Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill, AP
The Knicks tank came to a temporary halt in Los Angeles
Losers of thirteen of their last fourteen games, the New York Knicks rolled their tank through the warm sunshine of Los Angeles to take on the Lakers at Staples Center. Even though the “Knicks tank” has been unleashed since early December, sooner or later the Knicks was going to pull out a victory. Last night, the Lakers were vulnerable. Without LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers were ripe for the picking, and the Knicks players picked to their heart’s desire.
Temporarily, the Knicks parked its tank to pull out a 119-112 victory over the Lakers. This victory is significant for two reasons. Firstly, the Knicks finally put an end to its eight-game losing streak. Secondly, the Knicks finally pulled out a win in regulation, the first since November. Overall, the players will be able to breathe a sigh of relief, and hopefully, celebrate their small feat by enjoying the vibrant nightlife in Los Angeles.
The Knicks took advantage of the Lakers lethargic start
Without its two best players, the Lakers played lethargically to start the game. Often, starting games lethargically is a recipe for disaster against teams who are desperate for wins. At this moment, no team in the NBA is more desperate for wins than the Knicks. In the beginning, the Knicks players showed their thirst for triumph by jumping out to an early 22-5 lead. Not even Nostradamus could have predicted the 17-point beatdown the Knicks served the Lakers early in the first quarter.
The Lakers regained the lead in the third quarter
At the end of the first quarter, the Knicks dropped 39 points and led by fourteen points. On the road, runs are to be expected by the home team, and the Lakers eventually cut into the Knicks lead. With less than four minutes left in the second, back-to-back threes by Lonzo Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope capped a 10-2 Lakers run to cut the deficit to four. Both teams exchanged baskets, and at halftime, the Knicks led 63-59.
Throughout the season, the Knicks has been notorious for giving up leads in the second half. Last night was no different. The Lakers ended the third quarter on an 11-2 run to take a 6-point lead into the fourth quarter. At that moment, it seemed like the Knicks were unraveling in typical fashion. Fortunately, help from unlikely sources helped the Knicks regain its composure.
Trey Burke and Mario Hezonja provided the spark the Knicks needed to overcome the Lakers
Trey Burke and Mario Hezonja have been warming the bench as of late, but both players provided the spark the Knicks needed to beat the Lakers. Once Frank Ntilikina went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter, coach David Fizdale gave Burke the chance to play. What seemed like an obvious move at first proved to be a masterstroke by Fizdale.
In 19 minutes, Burke scored 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field. Likewise, Hezonja made a similar impact once Fizdale inserted him into the game late in the third quarter. In 14 minutes, Hezonja contributed with 10 points and played the whole fourth quarter. Both players combined to score the first eleven points in the fourth which helped propel the Knicks to a much-needed win.
Enes Kanter made the play of the game
Both teams exchanged baskets until Enes Kanter made the play of the game that shifted the momentum in the Knicks favor. Losing 110-109, with less than four minutes remaining, Brandon Ingram tried to regain the lead for the Lakers. Ingram drove hard to the rim and got stuffed by Kanter’s stonewall defense. After that two-handed rejection by Kanter, the Knicks went on a 9-2 run to preserve the win.
Coach Fizdale finally saw the fruits of his labor after a rough December
Last night showcased the type of basketball Fizdale has been training his troops to play all season. From the start of the game, the Knicks played great defense which led to easy baskets on the fast break. Overall, the Knicks had 38 fast break points and forced the Lakers into 17 turnovers.
In addition to the Knicks stellar play, the players also attacked the basket and drew fouls. The number of fouls the Knicks drew would have led many to believe James Harden was secretly donning the white and orange in the game. For the game, the Knicks shot a season-high 41 free throw attempts and made 34 free throws.
New York Knicks stats
Besides the play of Burke and Hezonja, other players contributed to the win. Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks in scoring with 22 points. Kanter had a monster game off the bench, finishing with 16 points and 15 rebounds. After starting the game cold, Emmanuel Mudiay regained his touch in the second half where he scored all of his 15 points. Kevin Knox nailed a couple of big baskets in pivotal moments and finished the game with 14 points.
It’s rare when a result can upset both fanbases at the same time. Knicks fans are in full support of tanking for one of the Duke boys, Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett, while Lakers fans will probably call for Luke Walton‘s head for losing to the lowly Knicks.
It’ll be interesting to see how both teams, who represent the two largest markets in the United States, will traverse through the rest of the season.