A disappointing offensive outing from the Knicks on the second night of a back-to-back doomed the visiting team against the Kings on Friday.

Tonight was a classic letdown game. Following a big win over Stephen Curry and the dormant dynasty Golden State Warriors the New York Knicks (8-9) flopped in Sacramento (6-10), falling to the Kings 103-94. 

The Knicks had some fight in them at various parts of the night, but could not put enough points on the board. Facing a Kings team that came into tonight surrendering 80 points per game to opposing starting lineups, the Knicks starters put up 66 points; 47 of those points coming from Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett.

Stagnant offense from the starters led to an early 10-point deficit. The Knicks turned it up on defense to spearhead a 16-2 run that helped them keep control the rest of the first half. Tom Thibodeau’s squad clamped down and held the Kings to 40.4% shooting to take a 54-49 lead into halftime.

The Kings were able to surge back in the third quarter thanks to Elfrid Payton forgetting he is Elfrid Payton. Thibodeau stuck with his starters a little too long and the offense predictably suffered. The Kings took the lead and never looked back. Rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton led a dominant defensive effort from the Kings (14 blocks tonight, four courtesy of Haliburton) and the Knicks never had an offensive rhythm.

The Straw That Stirs the Drink

There is no good explanation for the Knicks having a lead after the first quarter. The starting lineup was stagnant and De’Aaron Fox showed early signs of an eruption. But as they have done all season, the Knicks jumped on Julius Randle’s back. 

Randle muscled his way to 12 points in the first quarter, making something out of nothing mostly. He carried the load long enough for the second unit to come in and pitch in, but this has been the formula to jumpstarting the offense: give Randle the ball and get the hell out of the way. He would finish with 26 points and 15 rebounds but did not receive nearly enough help.

On a positive note, Randle bludgeoned poor Marvin Bagley III all night and almost brought the Knicks all the way back. Get this man some help.

Comfort Zone

R.J. Barrett was the only other Knick to show up to night on offense. Once again, Barrett looked like a man with a plan and the result was a solid outing. Barrett finished with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. 

Inside the arc is where Barrett is making a home for himself. If this becomes an integral part of his bag, we may be witnessing an evolution.

Given the lack of scoring it better be in his bag. Randle is the only other consistent source of offense right now, meaning Barrett has to approach every game with the expectation to get at least 20.

No More Excuses

I understand Tom Thibodeau’s commitment to keeping a starting unit that is currently the best in the league, but nights like these are when Thibs has to realize change is inevitable.

Elfrid Payton was a nightmare on both sides of the ball. Reggie Bullock was nonexistent. Immanuel Quickley was not amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but he did have three blocks tonight. The whole defensive presence jargon Thibodeau feeds us about Payton holds less credibility with each passing day.

TKW Highlight of the Night

Marvin Bagley had a rough night. Obi Toppin did not do much tonight, but this was great. 

Random Notes

  • Immanuel Quickley has the prettiest floater in the game.
  • De’Aaron Fox seemed to cool off considerably once Elfrid Payton checked out. I’m sure that is a coincidence.
  • Quickley quietly had three blocks tonight. The argument for Quickley to get the lion’s share of minutes at the one is becoming too compelling for Thibodeau to ignore.
  • The fact that Alec Burks and Austin Rivers never being healthy at the same time (not to mention Frank Ntilikina) has me convinced The Elrid Payton Experience will never end.
  • Obi Toppin looks eager to do more. He is constantly moving, only he does not have much to do just yet. Thibodeau should start taking advantage of that athleticism and energy with more pick-and-rolls.
  • There was no good reason for Thibodeau to stay with the starters as long as he did in the third quarter. Check that, no good reason to stick with Payton or Bullock. Both were such duds on offense any value they provided on defense would be canceled out.

The Knicks have a day off before continuing their four-game road trip with a battle with Damian Lillard (and Carmelo Anthony) and the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday—another late-night affair for New Yorkers out east.


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