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Scenes from almost another improbable comeback in Texas

Mavs 128, Knicks 124: Julius Randle scores 32, Jalen Brunson adds 30, and Isaiah Hartenstein grabs 15 boards in a comeback that falls just short.

New York Knicks v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

The last time New York visited Dallas, in December of 2022, SuperMav Luka Dončić led an unlikely comeback to an overtime victory and spoiled an otherwise enjoyable Knicks’ game.

Tonight, the New York Knicks (22-16) returned to the Lone Star State for another try at the Dallas Mavericks (23-16). The game was a homecoming of sorts for two Knickerbockers: Julius Randle hails from Dallas, and former Maverick Jalen Brunson had yet to play as a Knick at the American Airlines Center.

At stake for New York was a five-gme winning streak. With the Mavs playing sans Luka Dončić (sprained ankle), confidence in a Knicks’ victory was high. The NBA is a funny place, though. In other action tonight, the Milwaukee Bucks had shellacked the Boston Celtics 75-38 by halftime, and the Oklahoma City Thunder ran up a 62-point lead on the Portland Trail Blazers. The Knicks did their part to contribute to this lopsided landscape, surrendering 74 first-half points to Dallas. That was just too big of a hole to overcome. Thanks to 32 points from Randle, 30 from Brunson, and 15 rebounds by Isaiah Hartenstein, New York cut a 20-point deficit to one in crunch time, but fell just short, 128-124.

First Half

Kyrie Irving scored Dallas’ first eight points as the Mavs jumped ahead first. Derrick Jones, Jr. and Josh Green added two easy buckets and Tom Thibodeau burned at timeout only four minutes into the contest.

Donte DiVincenzo kept hope alive with eight first-quarter points.

The Knicks missed 15 of their 23 first-quarter field goal attempts while they dug a 19-point hole. Their defensive glue had lost its stick, and the Mavs capitalized from deep, in the paint, and on fast breaks. Tim Hardaway, Jr.’s four-point play and three-point buzzer beater compounded insult and injury. New York escaped the quarter down 44-26. That was the most first-quarter points the Knicks had surrendered all season.

Precious Achiuwa added to the stink, with two personal fouls in his first minute of play. At least he scored twice at the rim and added a free-throw. The Knicks fell behind by 20. Brunson and OG Anunoby joined Josh Hart, Achiuwa, and Quentin Grimes as Thibs tried to find a remedy for their stagnation. They chipped their deficit to 12, but Dallas would not relent. Randle checked back in, and he and Brunson combined for eight points to narrow the lead briefly to 10. The officiating was rough tonight, and the frustration boiled over when Jalen Brunson picked up a technical foul for complaining.

The Mavs proceed to score nine straight, and the long night in Dallas grew dark and gloomier. Halftime score: Dallas 74, Knicks 55.

While the Knicks had shot 22% from deep—making four of 18—Hardaway had sizzled against the team that drafted him in 2013. Through two quarters, Timmy had 18 points and two steals and shot 4-of-7 from dowtown. As for his teammate Irving, Kyrie had racked up 18 points on 50% shooting despite Anunoby’s best efforts to contain him. The Mavs had 16 fast-break points to New York’s zero. Not pretty, folks.

Your halftime shot-chart:

Second Half

Coming out of the locker room, Knicks immediately fell behind by 21 for their biggest deficit yet. Julius Randle scored 19 points in the quarter, and DiVo and Brunson made some triples to inflate a balloon of hope, but Irving was automatic and dramatic, making a strong case for a Best Flopper Oscar.

The highlights were few and far between. Here’s one:

Isaiah Hartenstein collected his fourth foul with eight minutes left in Q3. Achiuwa assumed center duties. That five-point win-streak was very much in jeopardy by midway through the third. And yet . . . Randle scored eight straight points, the Mavs faltered, and the lead narrowed to six. Our pulses quickened! Then Irving answered with eight of his own. The Knicks went four minutes without a bucket. Boo.

New York had made only five of 14 three-point attempts in the frame, which, believe it or not, was an improvement. They started the fourth quarter down 101-86. The hole reached 20 points again, but New York kept teasing a comeback. Grimes and Anunoby connected from deep, and Hartenstein was once again a rebounding machine. Later in the frame, Randle added a three-point play, Jalen stole the ball from Derrick Jones, Jr., and Hartenstein dunked an offensive board. With two and a half minutes left, the differential was merely eight.

DiVincenzo poked the ball away, and Jalen scored six straight. More great rebounding and DiVo’s fifth trey cut the deficit to one with barely a minute on the clock, and capped a remarkable 24-6 run. As the seconds ticked by, the Mavs missed three shots and grabbed three offensive rebounds until Josh Green could finally stroke a demoralizing triple. Down by four, OG missed from downtown—he’d struggled there all night, making only one of six tries—and appropriately, Hardaway secured the rebound. That was all, folks.

Up Next

New York heads to Memphis for a game against the Grizzlies on Saturday. No Ja Morant for that one, and Marcus Smart has gone down with an injury, too. Let’s get that next win-streak started! And safe travels, Knickerbockers.

Your Knicks’ box score: