They say there are no good losses. But losing in San Antonio by one point is the least bad loss there is in the NBA this season.
Let’s start with the final play. The Knicks finally got Tony Parker to miss a jumper, and had the ball with 15 seconds left. Langston Galloway grabbed the rebound and brought it across half-court, where Carmelo Anthony scurried to receive the ball.
Kawhi Leonard had locked Anthony in the Claw Dungeon all night, but Melo managed to have a decent offensive: 20 points on 15 shots, thanks to his 10 trips to the free-throw line. Leonard blanketed Anthony, but as Melo moved left, Manu Ginobili leaned just a bit away from Jose Calderon in the corner. Anthony made the pass, the shot went up, but not in. Spurs win.
I don’t think you can ask for a better shot to win the game than Calderon in the corner. He struggled tonight, just 2-9 with no three-pointers, but for the season, he’s hit 46% of corner threes. I’m glad Derek Fisher didn’t call a time out and given the best defense in the league a chance to get set. He did make some after-timeout magic on the previous possession, getting Kristaps Porzingis a free alley oop dunk to bring the Knicks to within one, but that came after a Spurs make.
Porzingis had a tremendous game, especially on offense. The Spurs’ bigs are stout but slow, and KP took advantage, pulling LaMarcus Aldridge, his primary matchup, away from the paint with three three-pointers and taking him off the dribble when Aldridge ventured too far out. Unfortunately, when Aldridge had the ball, he repeatedly overpowered the svelte rookie for post points. The pounding took a toll: Porzingis looked gassed by the middle of the fourth quarter. Still, we got a glimpse tonight of what the battle station will look like once it’s fully operational, and it’s monstrous.
The Knicks went blow for blow with a team that might be playing better than the Golden State Warriors right now. They benefitted somewhat from a poor shooting night on the Spurs’ part—San Antonio shot just 30% from three and they missed some bunny layups. Meanwhile, the Knicks were on fire from three, shooting 42%. Arron Afflalo looked horrible the whole game, but embodied the law of averages in the fourth quarter, hitting two clutch, flat three-pointers, the second of which brought the Knicks to within one.
The Spurs were not slumping on defense. When they’re locked in, they swallow up all 24 seconds, denying passes and bumping cutters until you look up and realize you’ve worked your entire life to provide for your children, but you’ve missed watching them grow up.
It’s a bit of a sour way to end a road trip, but the Knicks took two out of three games against playoff teams. Can’t be mad about that. The Bockers return home Sunday to face the Bucks for the fourth (!) and final time. Let’s bag some antlers for the team bus.