Heading into today’s matinee, the storyline was that this game would be Jalen Brunson’s first chance to play against the team that drafted him, the Dallas Mavericks (11-11). Here was his chance to rub the basketball in the face of his old mates, the silly doffs who whiffed on resigning him for about half of what the New York Knicks (10-13) agreed to pay him this past summer.
Plus, this seemed like a winnable game. The Mavs came into today’s tilt with a 1-4 record over their last five games and lost on Thursday to the league’s punching bag, the Detroit Pistons.
Cue the maniacal laughter. Your final score from the latest stinker out of Madison Square Garden: Mavericks 121, Knicks 100.
Early in this one, the Knicks benefited from shoddy defense and poor shooting by the Mavs. New York, on the other hand, shot well enough to stay ahead, primarily thanks to Julius Randle, who scored the Knicks’ first seven points against his hometown team.
Through the first quarter, the Mavs didn’t have an answer for Randle, and he passed well when double-teamed, including an assist to Derrick Rose for an easy floater. He notched 14 of the Knicks’ 32 first-quarter points and had 21 points by halftime.
Always there is a yin to Julius’s yang. He scored only three more in the game, finishing with 24.
One concerning moment occured at the 5:30 mark. Brunson, who looked a step slow, subbed out and went straight to the locker room. Of late, he has dealt with a contused quad and twisted an ankle in a recent game. He returned in the second quarter and showed no signs of suffering, but one wonders how long he can take such a bruising and not start missing games. Did I just jinx it? Hope not. He finished today with 13 points and three assists.
But boy, Dallas was terrible on offense from the jump! Even Luka Dončić missed his first four field goals. This season’s leading scorer never stays cold for long, however. His first of 30 points came with about five minutes left on the clock. New York was still hanging tough, and with a glimmer of fool’s gold, they finished the first 12 minutes ahead 32-20.
At the start of Q2, Obi Toppin and Cam Reddish made their first appearances. They brought pace to the game but added little otherwise. Reddish had a particularly ignominious start, with a blown dunk, a step out of bounds, an airball, and a turnover. This was his first game back after missing three with an injury, so blame rust. He didn’t play any better in the second half.
Quentin Grimes chipped in seven first-half points on 3-4 shooting:
But even Grimes was ineffective in the long run. He finished the day shooting 4-7 with 9 points in 29 minutes.
So, yep, the Mavs played terribly throughout the first half, but rather than pack on points to enjoy some breathing room, the Knicks allowed a 15-point lead to dwindle to low single digits in the second quarter. Why the Knicks are pre-disposed to make life difficult for themselves, I will never understand. Three minutes ahead of intermission, the Mavs tied it at 43 points apiece.
Luckily for them, Brunson had re-entered and brought a steady hand, and Julius Randle got back in the action. By the break, the Knicks were ahead 59-52.
And here’s a nice sequence for the folks at home:
Highlights from intermission: New York had shot an efficient 55% from the floor and 36% from deep through the first 24 minutes. Conversely, the Mavs had gone 33% and 30%, which one couldn’t expect to continue through the second half. The Knicks had also won the battle for points in the paint, 26-14, and fast break points, 9-6. Their six steals were good, but they barely grabbed more rebounds, 23-22, and nine turnovers are never beneficial.
Coming out of the half, the Mavs were motivated and the Knicks were stuck in the mud. Dallas’s shooting improved, as expected. By 8:18 on the clock, Luka tied up the game at 65-65, and Thibs needed a timeout to froth about it. That didn’t help. After the breather, OAKAAKUYOAK (2X) Tim Hardaway Jr. hit his sixth, seventh, and eighth treys to put the Mavs comfortably on top. Timmy finished the game with 28 points and hit 8-of-13 threes.
Due to their own awful defense and decrepit shooting, the Knicks allowed 17 unanswered points and gradually sank into an insurmountable chasm. They went five and a half minutes without a bucket! It’s hard to win games with cold spells like that. Meanwhile, Doncic and Hardaway couldn’t miss, scoring 36 of Dallas’ 41 third-quarter points…New York scored 15. You figure it out.
By the end of three frames, the Knicks were gazing up at the stars from the bottom of a well, 93-74. This felt like the perfect time for yours truly to catch an afternoon nap, but—sigh—the blog goes on. (Unlike Sonny Bono.)
Early into the last quarter, the Knicks faded to 26 points down with nine minutes left. At that point, I was bellyaching about Thibs not giving Svi Mykhailiuk extended pro-ball practice. Lo and behold, Thibs heard me, sending in Svi, with Jericho Sims and Deuce McBride. Glad to see that the crusty coach, teetering on the verge of unemployment, is still susceptible to the occasional flare-up of common sense. Will there be a pink slip in his stocking this year? I’m including that on my letter to Santa.
Garbage time ensued and the deficit reached 32 points. Boos were heard. Quickley had plenty of trash time to work on his shooting, and he managed to shoot 7-for-11 for 23 points in his 30 minutes. Whoop.
I’m including no notes for this recap. I have better things to do with my Saturday than comb through more crappy stats. The fact is, the Mavs gave the Knicks plenty of chances to lock this game up early, but New York just can’t get the job done.
Quoth The Old Knick: “The Knicks are not a team, meaning they do not play well together. They are a collection of players who are not coached properly. Trade Randle. Fire Thibs.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. The Knicks have a tough contest tomorrow when Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavaliers (which sounds like an awesome Motown group) visit the garden. Peace til then.
For you Frank fans: