Despite a recent blip of competent basketball, maybe the Knicks are who we thought they were.
The Garden boos were reserved for the Knicks — not Kristaps Porzingis this time.
As the Knicks walked off the boo-filled court for intermission Saturday night, they were amidst a pummeling by the NBA’s coldest team. The Spurs built a 25-point halftime lead, 68-53.
“I can’t explain it,’’ Fizdale said of the first half. “We were in mud. We were all out of sync on both ends of the floor. Defensively we were a step slow on everything.’’
Then the Knicks proved on this rotten Saturday to be one of the better teams in the NBA after falling behind by 28 points. The Knicks were flying around in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to seven with 3:00 left before losing by the deceiving score of 111-104 to halt San Antonio’s eight-game losing streak.
The Spurs were desperate. The Knicks were dead.
“They’re a wounded animal hungry for a win,’’ Fizdale said beforehand. “They’re the Spurs. I never can let down my guard against them.”
Well, the Knicks let their guard down for three quarters and it was sickly to watch. The Spurs (6-11) built a 26-9 lead — 32-16 after one quarter.
“We eliminate that start, we win the game by 20,’’ Julius Randle said.
Right, and if the Spurs didn’t win the 1997 Tim Duncan lottery, they wouldn’t be the Spurs.
The Knicks notched just 16 first-quarter points against a San Antonio squad that has descended as the NBA’s worst defense team.
The Spurs were playing the second night of a back-to-back while the Knicks were coming off two days’ rest. Spurs coach/wine connoisseur Gregg Popovich is known to love New York for its raft of high-end restaurants but now he has to embrace the Big Apple for its lousy basketball team.
It was a reprehensible performance that has to have owner James Dolan steaming all over again.
“We’re defensively challenged,’’ Popovich said before the game. “It’s a political sort of term for we suck.’’
So do the Knicks. Their offense turned pitiful and they defended the 3-point line like there’s a force field in front of it. San Antonio bagged 8 of 15 from 3-point range in the first half.
As such, the Knicks dropped to 4-12 in their worst showing since the Steve Mills Press Conference Game on Nov. 10 that appeared to put Knicks coach Fizdale on a 10-game alert.
The Nets visit the Garden on Sunday with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant unavailable. The Knicks now need to show up with the fighting spirit they displayed in the fourth quarter, or else Fizdale’s seat will soon be boiling like Thanksgiving gravy.
For the previous five contests since Mills’ postgame outburst, Fizdale had done his part in righting the ship, establishing a set starting lineup and regular rotation.
In Philadelphia on Wednesday, the Knicks led by 17 in the third quarter and fought an Eastern Conference power to the final minute, ruffling Joel Embiid’s feathers.
From the start Saturday, they turned Spurs center Jake Poeltl into Wilt Chamberlain — 4-for-4 on inside baskets just an hour after Fizdale was bragging about the Knicks “shutting down the paint.’’
This also wasn’t a night to brag about the Knicks’ past two lottery picks. Kevin Knox was benched for a second straight game in the second half and is starting to run on the treadmill for 20 minutes to keep conditioning.
Rookie RJ Barrett put up two wild shots early, including nearly breaking the backboard on a 3-point brick. He wound up 6-of-11 for 13 points, doing his damage when the Knicks were well down.
Discounting the Knicks’ travails, the NBA season has gotten off to a dark and stormy start — the rift between China and the league setting the bleak tone.
Then Zion Williamson had knee surgery, Stephen Curry broke his hand and Durant definitively said he won’t play this season in Brooklyn.
The Warriors had gone from dynasty machine to a league-worst tank machine and the Spurs’ 22-year playoff dynasty is still in peril despite a pre-Thanksgiving feast on Broadway on Saturday.
Considering all that, the Knicks had not risen too high on the NBA’s trainwreck list.
It’s still early.
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