The bottom fell out of an offensively inept Knicks (lack of) effort in San Antonio, despite a solid showing from Frank Ntilikina.

The San Antonio Spurs (18-13) defeated the New York Knicks (18-18) by a final score of 119-93. For New York, Julius Randle finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists, while Immanuel Quickley had 26 points and six made threes. For San Antonio, Trey Lyles finished with 17 points and four made threes, while Dejounte Murray finished with 17 points. 

This game was missing quite a bit on both sides, with Derrick Rose joining Elfrid Payton, Taj Gibson, and Mitchell Robinson as inactives for New York, while San Antonio was down Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Devin Vassell. It meant shortened rotations for both teams, but for the Knicks—it meant that fourth-year guard Frank Ntilikina would receive his first start of the season over rookie Quickley. 

This game was a rock fight, with both teams struggle to break each other down on the defensive end. Randle got off to a slow start, settling for jumpers thanks to the likes of Trey Lyles and Jakob Poeltl harassing him with their length. It was a tough start for R.J. Barrett as well, as his drives were largely neutralized by Poeltl, who doubles as one of the best rim protectors in the league. 

Instead, it was the second unit who helped the Knicks maintain—with Obi Toppin and Kevin Knox knocking down back-to-back threes and Alec Burks found a couple of easy looks at the rim. Despite the poor outside shooting, Quickley did a good job of creating passing lanes and movement in the offense as well. 

Everything was going well until the third quarter, where Ntilikina got busy with an impressive side-step three and an array of defensive plays, the Spurs tore the Knicks apart. San Antonio began tearing the Knicks defense apart with some strong outside shooting, but extra passing that led to an easier shot. 

When New York brings help on a driving Spur, San Antonio would find the open big under the rim. Knicks crash down on a shooter? Spurs would make the extra pass for the open three. Quintessential Spurs basketball, with Lyles hitting a couple of threes, Patty Mills extending New York’s defense, and Tom Thibodeau looked on furiously as what felt like a game the Knicks could get spiraled out of control. 

Some nights, you got it, some nights you don’t. The Knicks had it until they didn’t. We move. 

Game Notes

  • The San Antonio Spurs were without several top players, but the machine did not stop clicking. No Aldridge? Here’s Trey Lyles and Luka Samanic to offer some stretch. No Rudy Gay? How about Lonnie Walker IV applying some pressure to the defense. Consider me a fan. 
  • On one hand, the lack of Derrick Rose was apparent. New York was without a true driver, San Antonio was able to sit on New York’s lead offensive players and force the role players to make decisions. Rose probably doesn’t get to the rim much against the Spurs either, but he’s a veteran who can probably demand a pinch more respect and that can result in a shooter getting a bit more space. 
  • Julius Randle had an okay game; 14 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists. At times, I felt like he was a bit too aggressive looking for his shot early, and then, he went into his old reliable (the spin and drift shot in the middle of the lane) to mixed results. The Knicks probably needed All-Star Julius to get a win tonight. 
  • Frank Ntilikina needs to stay in the rotation. The 13 points stood out, but the three made three-pointers really separated the Frenchman. An excellent side-step triple plus one pull-up attempt caught my eye. When you add that shooting to his defense, you have a good player who should get somewhere between 18-25 minutes a night. 
  • Quickley with a “quiet” 26 points. A bit of a slow start, followed by some impressive drive-and-dish plays combined with the floater. Unlike other games, this performance was just a cool scoring performance that didn’t really change the outcome of the game. That said, good to see the rook get a nice game going against the Spurs. 
  • Barrett was cool. Nothing special. 15 points were good, he made half of his threes, but again, this was a night where the best players on the roster didn’t really impact the game, which allowed San Antonio to take a lead early and blew them out heading into the fourth. 
  • I don’t want to overrate his performance, but man is Nerlens Noel good. Sure, he just finished with four points, but 12 rebounds with eight of them in the team’s strong second half, three blocks, and several possessions where his defensive I.Q. just altered the possession. 

Not going to lie, this was a wild game. The Knicks had a good second quarter and it felt like we were heading towards a knockout, drag-out fourth quarter where every possession mattered. San Antonio had other ideas and outworked them on the offensive end. This game, much like any other Knick loss, highlighted the needs on the roster moving forward. 

Not to mention, San Antonio is REALLY good. Sometimes, you get spanked. 

The Knicks return home to Madison Square Garden to host the Detroit Pistons on Thursday for the first-half finale before the All-Star break. The Pistons are coming off a 109-90 defeat at the hand of the Knicks. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.


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