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Clippers 129, Knicks 115: Scenes from a very encouraging defeat

The kids played hard.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t be fooled by the 129-115 final score, friends: The young Knicks fought the veteran, star-laden Clippers tooth-and-nail in this one.

The first half was probably the finest 24 minutes of the season for the ‘Bockers ... unfortunately, the Clippers played just as well, as clung to a 66-65 advantage. It’s been a long time since a championship contender came into MSG and played their best ball, only for the Knicks to match them punch-for-punch.

The Clippers started to pull away in the second half when Kawhi Leonard, who had been outplayed by RJ Barrett in the first half, started to come alive. Just when it looked like the Knicks were done, however, Immanuel Quickley brought them back with one of his patented late-game explosions. Were there floaters? You bet your ass, there were floaters.

Quickley made Knicks fans jump out of their seats when he canned a DEEEEEP three to bring the deficit to two.

The Clips showed Quick the respect he deserved, sending Kawhi out to defend the rook man-to-man. LA continued their three-point barrage — they finished 17-38 from downtown — and finally put the Knicks to bed. Still, it was a humdinger of a game. New York’s new big 3 of Quickley (25 points, 9-16 shooting), Barrett (23 points, 9-14 shooting) and Julius Randle (27 points, 9-18 shooting) were beasts. Also, IQ got to meet one of his heroes.

Recap to come. Hold your heads high, fellas.