The Knicks were devastated in the fourth quarter against the Lakers, sans LeBron James, with a low-scoring overtime loss that would have clinched a playoff berth.

With a chance to officially snap the seven-year absence from the postseason, New York Knicks (38-31) took the Los Angeles Lakers (39-20) down to the wire. It was the kind of scrappy, sloppy, defensive-minded battle that has defined this Knicks team. Although they had the Lakers in their element, L.A. came out on top in overtime by a score of 101-99.

New York was led in scoring by Julius Randle, who posted 31 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. Derrick Rose tallied 27 points, six assists, and three steals. Kyle Kuzma led Los Angeles with 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting and four triples. Anthony Davis registered 20 points, six rebounds, and four assists and Andre Drummond recorded 16 points and 18 rebounds.

Tonight’s contest was billed as a battle of the power forwards, and that certainly played out. Davis and Randle went tit for tat all game long. Randle started off with pull-up jumpers that were smoother than butter. He was New York’s only source of offense early on, cooking from just inside the arc. Davis opted to post up closer to the elbow and found the bottom of the net with jumpers as well.

The Knicks locked up on the Lakers but it’s easier to do when L.A. doesn’t have any ball handlers. They couldn’t create any separation off of pick-and-roll screens. They could, however, find opportunities by swinging the ball and staying in constant motion, which buoyed their offense alongside Davis’ scoring.

Rose got going right away, too. He slithered through the Lakers’ defense to hit three of his first four shots. Kuzma matched his rhythm off the bench, scoring 18 points in the first half. His scoring prowess from all over the floor ignited a Lakers run.

Randle is certainly no stranger to taking and making contested shots but his life was made no easier. In his one-on-one attempts, the Lakers doubled him and forced stops and turnovers. The Lakers, who are in a tight standings race of their own, picked up their energy. They blitzed Randle and forced stops and turnovers. But they couldn’t fully stop him, as he found the open man and hit contested shots anyway.

Both teams maintained the pace of a cautious boxer, striking aggressively in bunches while keeping the overall pace rather slow. Rose and Randle combined for 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting in the first half and the Knicks led by one at the break.

New York’s offense went dormant to start the second half. Los Angeles’ wasn’t much better but it was enough to build a sizable buffer. The ‘Bockers chipped away at the Lakers’ lead and regained the lead with a step-back three from Randle. A 9-0 Knicks run gave them the lead heading into the fourth.

The Lakers went cold shooting and couldn’t halt the Knicks’ offense. They eventually refund their rhythm and brought it back to a one-possession game. Randle and Rose went into a two-man game that yielded nothing on several attempts while the Lakers brought the game to a tie. Rose broke it immediately.

Down by two with 12.3 seconds, the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope misfired on a corner three and Wesley Matthews Jr. put the miss back in. Randle missed on a runner, necessitating overtime. Both teams traded a bucket each on their first possession and then went cold for a few minutes. Down by two, Randle caught a pass, launched a triple in Davis’ face without hesitation, and talked his talk.

Talen Horton-Tucker had other plans. The 20-year-old stepped into a triple and splashed it. New York couldn’t muster up anything on the final possession, and that was the game.

Field notes

  • The Knicks got badly out-rebounded for large portions of this game. Andre Drummond reeled in 13 rebounds—five offensive and 13 defensive—and the rest of the Lakers crashed the boards with gusto. Drummond had his way with Nerlens Noel, even giving him a taste of his own medicine.
  • Frank Ntilkina, with Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley sidelined, played good minutes, providing disruptive defense, a rim-stuffing block on Kuzma, and three triples. He made big plays on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter.

  • The absences of Quickley and Burks showed. Outside of Rose and Randle, the Knicks were lacking offensively. R.J. Barrett (2-for-13 field-goal shooting) and Reggie Bullock (2-of-9 shooting) were completely ineffective and no one else stepped up.
  • Forgive me for sounding like a broken record but the difference between having Elfrid Payton (14 minutes) lead the offense and having Rose do so is greater than night and day. Payton’s bogus decision-making and horrid scoring abilities make him a liability. Even if Rose didn’t have himself another terrific game, the disparity between the two point guards would be abundantly clear, just as it has been all season.
  • Randle is a brilliant talent but he has some work to do in order to be a truly safe end-of-game option. He too often fails to sense double teams and can’t find a way to escape them or pass the ball out. This was costly in both regulation and overtime. The shots he takes near the end of the games are almost always difficult ones, which is also an indictment of Tom Thibodeau’s lack of offensive creativity.

The Knicks return to Madison Square Garden for the final three games of the regular season. They face the San Antonio Spurs (33-35) on Thursday.


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