RJ Barrett
AP Photo

Any momentum the New York Knicks had is gone after an embarrassing loss to the Gregg Popovich-led San Antonio Spurs.

Danny Small

Not good. That’s the simple summary of the New York Knicks‘ performance against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night. For moments in the second half, the Knicks began to show some signs of life, but it was never enough to overcome a 28-point deficit.

“I can’t.”

That was head coach David Fizdale’s answer when asked to explain the putrid first half. A strong second half saw the Knicks cut the lead to eight, but it was too little too late. San Antonio salted the game away late and left New York with a 111-104 win.


“I don’t know how to explain it,” Fizdale said. “We were in mud. They were a desperate team. We got punched in the face and we dug a hole that in the second half we tried to dig our way out of very similar to the first time we played them. We fought ourselves back into the game, but sooner or later the clock runs out.”

The Spurs were as desperate as desperate can be. After a 5-3 start, San Antonio had lost 11 of their last 13 and eight straight. The first half lead was built in non-Spursian fashion—the three-point ball.

San Antonio finished the half shooting 8-for-15 from deep while the Knicks only converted on four of their 16 attempts. The bench mob consisting of Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills, and Trey Lyles combined for all eight three-pointers in the half.

Playing with fear in their hearts helped the Spurs, but this wasn’t a team playing “scared.” Rather, this was a roster that wasn’t going to take their opponent lightly.

“Appropriate fear is something we’ve talked about for decades. It’s a respect for your opponent,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said after the win. “It doesn’t matter who you are playing. Whether you are playing a poor team or a great team, there’s moments in a game where you can’t let up and you have to keep your respect. Everybody’s in the league, everybody is good, anybody can beat anybody on any given night if you are not ready to go. Appropriate fear is a little mantra we’ve had for a long time.”

The Spurs came out with the appropriate level of fear on Saturday night. The Knicks did not.

“We gave ourselves a shot to win, but if we eliminate that start we win the game by 20,” Julius Randle told reporters after the loss.

If pigs had wings, they could fly.

The Knicks will win every game if they play like they did in the second half for the full 48 minutes. Conversely, they’ll lose every game if they play like they did in the first half for any stretch of time.

The sense of urgency must be there from the opening tip to the final whistle. If not, even struggling teams like the Spurs can come into Madison Square Garden and run the Knicks off the floor.

But the good news for the Knickerbockers is that it’s easy to have a short memory in the NBA. Less than 24 hours later, the Knicks have a chance to exact revenge on the Brooklyn Nets.

“We have to let this hurt until midnight, at midnight the game is over and we have to start preparing for Brooklyn,” Bobby Portis said after the game. “Obviously, it’s a quick turnaround, but that’s life in the NBA. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you. Brooklyn is going to come in here and try to get the win to improve their playoff hopes as well.”

The Nets will travel across town with hopes of clawing their way back to a .500 record. Despite missing Kyrie Irving for the last four games and the foreseeable future, Brooklyn has won three of their last four.

Although the Nets are vulnerable without Irving, the Knicks can’t afford another sluggish start in a winnable game. Allowing the Spurs to build a substantial lead early made the second half more or less irrelevant.

What’s even worse, the Knicks allowed a reluctant three-point shooting team to torch them from beyond the arc. Reluctance is not the word that comes to mind when you think about Brooklyn’s three-point shooting.

The Nets are sixth in the NBA in attempts per game and if the Knicks are not careful, the rout could be on for the second-straight night.

 

Log-in or Register for a free account to select and save your favorite ESNY articles, videos and podcasts, or, if already signed-up, check out your Profile. Sign-up for a free trial of Elite Access, ESNY's ad-free subscription.

NYY

NYM

NYG

NYJ

NYK

BKN

NYR

NYI

NJD

SJU