The Knicks played — and lost — as if they were suffering from a Luka Doncic hangover.
The Knicks were beaten 122-115 by the rebuilding Spurs on Thursday night, two days after their epic collapse in Dallas, in which they allowed a 60-point triple-double to Doncic.
The Mavericks’ loss was humiliating. The Spurs’ loss was simply depressing.
“The ball was in our paint the entire night,” said coach Tom Thibodeau. “In the first quarter, the Spurs scored 38 points. They had a high percentage of success. They outnumbered us. In the end, it was too little, too late.”
Thibodeau had an excuse because Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett were both injured. However, the Knicks (18-18) trailed by double digits for much of the evening against one of the league’s worst teams, allowing the Spurs (12-23) to carve up a defence that left its heart in Dallas.
“[The absence of Brunson and Barrett] is a factor. “But we still managed to score 115 points,” Thibodeau said. “Enough of that.”
The Spurs scored 38 points in the first quarter to set the tone. San Antonio’s Keldon Johnson and Romeo Langford combined for 53 points, and the Knicks never recovered or regained the lead.
Julius Randle gave it his all, scoring 41 points in 43 minutes. However, the issue was defence. And the Spurs took advantage of New York’s laziness, shooting 51% and finishing with more assists (25 to 20) and rebounds than the Knicks (48 to 38).
Brunson was out for the second game in a row due to a hip injury. He warmed up before the game but was ruled out an hour before tipoff. Barrett’s absence was his first of the season, but he only played two minutes in Friday’s loss to the Mavericks due to a lacerated finger. During the game, MSG Network reported that Barrett’s finger was cut so deeply that a tendon was exposed. Barrett was expected to miss about a week due to the injury, according to the Daily News.
Evan Fournier made his first appearance in over six weeks for the Knicks, playing 17 minutes off the bench. Fournier, who had been out of the lineup for 22 games, finished with 11 points, but the Knicks were outscored by nine points with him on the floor. Miles McBride started at shooting guard and played 31 minutes. Immanuel Quickley scored 36 points on 12-of-27 shooting but did so inefficiently.
The Spurs are rebuilding in the twilight of Gregg Popovich’s spectacular career, allowing more than 120 points per game as the NBA’s worst defence entering Thursday. They also had the worst point differential in the league and were without leading scorer Devin Vassell due to a knee injury.
Nonetheless, they got the Knicks through four quarters.
Popovich, the NBA’s all-time victories leader, hasn’t announced his retirement plans, but he’s already been nominated for the 2023 Naismith Hall of Fame class and isn’t expected to coach for much longer.
It is widely assumed that former Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder will be considered as Popovich’s replacement.