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Spurs 119, Knicks 93: “Vintage third-quarter Knicks”

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Such butt.

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

Do you know what’s significant about the sentence below?

“Dennis, Nell, Edna, Leon, Nedra, Anita, Rolf, Nora, Alice, Carol, Leo, Jane, Reed, Dena, Dale, Basil, Rae, Penny, Lana, Dave, Denny, Lena, Ida, Bernadette, Ben, Ray, Lila, Nina, Jo, Ira, Mara, Sara, Mario, Jan, Ina, Lily, Arne, Bette, Dan, Reba, Diane, Lynn, Ed, Eva, Dana, Lynne, Pearl, Isabel, Ada, Ned, Dee, Rena, Joel, Lora, Cecil, Aaron, Flora, Tina, Arden, Noel, and Ellen sinned.”

Turn it over with your eyes. Let your mind dwell on it. Any idea? Give up? It’s a palindrome. The same forward and backwards. So what’s the larger connection between that and the Knicks’ 119-93 loss in San Antonio last night? There is none. If anything, that was the theme of the game — it was just a stinker of a loss. It didn’t feel significant in any larger sense. The Knicks lost a road game against the Spurs. I knew that was possible. I could have lived without the reminder, but oh well.

Here’s another palindrome: “Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?” With Elfrid Payton (hamstring) and Derrick Rose (Covid protocol) sidelined, Frank Ntilikina received his first start in over a year. This season of tasty storylines would have earned a Michelin star had it delivered Ntilikina starring in a New York victory; a new era, indeed. And though Frank did shoot well, he and RJ Barrett were the only Knicks to make more than half their shots. The elevator pitch of this loss: the Knicks couldn’t shoot; the Spurs hit 18-of-42 from deep.

Tom’s Terrific Thibodites looked flat and flustered in the early going, needing nearly eight minutes to record an assist. Near the end of the first, with New York down 10, we saw the Julius Randle/Obi Toppin/Kevin Knox frontcourt — too weird to live, too rare to die. That lineup outscored the Spurs 9-1 thanks to opposite corner 3s from Obi and Knox. Toppin’s trey sparked a 7-0 run that put the Knicks in front.

An 8-0 run in the second had the same effect: regain the lead, but not for long. After missing their first six 3-pointers the ‘bockers drilled a nice six of nine, but they also kept turning the ball over. San Antonio eeked ahead by one late in the half and that looked to be the margin at the midpoint, except the referees correctly put 0.7 seconds back on the clock and Patty Wills correctly made the Knicks pay.

A 9-0 Spurs run bridging the halves was all the breathing room the hosts would need. The Knicks, absent Payton and Rose, we limited offensively, while San Antonio’s Trey Lyles looked like Kevin Knox’s future.

Winning a battle, losing the war: Ntilikina made all three of his 3-point attempts in the third, with each set up by Randle. But it was the perimeter play of the Spurs as a team — specifically their 7-of-14 shooting beyond the arc in the third — that turned this one into a blowout for and impressive bounceback by San Antonio, who lost a wild overtime game to Brooklyn 24 hours earlier. Hopefully the Knicks, with 48 hours till their next game, can bounce back as well.

Notes:

  • Last night’s 6-of-16 shooting aside, Randle has more and more reminded me of Patrick Ewing in one specific respect: his ability to consistently get the shots he wants, over and over, while consistently making them.
  • I used to play against a guy who just could not make a lay-up. He always went too strong off the glass and missed. It took a while, but eventually we let him take them. It was counterintuitive, but his weakness was too obvious to miss. I’m starting to think when a Knick drives to the rim and draws the other team’s center, instead of instinctively passing the ball to Nerlens Scissorhands, who’s destined to fumble it away, they should just put up the shot. No matter how much of a longshot it is, there’s at least a chance Noel will gather the rebound and put it in, whereas passing him the ball is...maybe not.
  • 26 for IQ. If some season Quickley was shooting 100% from the free throw line after, like, 60 games...do you think people would go crazy over it? Like, follow it like a hitting streak or home run chase?
  • I feel like every time RJ tries to dunk on someone, they stop him. Maybe the occasional finger roll is cool?
  • Obi with a couple fourth quarter dunks:
  • Half of the following list of names are Spurs who played last night. The other half are soccer players. Think you can tell the difference? Give it a shot!

Luka Šamanić. Luka Modrić. Drew Eubanks. Max Kilman. Keita Bates-Diop. Callum Hudson-Odoi.

  • An obviously frustrated Randle checked Eubanks off the floor and into a seated Allan Houston.
  • P&T KTP alum Trey Lyles with four 3-pointers and a team-leading 18 points.
  • From 1999-2017, the Spurs won 50+ games every year. That’s 18 straight. The Knicks have 13 50-win seasons in their entire history.
  • Samanić sports an absolutely stunning left arm tattoo.
  • Jakob Poeltl registered two blocks, but his defensive presence was encompassing. Did you know Poeltl’s numbers place him on the level of Rudy Gobert and Joel Embiid as a rim protector? You can hear that tidbit and more on the Jacobin Sports Show. This week our guest was Dan Devine, who covers the NBA for The Ringer. Spoiler: Dan may have grown up a Knicks fan and we may spend a few minutes gushing about this year’s team.

Quoth Ewing Finger Roll of Doom: “Vintage third-quarter Knicks.” This year’s Knicks have mostly avoided the worst traits of recent teams. We began talking about palindromes so let’s close with that, too: New York opened the first half of the season with consecutive losses. They hope to avoid ending the same as how they began when they host Detroit tomorrow. It’s the last game before the All-Star break. Will the Knicks return for the season’s second half as a winning team? Find out Thursday.