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Kings 113, Knicks 92: “Man...”

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The quick Fox jumped all over the lazy dog Knicks.

Sacramento Kings v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Where to start?

Really, though. Where to start when dissecting the Knicks’ 113-92 drubbing, courtesy of the Sacramento Kings? A legion of ledes and leads would work with last night’s lacrimosa. Pick your poison:

  • Recent signs have been encouraging as far as coherent Knick defense and ball movement. I’d felt it. I wasn’t alone.
  • The Knicks have been competitive in every game so far, often holding fourth-quarter leads against top-half competition. The Kings came to New York at 1-5. Should be easier pickings.
  • A contest between the second- and third-lowest scoring teams in the league figured to be a gritty, close game. Sacramento was playing their first game east of Utah this year. By contrast, the only time the Knicks have been off the East Coast was the season opener in San Antonio.
  • Like Boston the other night, the Knicks were facing a team led by a quick guard who can both orchestrate and devastate. Maybe, like when baseball teams see a series of pitchers who all throw hard or work down in the zone, the Knicks would apply some hard-earned lesson in the wake of the Kemba Walker whupping that’d come in handy against the Kings’ De’Aaron Fox.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

It was clear from the get-go this one was a no-go. On one early possession Bobby Portis, starting in place of Mitchell Robinson, held the ball for like five seconds, ignored both Julius Randle in the weakside corner and RJ Barrett cutting to the lane with their hands up calling for the ball and threw up some scrambled mess of post-up nonsense. I don’t know how many passes they made tonight, but to give you a sense of how simpatico the offense was not, Allonzo Trier led the team in assists. And we’re not talking career-night distributor Trier, either.

Still, as we’ll see later in the recap, stats, like politicians, are demagogues, claiming ground they can’t hope to cover. A number of would-be assists didn’t register tonight because the Knicks put up a 40/26/66 shooting line. How or why did that happen? What you take determines what you make. Here’s a chronological rundown of what shots the Knicks were taking in the first quarter (boldface = made shots):

Post-iso
Pull-up off double screen
Secondary transition three
Transition basket
Post-up
Pull-up
Pull-up
Post-and-dish
Offensive foul
Spot-up jumper
Drive (shooting foul)
Pull-up
Pull-up
Post-and-dish (shot blocked)
Three-pointer off a screen
Iso-drive
Pull-up
Iso-drive (shooting foul)
OREB —> spot-up three
Pull-up 3
Pull-up
Iso-drive (shot blocked; should’ve been a foul)
Cut off inbounds pass
Pull-up
Iso-drive

That’s one way you fall behind by 20 in the second quarter to a bad team from the opposite coast. That’s one way you open 9-of-31 from the field. You’re not moving the ball, so they’re not moving much on defense. Instead of huffing and puffing, they’re striving and thriving on offense with energy to burn. But maybe this was all a wild strategic venture — get that nightly double-digit deficit outta the way ASAP, leaving yourself as much time as possible to comeback.

It wasn’t.

Fox was flexing. New York’s perimeter D kneeled and reeled before the yield Buddy Hield wield...ed. That 20-point gap became 23. 27. 30. 32. Thankfully as ugly as the Knicks played, the Kings gave us some highlights.

A Mitchell Robinson three-point play in the fourth cut it to 16, the closest it got the whole second half. Cock-eyed optimists would celebrate the Knicks cutting a 32-point gap in half. But Zeno of Elea would point out they could cut that in half, then that in half, then that in half, then that in half and they’d still be losing. Zeno tried and failed to overthrow the tyrant Nearchus, who tortured Zeno to obtain the names of his co-conspirators. Zeno refused to confess, but told Nearchus he did know one secret that the ruler would benefit from learning. Nearchus leaned in to hear it and Zeno bit his ear off, refusing to let go until he was killed. The Knicks could have used some (but admittedly not the full extent) of that fight.

The biggest difference between their 1-5 team with the unproven head coach in his second full-time gig and the joke of an owner and our 1-5 team with the unproven head coach in his second full-time gig and the joke of an owner is De’Aaron Fox. It’s a big difference, for sure.

Sacramento showed more intensity defending up 20 late in the fourth than the Knicks did most of the night. You might enjoy that if you’re a Kings fan, or a member of the oppressor class — someone like Kenneth Hagin or Joel Osteen — but as a Knick fan and a militant non-Calvinist, it sickened me. I will admit Fox’s windmill late in the action impressed enough to perk me up a bit.

Fox being out there still in the last minutes of a game that was essentially never in question, windmilling and throwing behind-the-back passes, wounded my pride a bit. But you can’t start a fight and then cry about how you lose it, and the Knicks would have been better off calling in and forfeiting this one than mailing it in before our poor triggered eyeballs.

Notes:

  • Rebuttal?
  • Fox is so damn fast. Kevin Johnson fast, for those who remember.
  • Buddy Hield is fun to watch shoot. Like snowing rainbows. Slow parabolas stealing your breath in the good way.
  • Barrett kept coming, kept attacking, no matter how lost the cause was looking, including looking to create for others. 22, 5 and 3. Even when times were bad, RJ did good.
  • Barrett played 41 minutes. You wanna take that one, Coach?

Seven games in, Barrett is now averaging just north of 37 minutes per game. In their rookie seasons, Kevin Knox was averaging 18 minutes after seven games, Frank Ntilikina 18.5 minutes, and Kristaps Porzingis 24. KP didn’t play 37+ minutes in any game till his 15th; Frank didn’t get there till his 70th, and Knox game #25. The last time any Knick averaged 37+ minutes a night was 2013-14, when Carmelo Anthony played a shade under 39 per. And regarding Sprewell, he averaged 43 minutes a game his second season, at age 23. Spree averaged 40 minutes a night over six years with Golden State and 39 minutes per during five years in New York. And that, along with having to provide for his family, is why Spree was out of the league after 13 seasons. If Barrett lasts that long, he’d be done at age 31. That the dream, Coach?

  • Trier and Fox with quite the confrontation tonight. One-sided, to be sure, but still dramatic. Kinda like this.
  • The Kings won by 21. They outscored the Knicks by 21 on threes. It’s not that simple. But that part of it is.
  • This is Albert Einstein explaining E = mc2.

An equally rare and complex video would feature an argument for how playing Julius Randle and Marcus Morris together makes sense. Walt Frazier mentioned during the broadcast that when one of them plays well the other never does, and the Melo/Amar’e Stoudemire flashbacks sent a chill down my spine.

  • Fizdale appealed a blocking foul against Morris that was originally a charge on Richaun Holmes but then ruled a foul on Morris. I just can’t with replay and appeals in sports. Roll your dice and take your chances, people. Even though the call was reversed in the Knicks’ favor, enough with the fear-mongering. The highs of any kinesthetic spectacular, especially basketball, hit higher than any nerdlinger pushing their glasses up their nose pontificating on accuracy will ever hit. You gonna stop Thelonious Monk in the middle of playing to double-check if he meant to hit an E or an F? No. You gonna hush up and listen.
  • Just over a minute into the game, the Knicks were on the break and Ntilikina made what I thought was a tight but lovely feed to Barrett up ahead. RJ fumbled it, nearly turning it over before saving it to Morris, who hit a three. The stats say Barrett gets an assist on that sequence and Frank gets nothing. You are cattivo, stats!
  • The Knicks could be a winning team, what with all the late leads lost this season. They’ve also, including tonight, fallen behind by 16+ points in 5 of 7 games so far. They could be a lot of things. The Knicks are you and me, friend.
  • Disclaimer: I’m about to say something about Frank Ntilikina, and it isn’t a referendum on him being drafted, or his career projection, or his archetypal significance or David Fizdale’s qualifications as an NBA head coach. I just think it’s weird that he only played 15 minutes after contributing the way he did in the Boston game, his first chance this season to contribute. Three assists, a couple of rebounds and a steal in 15 minutes seemed worthy of an encore.
  • There is something sacred in Julius Randle’s face, some light within that captivates me. I can’t help it. Lou Amundson had it. Ditto Emmanuel Mudiay. Don’t @ me.
  • In the first, Fox crossed-over Randle, who fell down. There were the usual oohs and ahhs.

I’m over it. Same as when seven-footers preen after their weakside help blocks against guys a foot shorter. Meh. Hit me up when you’re crossing over Frank.

  • The Knicks missed 8 of their first 14 free throws. Barrett missed four of his first five. After Knox missed a pair, he hit two, and Bronx cheers razzed the Manhattan night.
  • Do you know what Barrett has in common with Karl Malone? Poor rookie-year free-throw shooting. Barrett is at 48%, which is actually up from before; Malone shot 48% his first year but ended up at 74% for his career. Wanna know where they differ? RJ Barrett is a teenager, whereas Malone impregnated a 13-year-old.
  • Knox was active. Not always helpful, but definitely active. Despite missing all four of his shots, he made his presence known in other ways. It reminded me of his rookie Summer League play, where even when he wasn’t scoring he contributed in other ways. Would love to see that become part of his modus operandi moving forward.
  • Iggy Brazdeikis made his NBA debut, drawing a shooting foul on his first touch and later hitting his first field goal on a nice spin move off a post-up. Iggy even heard MVP chants while at the line. A fine first showing.
  • Increasingly rare in nature, we had a Damyean Dotson sighting. Can’t you see Dot being an impactful Spur in three years?
  • Sacramento’s Wenyen Gabriel is a beautiful man.
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
  • Clyde praised the home crowd, saying “Only in New York” because “three-fourths” of them were still there in the final minute. This led me to wonder: is MSG (and now Barclay’s) the only arena in the league where most of those attending took mass transit to the game? Are Knick fans that loyal, that masochistic, or do they just not need to worry about beating the traffic home?
  • Clyde busted out a rare Wilt Chamberlain impression, part of a hilarious story about the first time The Big Century spoke to him. Clyde’s been sharp and somewhat expansive this year. I’m into it.

Quoth MrBean1978: “Man...” This game doesn’t demand or deserve any more than that. New York next plays Wednesday in Detroit. The Pistons’ best player, Blake Griffin, is out with knee and hamstring soreness; their best guard, Reggie Jackson, is out for a month with a stress reaction in his lower back. Hopefully those things matter. You matter, to somebody. Send them an email. Write them a letter. Pick up a phone. Reward their faith. Make the world go ‘round.