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Lakers 101, Knicks 99 (OT): “Heartbreaker”

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Will have to clinch the playoffs at MSG.

New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers
Two of the best players in the NBA.
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Sure, it would have been nice if the Knicks clinched their first postseason berth in seven years against the Lakers in Los Angeles, but in the end it’s probably okay that New York lost a nail-biter. SB Nation’s network went down late in the evening, so the P&T faithful couldn’t comment, and any human being with a job was deep in slumber by the time the final buzzer sounded in overtime.

The Knicks fought valiantly, as they have all season under Tom Thibodeau, behind monster efforts from probable Most Improved Player Julius Randle and stealth Sixth Man of the Year candidate Derrick Rose. But the team’s third banana, RJ Barrett, was riddled with spots and bruises; he was rotten. Meanwhile, despite the lack of LeBron James, who remained out as he recovers from a sprained ankle, the Lakers received significant contributions from a number of folks, including Kyle Kuzma, who decided to get scorching hot for awhile.

Although the Knicks held a double digit lead in the fourth quarter, everyone knows by now that a 10-point advantage can be erased in just a couple of possessions. And it’s simply never going to be easy to pull out a victory when the opponent outshoots you (LA hit 43% of its threes compared to 34.5% for the Knicks) and rips down 12 more rebounds, including a huge one late that resulted in Wesley Matthews tying the game and sending it into overtime.

When all was said and done, the defending champions outlasted the Knicks, 101-99. New York concludes its West Coast road trip at 3-3, which, not to brag, is exactly what this blogger predicted would happen roughly two weeks ago.

The Knicks’ pursuit of a guaranteed spot in the East’s top six must be put on hold for at least another day, but that’s okay. Now they can clinch at home.

Following the first quarter, it felt like the Knicks might be able to wrangle a win. They finished the quarter up 25-24, with Randle, RJ and Rose notching 6 points apiece on a combined 7-15 shooting (47%). Frank Ntilikina even sank a three in the opening period, so despite 8 points from Anthony Davis, it was clear that, as usual, the Knicks weren’t going to be a pushover.

In the second quarter, it was once again Randle and Rose leading the show. The duo combined for 18 points, 3 boards and 5 assists in the quarter. They were aided by solid minutes again from Obi Toppin, who has continued to look better and better as the regular season progresses towards the playoffs. And not only did Ntilikina nail another three, he displayed more of that dogged defense he’s most well-known for.

Unfortunately, Kuzma ensured the Knicks wouldn’t build an insurmountable lead, pouring in 16 points on 6-8 shooting in the second. At halftime, the Knicks held a one-point advantage, 56-55.

Following the break, Los Angeles started the third on an 8-0 run. Although the Knicks struggled in the quarter (they shot just 5-19 from the field, or 26%), their defense ultimately kept the Lakers in check (LA shot 6-22 from the field, 27.3%), and New York ended the quarter on a 9-0 run. Still, this was a putrid period to be sure, with the Knicks scoring 20 and the Lakers scoring 18. What is this, 1996?

Going into the fourth, the Knicks led by three. If you thought New York’s offenses looked limp in the third, wait until you hear about the fourth. The Knicks hit just 5-17 shots in the quarter, including just 1-6 from deep, while the Lakers rebounded from a lackluster third to 8-19 from the field and 2-6 from three. Still, overall, the Lakers only won the quarter 18-15, and as previously noted, at one point the Knicks were up 10. So what happened?

In the final seconds of regulation, with the Knicks up by two, their rebounding woes came back to bite them. With the clock running out, Wes Matthews (#OAKAAK) got position on Rose under the basket and was able to clean up the glass after a missed corner three from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Matthews’ put-back bucket not only sent the game into overtime, but sent Thibs into a fit of rage, and Rose into a fit of frustration.

The Knicks fell down by five in OT before rallying back, but ultimately were unable to wrestle the win away from the Lakers. Talen Horton-Tucker’s three with 13 seconds to go gave Los Angeles a lead they would not relinquish. Now, the Knicks must wash off any frustration and get back to business on Thursday against the Spurs, when a win will guarantee New York a spot in playoffs proper.

Notes:

> Heading into the evening, the Lakers were first in defensive rating in the NBA and the Knicks were fourth. So the low scoring affair should come as no surprise. Still, pretty nuts that an overtime game resulted in only one team topping 100 points.

> Randle was, as always, amazing. He had 31 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. He shot 11-26 from the field (42%), including 4-8 from three. Hopefully the 26-year-old stud is a Knick for years to come.

> One other note on Randle. The guy is a great leader. As evidenced by his extreme hustle all night. In particular, on these two plays.

> Rose has figured out some monk-style balance equilibrium shit. Seemingly every game, he comes in and completely steadies the team. His floaters and push shots almost always swish. His footwork makes it appear as though he could be a professional dancer or something. Rose finished with 27 points, 6 boards and 3 assists. What a revelation he’s been.

> This was a night where the Knicks really felt the absences of Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks. With RJ struggling (8 points on 2-13 shooting), New York could have really used Quickley’s ability to space the floor and Burks’ ability to straight up create offense. Alas.

> Vive le Frank! Ntilikina finally capitalized on his opportunity. The Frenchman played 23 minutes, finishing with a stat line of 9 points (3-5 from the floor, all his makes were threes), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. The block was beautiful. If the Knicks are healthy, he probably won’t crack the rotation in the playoffs. But maybe he should.

Alright, you’re probably ready to move on from this one. Good call. An aptly named commenter, Return of the Frank, said it best: Heartbreaker.