The Knicks are suddenly looking in disarray with Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett having nightmare games against Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavericks.
If Wednesday night felt like a gut punch, tonight felt like a haymaker. The New York Knicks (24-25) fell to the Dallas Mavericks (26-21) 99-86 in a game that was ugly wire-to-wire.
The first quarter had a bizarre pace to it. It had big-game jitters feel with a ton of poor shots, with both teams shooting in the 30s—Luka Doncic even airballed a free throw. Decent shooting from deep salvaged the quarter as the Knicks grabbed the lead.
The second quarter was all about Obi Toppin. The rookie had his first Knicks moment. It started when he beat Doncic off the dribble for his first bucket and found that confidence that lay dormant most of his rookie season. The momentum Toppin created was wiped away with a forced sub for the starters. Julius Randle was cold the whole first half, shooting 1-of-11 from the floor as the Mavericks rallied to snag a 49-46 lead heading to the half.
If you were hoping things would get better coming out of the half, think again. The offense remained stagnant, R.J. Barrett and Randle were both off, and still, the Knicks only trailed 72-69 heading into the fourth.
Good fortune never came for the Knicks. They entered the fourth quarter 1-8 when trailing after three quarters and that trend did not change. The Knicks mustered 17 points in the final frame as Doncic started to find his groove.
The Knicks had 76 points with about three minutes left in the game. There have been stretches of the season where they scored close to that in the first half. Part of it had to do with Barrett and Randle both being off on the same night—Randle and Barrett shot a combined 8-for-31, but part of it was also on Thibodeau refusing to ride hot hands.
Alec Burks had six shot attempts heading into the fourth quarter. Toppin deserved more minutes.
Tonight’s 86 points are the second-lowest scoring total of the season.
No one likes a micromanager and Tom Thibodeau is most definitely earns that moniker. It is hard to get too mad at the guy who has pulled a basement-dwelling roster into the playoff picture, but Thibodeau’s addiction to his starters kills momentum. Toppin was having his breakout performance and Thibodeau still removed him from the game for the cold Randle.
In a vacuum this is not a discussion, Randle over Toppin is right nine times out of 10. But this is where feeling the game comes in. It was obvious the team was thriving with Toppin and the bench mob as a whole, why not ride it out? The starters came in and the lead evaporated instantly.
Kristaps Porzingis received a New York welcome in his second return to the Garden. He may claim that people in NYC still have love for him, the Garden crowd begged to disagree. Porzingis was booed during intros and airballed his first attempt. He got back on track by blocking Elfrid Payton and throwing down a nice alley.
The highlight was short-lived as Porzingis struggled early and often. He shot 1-for-7 in the first quarter, 2-of-10 for the half, and looked like someone who was trying too hard, evidenced by his technical foul heading to the locker room.
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) April 3, 2021
Porzingis would get the last laugh, however. He did not play well, scoring 13 points on an ugly 6-of-17 shooting, but his team did leave with the win.
TKW Clip of the Night
Was there any doubt? MSG Network’s Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier both lost their minds. We lost our minds. The poetic justice of Toppin getting a tip slam over Porzingis who also had his first Knick moment be tip-in dunks. Everything about this was perfect.
OMG OBI TOPPIN pic.twitter.com/zl9I29qUNL
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) April 3, 2021
- I understand why Thibodeau doesn’t start Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks, but at the same time, I really don’t. The second those two checked in the offense, and overall energy, turned up.
- Five three-pointers saved one of the ugliest first quarters I have seen in quite some time.
- It was exhilarating to see Toppin be aggressive and take Doncic to the rack. It got him going for his best stretch of the season.
- Tom Thibodeau taking Obi out during that second-quarter burst was an annoyance I did not know existed.
- Randle and Porzingis were equally awful in the first half, combining for 3-of-21 shooting.
- Nothing gets the blood boiling like a ref anticipating a foul call. That is what happened early in the third quarter and Thibodeau had to waste a challenge because of it.
- Tonight’s offense triggered some David Fizdale PTSD. The ball movement disappeared, instead, there were a series of isolations that ended in missed shots.
The Knicks will have a quick turnaround as they play in Detroit tomorrow night, looking to end the losing skid at three games.