The New York Knicks stormed back in the fourth quarter and cut the Sacramento Kings lead to two, but Derek Fisher’s club fell just short in the end.
New York trailed by 19 before cutting the Kings lead down to just two points in the waning seconds. However, Carmelo Anthony’s would-be game-winner missed its mark, and the Knicks fell 99-97 on the road. Even in the defeat, Coach Fish was proud of the way his team fought with tenacity until the very end.
“That’s the type of effort and intensity and desire that we have to play with right from the start every single night just to have a chance to win,” Fisher said. “I think that’s something that the guys have to take from this game…that we literally have to empty ourselves out every night.”
The final sequence made for a thrilling show at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena. A Sasha Vujacic three, followed by a free throw from Anthony made it a three-point game with just over five minutes to go. From there, the Kings clung desperately to that cushion, using a triple from Rudy Gay and an electrifying dunk by Rajon Rondo to do so.
Kristaps Porzingis twice cut the Sacramento lead to three: once on a gritty three-point play featuring a tough jumper over DeMarcus Cousins, and later with with a pair of free throws. Anthony twice sliced that lead to two: once with a crowd silencing three with a minute to go, and again with a driving layup with 8.6 seconds left on the clock.
On the ensuing possession, Arron Afflalo pickpocketed Darren Collison to give the Knicks a chance to tie or win. With 4.6 seconds to go, Anthony took the ball up top and leaned into contact as he launched a three-pointer. But no whistle sounded, the shot fell off the mark and Sacramento escaped with a win.
”You take the best shot available if the ball is in our best player’s hands,” Fisher said of that final play. ”The ball got to a spot on the floor where he got a shot up. We’ll take that every time.”
Carmelo finished the game with 23 points and 14 rebounds, which led the Knicks in both categories. Melo wasn’t the only player on the Knicks to have a solid rebounding night as New York had a season-high 54 boards in the contest.
Porzingis was also instrumental in the late surge by the Knicks and Fisher recognized the rookie’s effort as being critical to the Knicks having a chance at the end. He finished the night with 13 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 34 minutes while matched up against one of the best big men in the game in DeMarcus Cousins.
“Kris fought hard. Cousins is not an easy matchup but I thought he did some things well in terms of using his activity and length around the basket, helping us get some defensive stops there in the fourth quarter,” Fisher said. “He fights hard. He did that tonight and he’s one of the guys that helped give us a chance to win this game tonight.”
Kyle O’Quinn continued his strong play off the bench for the second consecutive night. O’Quinn scored six points to go along with six boards, three assists and a block in limited minutes. Fisher had high-praise for the veteran’s efforts in the Knicks recent stretch of games.
“Kyle last night and tonight has done a really good job coming in after not playing for a few games and showing the professional attitude that you have to show – when your number gets called you’re ready to play,” Derek said. “He’s done that. He’s helped us a lot. It’s unfortunate that we haven’t gotten a win but he’s done his job.”
Langston Galloway and Sasha Vujacic also helped out as reserves as the two combined for 17 points and five rebounds in about 18 minutes on floor. Lance Thomas had an impressive night too, scoring ten points to go along with six boards and two assists. Thomas had was a force on the defensive end as well as he recorded three blocks.
Aaron Afflalo had decent night shooting, going 6-for-14 from the field and finishing as the team’s second leading scorer with 14 points in 33 minutes of action. Afflalo also came down with four rebounds and dished out a couple assists, as well as the key steal on Collison that kept New York live.
Even though the result of the game wasn’t how Fisher and Co. would have liked, the Knicks play tonight was much better than it had been the last couple games in terms of effort. Derek recognizes that that type of emotional output needs to be on display every night, and they will look to build off of the positives from Sacramento as they approach the weekend.
“Last night we didn’t play the way we played tonight. It’s not always about the final result but what you put into it,” Fisher said. “I thought tonight that we put out the type of effort that as professionals you’re supposed to put out.”
D-Fish and the Knicks (10-14) will wrap up their road trip when they travel to Portland to take on the Trail Blazers (9-14. Portland is coming off back-to-back losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers earlier in the week.
The Blazers will wrap up their own three-game road trip tonight when they visit the Phoenix Suns and will see Fisher’s crew back at home for the second-leg of a back-to-back on Saturday night.
The game will tipoff at 10 p.m. EST from Moda Center and will be broadcasted on MSG.