Despite having eight available players, the New York Knicks (33-19) held their own from the start against a strong Dallas Mavericks (29-23) team tonight at Madison Square Garden. Both sides traded buckets through the first quarter, and although Luka Dončić hot-dogged for the MSG crowd, Donte DiVincenzo’s hot touch kept the Knicks close at halftime.
Post-intermission, Isaiah Hartenstein was ruled out with a sore Achilles, but the seven remaining Knicks fought a talented Mavericks club down to the wire. Donte DiVincenzo scored 36 points while making seven of 12 triples (and 13-of-26 from the field), Josh Hart recorded a triple-double (23 points, 12 assists, and 10 boards), and Precious Achiuwa had a 14-rebound, 13-point double-double in a losing—but not disappointing—effort. Luka scored 36 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds for the visitors. Final score, 122-108.
Without injured players Jalen Brunson, OG Anunoby, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks’ starting lineup featured Miles McBride, Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, Precious Achiuwa, and Isaiah Hartentein. All-Stars Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving suited up for Dallas, but the New York reservists kept up admirably through the first quarter. The two clubs traded baskets for a while, and despite shooting poorly from downtown, they both converted 50% from the field.
Luka put on a show for the Broadway set, including this behind-the-back dish to Dwight Powell for a dunk. He averages nine and a half assists per game and logged eight in the first half.
Luka MAGIC with a behind-the-back dime!— NBA (@NBA) February 9, 2024
Mavs-Knicks on TNT pic.twitter.com/Hr3DNF2W9C
At the 4:41 mark, Charlie Brown, Jr. subbed in for Josh Hart, and Taj Gibson checked in for Hartenstein soon after. Dallas inched out to an eight-point lead, but a buzzer-beater floater from Deuce McBride cut the score to 28-22. Deuce, Precious, and Donte all played the entire first quarter.
McBride at the buzzer!— Knicks Fan TV (@KnicksFanTv) February 9, 2024
He's got 8 first quarter points! pic.twitter.com/aYEbVokyxf
Tim Hardaway, Jr. scored 32 points in his last game against the Knicks. His triple early in the second frame put the visitors up by 10. Charlie Brown, Jr. answered with a long ball but then fouled Luka for an And-1. Josh Hart scored five unanswered points, but Dallas eased the lead back to 10 in short order.
It seemed inevitable that Dallas would mount a run to crack this game open . . . yet DiVincenzo hit back-to-back three-pointers to keep the Knicks alive. At halftime, DiVo topped New York’s scorers with 16 points and had shot 4-of-6 from deep. New York was down 59-48. Luka led the Texans with 12 points.
After intermission, Kyrie, Luka, and company left the dressing room intent on putting this game out of reach. The Knicks would not relent so easily, however. Despite receiving the bad news that Isaiah Hartenstein would not return (sore Achilles), which reduced their options for center to Taj Gibson and Precious Achiuwa, New York traded buckets once again through the first six minutes. Then Timmy, Luka, and Jaden Hardy all scored, and the deficit reached 20 late in the quarter. The frame would close with the Mavs up 87-71.
Deuce and DiVo combined to outscore Dallas 8-4 and sliced the lead to 12. Luka kept pouring on the points and would finish with 36, but when 6’2” McBride dunked on 6’10” Kleber and hit the free-throw, the MSG faithful started to believe in the possibility of a comeback.
The Knicks had only two guys waiting on the bench. Taj Gibson needed to be subbed out for Jacob Toppin after logging 21 minutes. Nevertheless, every Knick is willing to fight to the death. With intense defensive pressure, New York managed to cut the deficit to nine. They would get no closer, however, as buckets by Hardaway and Doncic ultimately put the game to bed.
No reason to hang your heads after this one. The Indiana Pacers come back to town on Saturday. Sleep well, Knickerbockers.