The rainy weather was fitting.
A dark cloud is hovering above Madison Square Garden these days — at least when the Knicks are in action.
The building has become a house of horrors for coach Tom Thibodeau’s team. Their 121-100 loss Saturday afternoon was just the latest example, an abject second-half no-show in which the previously struggling Mavericks treated the Garden like their own personal playground.
In getting off to an underwhelming start, the Mavericks clearly missed point guard Jalen Brunson, who signed with the Knicks this past offseason. Dallas coach Jason Kidd said as much Saturday morning.
One game against the Knicks, however, soothed what was ailing them.
After trailing by 15 points in the second quarter, the Mavericks morphed into the team that reached the Western Conference finals last year, ripping apart the Knicks over the final two-plus quarters to hand them their fourth straight loss at the Garden in ugly fashion.
“They just wanted it more. That’s just it,” said Brunson, offering a familiar refrain after recent poor performances.
The Knicks were outscored 41-15 in an embarrassing third quarter that seemingly refused to end. They have lost seven of the last eight at home, and are now three games under .500 at 10-13, their low-water mark of the season. At one point, the Mavericks (11-11) had 50 of a total 70 points scored in a stretch bridging the second and third quarters, and the large crowd let the home team hear their displeasure with thunderous boos.
Asked if they were ready to play after halftime, Julius Randle said he hoped so. Then, he added: “But it didn’t look like it.”
That third quarter was stunning, considering the Knicks led by 15 in the second quarter and entered halftime up by seven. But the game completely turned in the second half.
In that fateful third quarter, the Mavericks went on a 29-5 run that included seven 3-pointers, five from former Knick Tim Hardaway Jr. Twice, Thibodeau used timeouts to try to slow down Dallas as the Knicks floundered at both ends of the floor. It didn’t work. By the end of the ugly frame, the Knicks trailed by 19 and boos were bouncing off the walls of the arena.
That third quarter included six Knicks turnovers, a scoring drought of 4:41 and 9-for-17 shooting on 3-pointers by the Mavericks.
“We were playing a really good game, and it flipped all of a sudden,” RJ Barrett said. “It was definitely frustrating.”
While much was made of Brunson facing his former team, Hardaway was the one who enjoyed seeing his old team the most, pouring in 28 points and hitting eight 3-pointers. After a quiet first half, Luka Doncic went off for 19 of his 30 in the final two stanzas, as Dallas sank 24 3-pointers on 61 attempts. He heard an “MVP” chant at one juncture from a vocal segment of Mavericks fans who had plenty to cheer about.
Randle followed up a 21-point first half with just three points after the break. Barrett and Brunson each finished with 13 points. Thibodeau mercifully emptied his bench early in the fourth quarter with the result well in hand and the Cavaliers coming to town on Sunday for the second game of a back-to-back.
Afterward, the Knicks coach harped on his team’s inability to control the offensive glass — the Mavericks turned 14 offensive rebounds into 24 second-chance points — and its carelessness with the ball that led to 19 turnovers.
“The thing that bothered me more than anything, when we turned it over — some of them are travels that they called tight, but we should have adjusted to that — the live-ball turnovers bothered me and then the second shots,” Thibodeau said. “Sometimes it was good initial defense and we gave up a second [chance]. You give a team like that a second and third crack at it, you’re going to pay and we did.”
Thibodeau declined to go the effort route, saying he wanted to watch the film before criticizing his players’ want-to. But his point guard didn’t need to wait. He didn’t see nearly enough desperation out of the Knicks.
“Like I said before, we’ve just got to want it more,” Brunson said. “Fifty-fifty balls, them getting offensive rebounds, second chance points, that’s what we can control.
“I mean it definitely is concerning. I think that’s something that can be fixed. Just our intensity, attention to detail, all that stuff — that’s something that can be fixed. That’s something we can control. We just have to control what we can control and just go out there and give it our all.”
- Knicks suffer ugly loss to Mavericks as MSG struggles continue
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