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Knicks 108, Mavericks 85: “RJ resplendent”

New York’s won five in a row at home.

Dallas Mavericks v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

December 7th no longer lives in infamy. That was the last time the New York Knicks were a .500 team before last night’s 108-85 demolition of Dallas. The 21-21 Knicks have won seven of 10, with this win and Monday’s over San Antonio their second- and third-biggest of the season. The Mavericks were without coach Jason Kidd (Covid) and Kristaps Porziņģis (Kristaps Porziņģis) and the Knicks were without pity. They won all four quarters in a feel-good W that sets them up nicely headed into big games with Atlanta and Charlotte.

A 23-point win over a team as good as Dallas is a statement; the Mavs came in on a six-game winning streak, the last five without KP, including double-digit dubs over Golden State and Chicago. Luka Dončić played, which is still plenty; speaking of, the Mavs had five OAKAAKUYOAKs on their bench. It’s a credit to how much things have turned around that the fifth-seed in the West has four guards under 30 the Knicks let go and there’s no regret that follows that truth. No punchline. The mighty Mavs, the smartest organization ever to win a title, who dismantled their own champs ‘cuz they’re just too smart to settle for one ring when there are more to be had, when you can have it all, be it all, only 10 years later you’ve had more DeAndre soap operas than playoff series won.

The inescapable storyline in this game was Dallas putting up a putrid 8-of-37 from deep. It feels like every game comes down to who shoots 3s better, which is sad if true. It’s easier to cope with when the Knicks are the ones shooting 3s better, which last night they were. Special commendation goes to the starters for drilling more than half their long bombs and scoring way more points (91) than their Mavs counterparts (55). In the Mavericks’ recent six-game winning streak, they held five of those opponents below 100 points and four below 90. Porziņģis or no Porziņģis, they’re no pushovers; they entered the night fifth in defensive rating. But the Knicks were just giving off good vibes, ya know?

The ball was moving with purpose and energy. Mitchell Robinson was worth whatever deal his ninth agent ends up getting him this summer. Quentin Grimes was confident. Nerlens Noel was back. On the other end, Dallas couldn’t buy a 3 and Dončić was Doffčić, missing eight of nine from deep.

RJ Barrett scored 30+ once in his first 133 games. This was the third time in the past five he’s done so. He was a factor from the jump, which is cool ‘cuz he’s always good in the third quarter, so if he’s good before that you’re looking at a pretty complete game from him. His triple in the third capped a 14-1 run that put the Knicks out of reach, part of his second half 9-of-11 effort from the field.

Speaking of complete games, the starters all brought something to this one: RJ was the hot hand; Fournier shot well and moved well; Mitchell Robinson put up 19 and 10 in about half a game; Randle contributed 17, 12 and eight assists despite more struggles with his shot, including beyond the arc; Burks had eight rebounds, six assists and two steals despite more struggles with shot inside the arc.

The Knicks took the lead early and for good and built it up gradually all the way through to the end. This one was easy on the eyes: New York shot well, Dallas didn’t. ‘Nuff said.

Notes

  • Noel didn’t take long to drop a pass or remind us of his hands’ good side.
  • Immanuel Quickley didn’t shoot well or play much thanks to foul trouble, but he did hound Jalen Brunson on one possession literally all over the court; Bruson started with the ball in the frontcourt and ended up about 50 feet back from there when he nearly turned it over against IQ’s pressure.
  • Didn’t Rick Carlisle miss last year’s game in New York because of Covid? Now Kidd, too? It’s not quite Kennedy/Lincoln, but it’s a coincidence.
  • A good night for palindrome lovers: the Knicks led 32-23, 54-45 and 86-68.
  • Frank Ntilikina played the final minute. His plus/minus was +1. BECAUSE OF COURSE IT WAS.

Someday, Theo.

Quoth Rice2012: “RJ resplendent.” He was. He’ll have to continue to be if this recent Knick run of success is to be a blast rather than a blink. The Hawks are three games back and the Hornets two above the Knicks. The time to win these games is getting to be now.