Knicks snap 8-game skid with win in Los Angeles

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Say this: they still care.

For professional athletes, no matter how lost of a cause a season becomes, this should be a prerequisite. But as we know, here in New York especially, that isn’t always the case. But it is with this team.

The Knicks followed up a nice effort in Denver with a 119-112 win against a desperate Lakers team, albeit one without LeBron James, for a victory they themselves desperately needed. No one had a particularly great game from start to finish, but collectively, they did enough to get the job done.

The biggest factor was the start they got off to, as the Knicks raced out to a 24-8 lead. It sustained them through second and third quarter stretches in which they were badly outplayed, not for lack of effort, but mostly due to missed shots and the lack of a tenable post defender on the active roster. Emmanuel Mudiay had a brutal shooting night overall, but kept the team in the game in the third with his energy in transition. Timmy also had a quiet but necessary 22 points on 18 shots.

On the night, the Knicks shot just 37.4%. That sounds bad, but they did get to the line a season-high 41 times, hitting 34, and took 37 three-pointers. They missed a ton of makable looks around the rim, but if we’re valuing process over results, they had the shot profile of a modern NBA team. Progress, we see you.

Sure enough, the three most standout performances came from perhaps the three most maligned players on the roster this season: Enes Kanter, Mario Hezonja and Trey Burke. The trio combined for 42 points, and each came up huge at different points in the game. Although the ball movement stopped a bit when Burke came in early, he seemed to find his shot and looked like himself again. Hezonja came in with both Knox and Vonleh in foul trouble late and not only made a few big buckets but had some key defensive moments as well.

More than either of them though, this game was belonged to Kanter. He had a huge moment in the fourth where he jumped out of bounds to secure a loose ball, and followed that up with a big put back and later had a key block (!) down the stretch. His effort on defense was also up there with the best performances we’ve seen from him this season. Credit to him, of course, but credit also to David Fizdale for not losing one of his players who is clearly frustrated with his role.

After the game, Fiz talked about the team’s effort, how they shared the ball, and how they trusted each other down the stretch and closed the game defensively. He seemed like a coach who was not only pleased with his team, but one who feels they are exactly where they should be at this point in time.

Also of note: Damyean Dotson and Noah Vonleh each had four steals and were active on defense in their limited minutes. Kevin Knox’s shot once again abandoned him after some early makes, but he did get to the line four times and finished with 14 points in 37 minutes. His rookie season is the definition of trial by fire.

Two downers: Frank Ntilikina only played one minute after turning his ankle in the first quarter. X-rays were negative and he was diagnosed with a strain, so that’s not terrible. Alonzo Trier, however, was terrible once again. He played only nine minutes and still looks out of sorts following his return from a bum hip.

Sometimes you just need a win. Tonight, the Knicks got one. LeBron or no LeBron, it counts just the same.

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