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Knicks 130, Spurs 118: “Most fun game of the season”

Into each rain, some life must fall

San Antonio Spurs v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

How dominant were the Knicks in a 130-118 win over San Antonio, snapping an 18-game losing streak at home, one short of tying the NBA record? New York won all four quarters. The last time the Knicks won all four quarters of a game against the Spurs was January of 2011. After losing 26 of 27, the Knicks have won two of three.

Not the most exciting recap lede, right? But it went down easy. Easy on the eyes; easy on the math. That’s what last night’s win was. Easy on the eyes. Easy on the maths. The Knicks led pretty much from the jump and stayed there throughout. Six Knicks hit double-figures. Three had double-doubles.

The Spurs? Even when they lose, they is what they is; they does what they do. At times they did. But it’s what they didn’t that did them in. San Antonio’s defense failed because they were the FARTDOGers rather than the FARTDOGees. The Knicks kept getting looks they wanted because they kept penetrating, off the dribble and the pass.

Damyean Dotson got off to another hot start, one that, unlike Friday vs. Minnesota, stayed burning all night. Kevin Knox missed his first four shots in increasingly ungainly fashion, then hit five of his six on his way to nearly a first half double-double. Emmanuel Mudiay was hitting jumpers. Long, three-point-worthy jumpers. Made seven of his first eight shots.

Consecutive Mudiay threes put New York up eight. You figured the Spurs would click eventually. There were clicks.

But no locomotion. The clicks kept them in the mix, but at a distance. The Knick D, much improved in recent weeks, was active, stingy, even with Kadeem Allen not around, even against a Spurs team threatening the all-time records for both best 3P% and FT% of all-time. Enough with the Then, already. Now’s about Now.

A nine-point bulge at the break kept upping and upping. A DSJ three? 12. Dotson three? 13. DSJ three-point play? 14. LaMarcus Aldridge picks up his fourth foul? 16. DSJ pushing out on the break = 18. Clarissa explains it all? Smith did it all tonight: orchestrating, penetrating, defenestrating, devastating and enervating San Antonio. 19 points. 13 assists. Six rebounds. Two steals. Zero turnovers.*

(Frank Ntilikina loyalists and mutineers, unite: this is the point of the article where you’re legally required to think of a “If Frank put up that line...” witticism. You don’t have to share it, but you do gotta think of one. I’ll wait. Ready? Cool.)

A 9-0 Knick run in the middle of the third featured some sweet Smith-on-Mitch action.

The lead reached 23. Even 23-point leads be looking up at Mitchell. On both ends.

Mitchell giveth, and Mitchell...giveth.

Late in the third — very late — the Spurs were like the hare after he wakes up and realizes the tortoise is way the hell ahead. They started running. The Knicks were the hare when he’s sleeping. San Antonio closed the third on an 8-0 run that cut the gap from 19 to 11. Even so, this was the rare case of New York dominating a third quarter. They entered up nine and built it up, however modestly. Quite refreshing, really.

For a while the game was suspended in it’s-an-eight-point-lead-will-it-drop-to-five-or-jump-to-11 limbo. Allonzo Trier caught a break on a goaltend-and-one to bump it back to 13. Like Jason Voorhees aflame and with a hatchet buried in his skull, the Spurs kept coming. Dotson’s sixth three (he hit a career-high eight) pushed the lead back to double-digits.

Spurs responded. So’d the Knicks.

With the shot clock winding down, Trier lost the ball and re-gathered. I honestly thought he might just hold onto it and not risk the likely miss. But lo! He did put it up, and ended up getting his own long rebound, drawing contact at the rim to get to the line and and put New York up 10.

The Spurs again cut it to eight. But Robinson was impacting both ends, paint to perimeter, Dotson hit more big shots, and a Lance Thomas late three was the icing on the cake.

Or was it?

Hope you got a sweet tooth. There was more icing.



  • David Fizdale — playing the numbers and maybe coming out ahead?

Robinson’s 30 minutes were the second-most of his young career.

  • Also pro-Fiz: Mitchell picked up two fouls in the blink of an eye tonight. The first, on DeRozan, was the type of Mitch foul that funds your swear jar.

But his coach left him in and Robinson rewarded that faith, not only maiming the game but gaining reps playing successfully with foul trouble.

  • Trouble sleeping tonight? Try counting M-Rob’s jump shot rejections. Melatonin for the soul.

Soul atoning. Soulatonin?

  • Zen Fiz?
  • On one sequence Robinson altered Patty Mills’ runner and finished a dunk-and-one off a DSJ feed. Said it before. I’ma say it again. I don’t want Anthony Davis if it means trading away Mitchell Robinson. I know why it sounds crazy. Screenshot this. Keep the receipt, fam. I will own it.
  • 45 games into Kevin Garnett’s rookie season, he’d put up one double-double. He then had a stretch of four in five games. Over his first 33 games, KG scored 10+ twice, then hit that mark in 6 of 13 contests. Tonight was Robinson’s 44th game and fourth double-double. Over his first 30 games he scored 10+ just three times. He’s now done so in six of his last eight.
  • A TON of Smith’s assists in Dallas this year were finding Wesley Matthews for threes off screens. He and Dotson are building chemistry in New York already.
  • This almost happened.

This too.

In two years this team might be yamming on people.

  • In honor of Enes Kanter, Knox and DSJ fought for the same defensive rebound and accidentally tipped it in.
  • Watching Mudiay boss the Spurs bench guards is one reason I’m cool re-signing him. He doesn’t have to start to be useful; he could be a beast as a backup.
  • I love watching LaMarcus Aldridge because he’s the closest I’ve seen to a guy whose offensive game is somewhat reminiscent of Patrick Ewing. Those midrange and baseline fadeaways and turnarounds...

Got me on all fours.

  • DeAndre Jordan is prettier than I realized.
  • Knox missed his first four, then hit his next four. The true optimist doesn’t care about either. The true optimist is encouraged the Knicks drafted a teenager who’s mad comfy putting up eight shots in a frame. You can’t make ‘em till you take ‘em and you ain’t taking ‘em without taking ‘em. Keep taking, Kev.
  • Carlos Beltrán used to get a lot of crap early in his time as a Met because he looked so elegant and effortless running and swinging the bat; nudniks figured he couldn’t be trying as hard as, say, Johnny Damon in the field or Gary Sheffield at the plate. There are athletes who make it look so easy they deceive us. Knox is not one of those athletes. When he’s off, he looks like he picked the wrong profession.
  • There’s a little bit of Kenny Smith’s shooting form in Allonzo Trier’s from three. If you suffered through the ‘94 Finals, you might see what I see. Or if you have YouTube and a spare few seconds.
  • Mike Breen was talking about how DSJ is so talented that if he ever developed a reliable jumper, he’d be “unstoppable.” Agreed. Then he made the leap to claiming Smith could be/should be an elite defender because of how skilled he is on offense. I never understand this slander; I feel it’s gotta be tied into long-standing biases that take root and find articulation somewhere in our stereotyping of athletes who are good at what most of us wish we were good at too. We fetishize defense in others because it lets us think we’re better people than we are. You know how you are. You ain’t all that. Defense is not, physically or mentally, the same world as offense. What Frank Ntilikina can do on one end of the floor has nothing to do with his ceiling on the other. Ditto Andre Roberson, Rudy Gobert and Robert Covington.
  • DSJ is looking a little Chuck Knoblauch-y with the jump shot. When he has to shoot in rhythm, without time to think, he looks OK. But if he has even a split second to realize he’s open for launch, that right elbow would self-identify as “too funky for myself.”
  • Rudy Gay posting up John Jenkins looked like a nightmare bee posting a European honeybee.
  • Rudy Gay. Came out of college with the dreaded got-the-skills-to-pay-the-piper-plus-all-the-bills-but-seems-like-he-doesn’t-care rep. The eighth pick of the ‘06 draft never made an All-Star game. Never been on a team that won a playoff series. But he’s buried the doubters who thought he didn’t care enough to do the work and be 13 years in and going strong. Would you sign up today for Knox’s career to be like Gay’s?
  • Every time the Knicks play the Spurs, there’s some dude starting for San Antonio you never heard of. Can you tell which of the following is a Spurs’ starter and which are soap opera characters?

A) Adam Chandler
B) Asa Buchanan
C) Bryn Forbes
C) Chaz Saybrook
E) D.L. Brock

The answer is C.

  • Breen said it was “obviously” reasonable for the Knicks to cancel what should have been Latvian Heritage Night after the Kristaps Porzingis trade. I’m either missing the meaning of “obviously” or “reasonable.” Are they not familiar with the concept of other people? Including other Latvians? That’s some petty shit, Knicks.
  • Did you know last Thursday was the 54th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination? Gregg Popovich was asked what stands out to him when he remembers Malcolm.

I won’t remember Pat Riley or Phil Jackson as much beyond coaches. I’ll remember Pop differently. More.

  • If you never read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” read it. You’ll be better after.

Quoth EugeneAssThrobinson: “This [was] the most fun game of the season so far.” It was! Even with this recent fun run, the Knicks are still safely four games behind Chicago for the third-worst record and one of the three best lottery odds. New York goes for its third win in four games Tuesday, hosting Orlando. Let the good times roll.