah, Robinson stook his arm through the hoop to block the shot, and yeah, that’s goaltending. What this presupposes is...who gives a $#*%? It’s the preseason. We’re here to have a good time, man. And yes, “stook” ain’t grammatically correct. What this presupposes is...y’all know what I’m meaning. So who cares how I’m saying?

The third crowd renaissance came after a Kevin Knox three-pointer and beautiful run-out dunk cut the deficit to three late in the third. Early in the fourth, Allonzo Trier scored on a sweet baseline cut, then added a corner three off a (checks notes) driving Damyean Dotson to tie things at 88. Take this moment to enjoy Mandy Patinkin as 88 Keys in Dick Tracy.

More fun with numbers: early in the final frame Trier hounded Josh Hart, then nearly stripped Okafor, fouling him with 11 left on the shot clock and 11:10 left in the game. Sooo close to a tangibly satisfying 11/11:11 numerological quirk.

A Frank Jackson three put the Pelicans back in front, and with under 4:00 left the gap had risen to a non-baker’s dozen. Then Julius Randle got angry. After getting hit with a technical foul, he hit a left corner three, a right corner three and a three from the top of the arc. Then Randle got dribble-happy, with Hart forcing him into a turnover. Remember this.

Julius kept on keeping on, viciously blocking Jackson and springing Trier for a breakaway lay-up. With a minute left, the (preseason) sub-.500 Knicks trailed the (preseason) undefeated Pelicans by just two!

In the last half-minute, Trier missed a wide-open 3 off Dennis Smith Jr. dribble-penetration. Randle rebounded and kicked out to a still wide-open Trier, who missed again. Still, hard to hate on Zo, who had 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting before those misses. Jackson hit one free throw, after which Hart intentionally fouled Trier before he could launch a 3, because God forfuckingbid our spirits witness magic over machinery, even in a meaningless contest.

Trier hit both free throws, pulling new York within one, after which...craziness.

But lo! After being fouled, Hart missed both free throws. The Knicks were still down just one with 2.9 seconds left. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

Or not.


  • After watching DSJ and Elfrid Payton play tonight, the Knick point-guard dilemma feels like it’s where it was before the game, maybe even before the preseason: the point guard of the future may not be here at present. Nine points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and three turnovers for Smith, on just 2-of-12 shooting. Payton was a -7 in 17 minutes, but individual plus/minus is a highly problematic stat, plus Payton appears to have no meaningful future here, much like Emmanuel Mudiay last year, so pencil in Elf to start opening night.

Oh, hey:

  • RJ played 36 minutes. Your rookie minutes-per-game averages for the Knicks’ last three lottery picks:

Kristaps Porzingis = 28.4
Frank Ntilikina = 21.8
Kevin Knox = 28.8

It’s hard to see Fizdale playing Barrett fewer than 30 a night. Wanna blow your stack getting pissed about it? I get it. But keep in mind:

  • No Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris, Frank Ntilikina, Iggy Brazdeikis or Kadeem Allen tonight.
  • Sure, this loss dropped New York to 1-3 for the preseason. But imagine if the Knicks had won the lottery, drafted Zion Williamson and he was missing games and raising fears due to knee soreness. How would you feel then?
  • Late in the action Knox faked from three, drove and finished a tough lefty lay-in after absorbing contact. I don’t think I wrote that sentence all last year. He scored on a couple of tough drives late. Early days, but still...something to watch with hope, hopefully.
  • In the opening frame Trier drove hard and was fouled, hitting the floor. He did bounce up quickly, this is true. It’s also true to point out no Knick raced over to help him before he was up. Happened again in the fourth. Finally, the third time it happened, teammates came over.
  • If the preseason is any indication, those of you who missed out on Zach Randolph’s Knick tenure will re-live it via Randle. Z-Bo averaged about 20 and 12 per 36 minutes on Broadway; his 45% shooting in New York is his lowest for any of the five teams he’s played for. Still, Julius remains on pace to be the Knicks’ greatest Randle since Chasson.
  • If the preseason is any indication, those of you who missed out on the Knicks finishing 24th in opponent 3P% will re-live it over 82 games this year. New Orleans hit 17 of 41 from deep, many of them distressingly unmolested. It’s like these Knicks took a time machine from the 20th century to 2019 and were never briefed that NBA teams now shoot as many threes as they can.
  • Wayne Ellington wears #2, the same number worn by Raymond Felton and Langston Galloway. I mention this because whenever Ellington drives, I forget for a moment who he is, and I find myself wondering why Felton or Galloway are suddenly so slow off the dribble.
  • If the Big 3 league is still in existence when Trier retires, book him for it.
  • Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker with 17 on just 11 shots, fresh off his eight-year run as Jamie Lannister on Game Of Thrones.
  • I don’t know what it’d take to get him. I know he has medical red flags. But Brandon Ingram, sometimes, sure does tempt.
  • In the second quarter, Lonzo Ball — who I’ve always wanted on the Knicks, who I’d take over any of the current lot — swished his first free throw, then airballed the second. C’est la Lonzo.
  • TNT added a new graphic, a white circle projected just above the free throw line showing the shot clock. If you’ve ever thought “Sure, there’s a shot clock visible the entire game right below the graphic showing the score and game clock, but what if I’m too lazy to shift my attention from that to the game action?”, you now have a second shot clock to...shift your attention away from the action.
  • Wayne Ellington. Disarmingly handsome? Discuss.
  • My kingdom for a team that can pass. I’m not asking for the ‘70 Knicks or the Rick Adelman Kings, but Jesus. Other teams cut and space and flow and the Knicks look like five pacifists bobbling a live grenade.
  • What is Nicolo Melli? Asking for a friend.
  • Another disappointing Knicks preseason trend: the spacing in the halfcourt too often looks like a clown car. Where’s your shadow? Right now? Found it? Good. Y’all got better spacing than the Knick offense.
  • Bobby Portis’ eyes look like the last thing a few bags of kittens ever saw.
  • Candace Parker joined Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller on the broadcast team, giving the gruesome twosome a welcome hint of humanity. Plus she’s been let down by Derek Fisher, so gooble gobble: one of us.
  • Every recap requires us to tag the teams from that night. The names autopopulate after just a few letters. The frisson I feel from the only matchup of names that pop up after you type the word “New” could power Manhattan for a month.
  • Quoth Reggie Miller: “Randle? He’s gonna put up the numbers. He’s a walking 20/10 guy. The question is, do you reward a player that’s on a bad team with the All-Star game?”

Quoth me: “Fuck you, Reggie Miller.”

Quoth jacoop: “Almost.” It was. Speaking of, we’re almost at the games that count! The season starts Wednesday in San Antonio. See you then, loves.