Since I started watching the Knicks in 1990, the Spurs have won 47-67 games every single season except the 50-game strike-shortened 1999 campaign, when they played to a 61-win pace and beat the Knicks for their first of five championships in 16 years. The one time injuries made them a losing team, they leapfrogged Boston and Vancouver to win the lottery and select Tim Duncan (Boston took Chauncey Billups third and traded him his rookie season in the Kenny Anderson deal; Vancouver took Antonio Daniels fourth; Philadelphia jumped from fifth to second and drafted a future Knick. You know who?).
When the Spurs’ run began, the Bad Boy Pistons were two-time defending NBA champs. Joe Montana was the two-time reigning NFL MVP. The New York Yankees were coming off their worst season since 1913 and led by a man named Stump. So did I relax before last night’s matchup with a 5-11 Spurs team on an eight-game losing streak, on the road for the second end of a back-to-back and without Dejounte Murray, who torched the Knicks in the season-opener?
After their first five possessions the Knicks had four misses, a turnover and a seven-point deficit. San Antonio was getting to the rim with ease. Getting good looks from deep with ease. Getting to the line with ease. The Spurs were jumping subway turnstiles while cops watched unbothered; hopping in cabs and getting all the green lights. The lead was 17 in the first, 23 in the second and 28 in the third. There were boos all them quarters.
There were tres Trey Lyles treys. Patty Mills got a wide-open corner three after Bobby Portis set his best screen of the season accidentally on Frank Ntilikina. An Aldridge three-point play that pushed the lead to 23, as did an Aldridge dunk soon after that and an Aldridge fadeaway soon after that. In the final seconds before the break DeMar DeRozan missed a runner but put in the follow, beating Marcus Morris and Julius Randle for the rebound. Twas no aberration: the Spurs starters out-rebounded their counterparts 15-8 in the opening half, and had 12 assists to just three turnovers, versus the Knicks’ six and six.
About four minutes into the third, down 25, David Fizdale paired Ntilikina with Dennis Smith Jr., and a 19-9 stretch brought real big-picture intrigue, even if all it accomplished last night was convince some fans to stay long enough for one more beer and overflow James Dolan’s coffers slightly more than they’re already overflowing.
In the fourth Wayne Ellington hit as many threes as he had the past three weeks. That, a Morris four-point play, an unforced chant of “defense” from the crowd and a Derrick White airballed were foreplay for a fake comeback whose stink you could smell a mile away and a climax only a nihilist could love: an RJ Barrett drive that looked certain to cut the gap to five that in-and-out’d...inned-and-outted...whatever: it mostly went down, but didn’t.
The rest was torture porn: Frank missing a three with two minutes left; Morris missing at the rim and a Randle follow doing the same; a DeRozan dunk off Morris missing a rotation; Morris, with the Knicks down 10 and the game clock expiring, taking and making a three, ensuring enmity in the hearts of Spurs fans for the rest of his meaningful NBA days. You are a beautiful person, and well-loved; your time deserves better than dog bites man, Monday follows Sunday, Spurs lick Knicks.
- George Patton Fiz is not.
"We were in mud... we got punched in the face" pic.twitter.com/no7TshLLxE— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) November 24, 2019
- I believe Gregg Popovich.
Gregg Popovich breaks down the Knicks ahead of tonight's matchup pic.twitter.com/vPQyiawjoH— SNY (@SNYtv) November 23, 2019
- Frank had nine points, nine assists and six steals. Only two Knicks have ever hit those marks in a game: Walt Frazier and Micheal Ray Richardson.
- Also no turnovers for Ntilikina. If this season ends with him established as the lead guard and Barrett putting up like 16, 6 and 5, you have all the reason you’ll need to trust the future is nearer to now than it was twelve months ago. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
- The 72 games before last Thursday’s win over Dallas, going back to last season, Kevin Knox played 20 or fewer minutes four times. He’s now done so the past five games; the past two he’s combined for just 19.
- Knox’s first shot rimmed out, then he passed on an open three and badly bricked a lay-up attempt. Would he stay confident? I was so excited to track this, to unearth some gem of a conclusion for you. Here’s what happened next: Knox threw some nice passes off drives, one to the opposite corner and another to a rolling Robinson to draw a shooting foul. Next he hit a deep two from the corner. Then he airballed a three. How ‘bout them tea leaves?!
- This was the quietest 24 minutes of Mitchell Robinson I’ve seen in a while. I’d say I hope it’s the ankle bothering him, but if the ankle is bothering him sit him down and let him heal.
- Robinson’s played x<24 minutes in nine of his 12 appearances this year. Per 36, his scoring’s up this year, as is his shooting from the field, his free-throw shooting and his rebounding. But his minutes are down, mostly ‘cuz he’s gotten dinged up and his fouls are up. Knox and Robinson fading like Marty McFly’s siblings are two trends you hope reverse sooner than later.
- Portis strikes me as an utterly forgettable Knick. Kelvin Cato was like that. Kevin Seraphin, too.
- Feel like every night you can tell right away if DSJ is feeling it or not. Tonight you couldn’t. Smith looked like early-season Smith his first few minutes, but picked up his game later and was a driving force behind the little engine that couldn’t’s fake comeback in the third.
- The fans booed the team in the first and second quarters. In the third, as Randle headed to the bench for a break, the boos were specific.
- Rudy Gay looks bigger every time I see him. When he entered the league he looked like a swingman. Now he looks like a power forward. Not a wing playing up a position or two, but a natural-born 4.
- In classical mythology, there’s a fantastic creature — or possibly just an erroneous translation of an uncommon Hebrew word for “lion,” la’ish (ליש) — called the myrmecoleon, a half-ant/half-lion that inevitably starves because the lion can only eat meat but the ant can only eat grain. If you put Portis and Pablo Prigioni together, that creature’s conflicting natures would also doom it to extinction. Pablo wouldn’t shoot if he was alone in a gym and Portis will still be chucking ten minutes after he’s dead.
- The Spurs’ gray jerseys and the Knicks’ alternate blues = easy on the eyes. It was like the Civil War, only not at all.
- You know how when you’re, like, two and you have food smeared on your face, maybe it’s cute, but there’s an expiration date on that? The Knicks gotta give Point Julius a rest. That your power forward has some handle can be helpful on occasion taking traditional bigs off the dribble. It’s not cute when he’s spilling all over himself masquerading as a point guard who turns it over a lot.
- That stupid habit Kevin Garnett popularized of blocking jumpers at the rim after whistles? So many players do it now, and I hate it. The root magic of basketball is our desire to see whether the ball goes in the basket, whether intent is accomplished. When the best in the world let fly after a whistle’s blown, meaningful sub-dramas await unveiling. Does a slumping shooter, relaxed knowing this three doesn’t count, hit it, potentially resurrecting their confidence? Does making it mean missing again when it counts sets them back further? Does a hot shooter miss a non-three and begin to question themselves? Don’t erase more of the magic of marginalia.
- The Knicks had three blocks and 11 turnovers, both numbers in the Fibonacci sequence, Yesterday, 11/23, was World Fibonacci day. I hope you’re getting the same tickle I am.
- Tip of the cap if you remember that brief span in P&T history when the Knicks drafting Lyles was a thing.
- So who is Marcus Morris Jr.?
- Billups was later traded to the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony deal, for a future draft pick who started against them tonight. Any guesses?
- We’re about a fifth of the way through the season. How long until the Randle-and-Morris-can’t-play-together talk gets loud enough to matter?
- If you watch the Knicks on MSG, those Navy Federal Credit Union commercials = ugh. They’re always pseudo-sweet in ways that hit me with a sickening sheen of fascist faux decency. It’s like 30 seconds of staring at Barbie and Ken’s neverwere genitals.
- Are you 30 or younger? If so, Google pictures of Jud Buechler when he’s young — as a Net, or a Warrior — then check him out now. Nothing wrong with ol’ Judson; he’s healthy, fit middle-aged man. Just want you to begin to truly understand how different you will look in 25-30 years.
- My father was a minister and my family was highly religious when I was growing up. I’ve heard the Apostles’ Creed God knows how many times. But I think I’ve already heard Mike Breen recite the coach’s challenge success rates more than that just one month into the season. It’s now somewhere under 38% after Fizdale lost his challenge tonight.
- Intro trivia answer: Keith Van Horn.
- Billups trade trivia answer: Jakob Poeltl.
Quoth The Blockness Lobster: “Mike Breen is DISTURBED.” Breen was about as critical as he gets tonight. A repeated complaint centered on the Knicks looking lethargic at times at MSG and needing to play better at home. Why, my dude? The Knicks are 1-7 on the road. Yo ever seen a good team be 1-7 on the road? You know who’s 1-7 on the road? Bad teams. Despite playing six of their eight home games against teams who missed last year’s playoffs, New York is 3-5 at the World’s Most Fellated Arena.
Breen pointed out the Knicks have trailed by 25+ in most of those home games, so maybe he’s saying even for bad teams this is bad. Tomorrow night Manhattan hosts Brooklyn. Even if your home life is hurting, you don’t want your immediate neighbors knowing wussup. Looking good tomorrow would be a good look.