Without them the Knicks didn’t have enough firepower in the 4th quarter as the Lakers swarmed Jalen Brunson with double and triple teams and Knick teammates didn’t knock down shots, as the Lakers came from behind to beat the Knicks 113-105 on a Saturday night at a packed Madison Square Garden. A nationally televised game on ABC.
Anthony Davis killed the Knicks inside on the defensive end — blocking multiple point-blank shots at the rim by Precious Achiuwa, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Josh Hart, and causing Hartenstein to rush and miss several times inside.
Brunson scored 36 points on 15-31 shooting and Donte DiVincenzo added 26 on 10-22 shooting but the Knicks lacked a 2nd threat inside that Randle would have posed, or another sharpshooter outside that Anunoby would have posed. Josh Hart was forced into playing a major offensive role, and shot 5-16 for 12 pts.
Hartenstein did a good job defensively on Anthony Davis, limiting him to 12 pts on 4-12 shooting, and Precious Achiuwa — and at times Josh Hart — did a good job defending LeBron James, who had a good-not-dominating 24 pts on 10-19 shooting.
But LA secondary players killed the Knicks by making key shots all night — most notably Taurean Prince who was 6-10 (3-6 from 3) for 16 pts, Max Christie who was 2-2 (both from 3) for 6 pts, and Austin Reaves had 22 pts on 6-13.
“They were sending 2 defenders in the action that was happening,” said Jalen Brunson afterwards. “I was either trying to get around it or just hit the roll man to make a play; be locating; find a way to still be impactful. I think we made good plays throughout the game just not enough.
NY had its 9-game winning streak broken, and falls to 32-18. Milwaukee won to cement their 2nd-place in the East standing, and so recently-hired Doc Rivers will coach the All Star game for the East, as Boston’s Joe Mazzulla coached it last year. Cleveland also won so leap-frogs NY into 3rd place in the East.
LA — which won the in-season tournament but had been playing poorly, gets its 2nd straight win, having beaten Boston in Boston 2 days ago. The Lakers improve to 26-25.
1. Close After 1 Quarter; Tied at the Half
The Lakers were without Jared Vanderbuilt, their best defensive player, which ABC announcer Doris Burke kept reminding us, nary mentioning Randle or Anunoby. Or for that matter Mitchell Robinson.
The game was close throughout the 1st and 2nd quarters — LA led 27-25 at the end of 1 quarter, and the game was tied at the half.
Both teams were playing good defense, and missing most of their 3’s.
Donte DiVincenzo rebounded off the poor shooting game he had previously, and was hitting his 3 and giving the Knicks a second go-to guy on offense behind Brunson.
Hartenstein was giving Anthony Davis all he could handle defensively inside — not allowing Davis to break out for a big scoring night. But Hartenstein was picking up fouls and it was starting to get worrying.
2. Knicks Take Control in the 3rd
The Knicks tried to enforce their will on the game out of the halftime — and took a 71-64 lead midway through the 3rd on a couple of DiVincenzo 3’s and a drive.
Donte hits his fifth 3️⃣ pic.twitter.com/xEWVYvjpmD
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) February 4, 2024
LA clawed back to within a point.
The Knicks would have had a bigger lead if not for Anthony Davis, who formed an Aegis wall of defense inside. Davis blocked a Precious Achiuwa shot at the rim early in the period — and then blocked a point-blank Josh Hart shot with 3:42 left that would’ve given NY a 5-pt lead — Brunson got the rebound and drove but Davis blocked that too.
⏯️ Blocked by AD (2x) pic.twitter.com/hAZUWo62Go
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 4, 2024
But another Knick flurry late in the 3rd highlighted by a Precious Achiuwa score inside off a DiVincenzo dish, and a Jalen Brunson pullup 3 gave NY an 86-78 lead with a minute left in the period.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) February 4, 2024
It was looking good for NY.
3. LA Scores First 9 Points of 4th Quarter
NY entered the 4th up 86-80. They were 26-1 this season when leading entering the 4th. Much of that with Randle playing.
ABC jinxed the Knicks by interviewing Coach Thibodeau at the start of the 4th and as they were running the interview on screen with Thibs expounding on what the Knicks needed to do to win the game — LA kept scoring buckets and the Knicks kept missing.
LA scored the first 9 points of the 4th — a LeBron James drive, Prince 3, and James 10-footer from the left baseline — to take an 89-86 lead and momentum.
Hart hit a 3 to tie it and the dogfight was on.
4. Lakers Take It Down Stretch
The game seesawed for 5 minutes — each team throwing punches like a middleweight fight:
- Brunson drove to draw a foul, and made free throws to put the Knicks up, 91-89.
- Reaves hit a 3 to put LA up, 92-91.
- Brunson hit a 12-footer to put NY up, 93-92.
- Reaves hit a pullup to put LA up, 94-93.
- DiVincenzo hit a 3 to put NY up 96-94.
- Prince hit a drive-and-1 to put LA up, 97-96.
- Hart missed a pullup and Prince hit a 3 and LA was up 100-96 with 6 minutes left.
The score remained 100-96 LA for almost 3 full minutes:
- LA HOUNDED Brunson on defense, forcing him into a rare turnover inside as Anthony Davis muffled him and stole the ball.
- Then Josh Hart missed a 3 — and Brunson next time down was hounded again and threw a bad pass out of bounds.
- The Knicks were defending well and hustling for the ball — getting rebounds on the offensive and defensive end — but couldn’t cash in. DiVincenzo missed a 3.
- Brunson came down and was hounded by LeBron James — took a 12-footer and just missed.
- Hart forced LeBron into a bad shot, missing, but Brunson down the other end was suffocated on a drive inside and Reaves stole the ball.
Finally, Reaves hit a big 3 and LA was up 103-96 with 3 minutes left.
Still the Knicks kept missing — Hartenstein missed a layup inside hounded by Anthony Davis, and Precious missed a 3 next time down. LeBron James hit a dagger to put LA up 105-96 with 1:54 left and ballgame.