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Knicks 136, Hawks 131 (OT): “Tonight is the last night of NBA basketball”

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This could take a while.

NBA: New York Knicks at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

When I first started playing cards with my little sister, we were pro’ly like 10 and 8. We played War, and I would stack the deck before the game so that I won every hand. When she got a little older and too smart to fall for losing 26 straight hands, I updated the fixes, imagining how much luck she could tolerate going my way before suspecting something and then making sure she won some. I tried the same thing in chess, but by then she was old enough to remember all the nonsense rules I made up better than I could, and I had to come clean. It was a glorious time to be a big brother.

The Knicks’ 136-131 overtime win over the Hawks last night was how an older brother draws up a win: dominate virtually the entire game, let them tie it up late but never take the lead, then, ultimately, emerge victorious. During the game the NBA announced it’s suspending all games for at least the next two weeks. It could be a lot longer. The Chinese Basketball Association is hoping to resume its season in early April, after being shut down for 10 weeks.

The opening minutes were kinda raggedy, but then the Knicks got going and got up as many as 15 in the first quarter. Moe Harkless scored nine early. The stats crowd need to start counting how many times guys block a shot on one end and catch an alley-oop on the other afterward. Mitch may have more than the rest of the league combined. Ruthian.

Atlanta went to a zone, but the Knicks worked around it with some real beautiful ball movement, including repeated displays of beautiful interior passing, including more than one sequence where someone drove to the rim and dished to a big cutting into the paint, who’d immediately dish to an open Mitch.

Kevin Knox had his best shooting stretch in a while, for once the team wasn’t outscored by 20+ from three-point range. and even Elfrid Payton busted out a Dirk one-legged fadeaway. Harkless led a balanced breakfast featuring Kevin Knox and Julius Randle. New York legit swished and dished, and very much got out in transition like a young team playing a team that defends like the Hawks should.

Two nights ago in Washington, the Knicks were up 18 in the third and trailing before the fourth. This night would be different, it seemed. The ball movement kept keeping on.

Hot hands, too.

A little listen to Mozart’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Ninth, Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk:

RJ Barrett warmed up after a slow start and stayed hot pretty much the rest of the night. His double-digit scoring in the third helped the Knicks go up 96-73 late in the quarter. Then, the one All-Star in the game separated.

Five is greater than one.

I always thought the Knicks would win this one, so everything felt tilted toward good outcomes: a Randle stepback to put them up eight, a Randle 3 pushing the lead to 11, Randle drawing a foul and hitting both free throws, a tremendous individual defensive stand by Harkless on De’Andre Hunter and a Randle baseline fadeaway over Hunter (a curious choice to repeatedly defend Randle, given that he repeatedly couldn’t).

But Trae Young is a Game Genie; ridicule that defense all you want, but the cheat code on the offensive end poured in 27 in the fourth. That’s more than Cheryl’s little brother.

82 games a year means everybody’s gotta be Lazarus sometime. That means first they gotta resurrect. That means first you gotta die. Randle’s earlier heroism lived long enough to see himself become (briefly) the villain, answering a double-team in the dying seconds with a clanker off the side of the backboard, passing up a wide-open Barrett in the corner (Frank Ntilikina was guilty of the same oversight a little earlier). Ntilikina was not guilty of what happened next with Trae Young, because for much of the late-game Frank was not in the late-game.

After Young tied it, the Knicks had 15 seconds to work with. They couldn’t get a shot off. But Lazarus opened the overtime scoring with a corner 3 and the Knicks didn’t look back.

Randle would add another tough jumper, and then two of the season’s more memorable metaphors: Randle finding RJ for a back-breaking buzzer-beating 3 to give New York breathing room and secure jus a Payton-to-Mitch alley-oop and-one was as good a note as any to end the season on. Which could happen.

Notes:

  • Vince Carter may have played his last game last night. After chants calling for him to return, he checked back in for the final moments and hit a three. The way the players on both teams responded, it looked like at some point during the game they knew this would be the last one for a while.
  • First in war, first in peace, last in the American League:
  • Is it odd that the league is having teams who played the Jazz in the past 10 days self-quarantine — like the Knicks — but not having teams who’ve played one of those teams do the same — like the Hawks?
  • When you realize you’re a creature of the New World: I found out around 10:30 that the season was being canceled. I’d taped the game and started watching around then, so in my reality Mike Breen didn’t find out until after that. And yet by 12:30 I was already sooo over Bree talking about it. Like he really just could. Not. Stop. Talking about it.
  • Considering the poorly attended Knick home game recently against the Utah Jazz and the many empty seats in Washington and Atlanta the past two nights, did the coronavirus lead fans to turn away before the league suspended games? Or is that just three lousy teams understandably having no buzz as the season winds down?
  • Mitch needs 300 field goals to qualify for the percentage record, one held by Wilt Chamberlain and one Mitch is on track to break. After last night’s perfect 7-of-7, he has 253. He’d have to average a shade under three a game through game 82 to pull it off. Game 82 is a thousand miles away.
  • The Knicks and Hawks play fun games. They have the past few years. They’re gonna get good at the same time and they’re gonna meet in a playoffs.
  • Early in the second Ntilikina went over a Taj Gibson pick and pulled up for 3, and I knew it was going in. He looked confident, coherent, cogent. A man at peace with his endeavor. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Frank pull up from deep and know it was going in before.
  • Knox got out on a break and drove right into Vince Carter and nearly broke apart like one of my daughter’s beyblades. If you don’t know what beyblades are, thank whoever tied your tubes or snipped your vas deferens.

The next time New York got the ball Knox got out on the run again and went in for one of those would’ve-been-sick dunks he never delivers. John Collins stopped him. The next time New York got the ball Knox got out on the run, stopped and pulled up for 3. Swish.

  • Payton’s 11 assists were his ninth double-digit assist game this year, more than any Knick since Raymond Felton in 2010-11.
  • Payton entered the night shooting 44% from the field and 56% from the field, so if you add those numbers with no regard for mathematical reason, he’s shooting 100% as a Knick.
  • Breen said he felt like he should apologize to the fans for the suspended season, and he sounded like he meant it. Imagine Breen in a priest’s robes, then topless in a room with good natural light, bloodied from whipping himself repeatedly. Bet you can’t unsee it.

Poll

If an asteroid were going to hit the Earth, would the public be told?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Yes
    (113 votes)
  • 62%
    No
    (192 votes)
305 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If an asteroid were going to hit the Earth, would you wanna know?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Yeah
    (197 votes)
  • 22%
    Nah
    (70 votes)
  • 14%
    I’m either too superstitious to dare voice an answer or I’m interested enough in the question to wonder what others say, but not enough to actually form my own opinion
    (44 votes)
311 votes total Vote Now
  • You know what’s truly terrifying about the Knick point guards? If the threat of Mitch lobs didn’t exist, they’d all be shooting 5% worse from the floor.
  • Clyde expects Young and Clint Capela to replicate the success the former Rocket once had with James Harden. I forgot about Capela. That could pay some dividends.
  • After Breen announced the news of the suspended games, Clyde’s first words were: “Payton continues to be elusive. Abusive.” I love that man.
  • Clyde re: ATL: “When you’re in a zone, you’re trying to hide a weakness. And their weakness is they can’t defend.” Breen cracked up.
  • Props to Vince Dunker. The greatest dunker I’ve ever seen, and a model of re-invention that never lost its flair for flair.
  • Sometimes Dewayne Dedmon looks like Evil Kermit Tyrone Hill.
  • Things I won’t miss while the Knicks are on hiatus: Randle spin moves into the teeth of the defense; Randle facing a double-team and holding on to the ball in disbelief; Gibson protesting a foul call; the excommunication of Damyean Dotson; Bobby Portis hero-ball; Frankuments; people judging Kristaps Porzingis as a Mav and the trade that sent him there day after day more than a year after it happened; and the gradual extinction of the Kevin Knox floater. You?

Quoth Ewing Finger Roll of Doom: “Tonight is the last night of NBA basketball.” I was thinking about that. You know how Churchill said “...this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Fuck Churchill! He was a state-sponsored terrorist and war criminal. So don’t listen to him. It’s not the end of anything. It’s the start of something new. Recaps never end. The next game would have been Friday at Miami. There will be a Knick/Heat recap here that night. See you then, yo.