The Knicks could not handle Anthony Davis’ monster game in a loss where defense crumbled under the pressure of the Pelicans in the late stretch of the match.

The New Orleans Pelicans (22–20) never possessed a lead in Sunday’s matinee game until the overtime period. That alone may be sufficient in describing what went wrong for the New York Knicks (19–24).

A frenzied first quarter sparked the Knicks’ lead to 16, but the Pelicans slowly but surely crawled back from multiple double-digit deficits throughout the match. Careless play with the basketball coughed up 23 turnovers, and the Pelicans capitalized with 15 points. New York could not find comfort, and a fourth quarter clamp down by NOLA forced overtime, led by Anthony Davis’ monster game—48 points, 17 rebounds, and three blocks. The Knicks fell to the Pels, 123–118 (OT).

Matinee mania

The Knicks headline back-to-back matinee games, Sunday and Monday. History tells us the Knicks have a shaky history competing in the afternoon and a frantic pace on Sunday cost the ‘Bockers a victory. Despite shooting 5-for-23 in the first quarter, the Pelicans regained composure in the next frame, coming back from from a 16-point hole due to a string of turnovers by Michael Beasley and the Knicks second unit. It was a real up-and-down game at the Garden with strangely quiet moments from the World’s Most Famous Arena crowd followed by uproars from KP blocks and spin-o-rama floaters from Jarrett Jack, who scored a season-high 22 points on 64.2 percent shooting. The Knicks could not handle Jrue Holiday and Davis in the imbalanced pace of Sunday’s contest.

Nothing punctuated the sloppy mess of a ball game more than this awful DeMarcus Cousins bounce pass, which led to a Porzingis–Kanter fast break and an emphatic Enes slam dunk fewer than two minutes into the match:

But it was the lion-hearted performance of Davis that sparked the Pelicans. Even with fine defense, the Brow rose above the rest with fadeaway jumpers and terrorizing the Knicks in the interior (shooting 12-of-15 from the free-throw line).

The Knicks lost any semblance of control in this game when the half-court offense stalled and Jack could not find open looks for Porzingis, Lee, or Michael Beasley.

Defense matters

Hardaway Jr. and the Knicks scored 57 points in his first game back and another 57 spot on Sunday. Although the uptick in scoring has been nice to see, bunkering down on defense is as important. Crucially, the Knicks could not contain Jrue Holiday who really made the home team pay with 31 points, four assists, and four steals. Constant switching by Hornacek’s squad provided leverage by Davis and Holiday, finding better shots with favorable matchups (like Porzingis guarding Holiday at the perimeter or Jack trying to front the absolute unit in Anthony Davis. Despite giving up 123 points in four quarters plus an overtime period, defense did not matter for the Knicks when it mattered most, like down the stretch of the close game in the fourth.

On Cousins, the Knicks let New Orleans’ fiery center play out of control—three first half turnovers and five overall damaged what should have been a nice game from Boogie, who scored 15 points on 25 percent shooting and captured seven steals. By my measure, Boogie was a -5 while Davis was -11 with approximately 13 minutes to play and the Knicks up 16. After everything that transpired in the final 17 minutes, the Pelicans’ stars finished +14 and 0, respectively. (Kinda amazing that Davis scored 48 points on 17-of-30 from the field and was still a zero.)

Hardaway’s impact

Tim Hardaway Jr. probably played better in his immediate return from injury, but the wing still impacted Sunday’s matchup with NOLA by looking to push the ball in transition for New York. Even though Hardaway Jr. came off the bench again, Coach Hornacek often found minutes for Timmy with the starters. In the presence of Wolverines teammate Trey Burke, THJ couldn’t find his stroke from downtown (2-for-10), but it’s quite clear the spacing that opens up from his drives benefit players like Porzingis who uses his large frame to create in space. KP had his best shooting game in some time, and when his shot wasn’t falling he influenced the game with a boxscore filler: five steals and two blocks (normally it would be the other way around for the Unicorn). And he looked more comfortable passing from the double-team, too, with three assists.

However, Timmy’s faults (three turnovers) could not overcome his 25-point performance as his defense (and the Knicks’ as a whole) floundered against the Western Conference team. On two-pointers, Hardaway  Jr. shot 6-for-7, and three missed free-throws were costly down the stretch against the surging Pelicans.

Miscellaneous notes
  • 13 points are the lowest Knicks have given up in a first quarter this season.
  • MEANWHILE, the Knicks were outscored 27–13 in the fourth quarter.
  • Not one to light up the boxscore, but what a game from Lance Thomas. Thomas was scoreless in the previous two games, but his splendid defense can really impact possessions for New York and the hustle will always be appreciated in the Big Apple. Nonetheless, Jeff Hornacek looked at Lee and Hardaway to shore up the wings instead of playing Thomas. It’s tough to say, though, if playing Thomas in overtime would have changed the outcome of the game, which should have been decided in the third quarter when New York couldn’t pull away from the Big Easy’s attack mode.
  • A dangerous collision occurred with 5:16 left in the fourth quarter when Hardaway came around a screen and bumped with the defending Anthony Davis at the basket. Both players went down, but after dusting off the scare, Timmy and Brow resumed playing.
  • The NBA officials missed a terrible no-call, benefiting the Knicks when Hardaway Jr. grabbed Davis’ wrist, leading to New York’s possession, up two, with a chance to ice the game. Anyway, I’m uncertain if Davis and Cousins will complain considering they’re leaving with the win.
  • No action for newly-signed Trey Burke. Oh well.
  • Porzingis shot 4-for-10 from three-point range (including the missed look that could have tied the game in overtime). More triples from KP, please!

The Knicks take on the Nets in Brooklyn tomorrow on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at 3:00 p.m. EST. My apologies for the brave souls who have to work on the federal holiday.