Knicks can’t let Dallas disaster slow their season

There’s nothing to be gained by sugar-coating what happened Tuesday night in Dallas, so we won’t even try. That…that was a brutal loss. An epic defeat. The Knicks played their best basketball of the year — full of heart, full of fighting, full of energy — for 47½ minutes at American Airlines Center. They dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s in their most exhilarating victory of the year.

And then. Well …

As ESPN tweeted shortly after Mavericks 126, Knicks 121 (OT): NBA teams were 0-13,884 when trailing at least nine points by 35 seconds or less remaining. With 33.9 seconds left, Deuce McBride made two free throws to put the Knicks up 112-103.

About twenty minutes later, that number was 1 to 13,884.

“We have to win this,” said Immanuel Quickley.

So yes: there is nothing good about what happened in Big D, even if you want to credit Luka Doncic and his masterpiece of 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists, a performance for the ages that should have been a loss- cause footnote, just like RJ Barrett’s 44-point effort was wasted last Friday night against the Bulls at the Garden.

Yes. Until about 11 p.m. Tuesday night, that loss to the Bulls four nights earlier was the most heartbreaking loss of the season. It was a great 96-hour run for that one, a gruesome 118-117 loss in which the Knicks fired free throws as the ninth-runner up in a St. Vincent DePaul contest.

The Knicks followed an eight-game winning streak with a four-game losing streak. In the space of seven days, they’ve let go of much of the good feeling built up over that winning streak and are back at 18-17, with a chance Thursday night in San Antonio to pull back at .500 and strengthen further. the consensus view that this team is a 41-41 record waiting to happen. A quintessential NBA treadmill team.

Miles McBride dribbles the ball downfield for the Knicks.

But if you can weave your way through the cobwebs of misery that have engulfed this team for the past four games, it’s possible to hear the whisper of something better, something real, so long as that they can avoid falling headfirst into the vortex.

Nothing is easy for the Knicks right now. RJ Barrett is out for a week with a finger injury. Jalen Brunson is day-to-day, but he’s already walking around like a one-man yard unit. The NBA is ruthless. Just as the Knicks feasted on shorthanded teams – remember the glorious 38 points stomping on the Steph-less Warriors just eight days ago? – they are jostling and brawling now. No one is safe from this.

But if there’s one encouraging sign, it’s this: Forced to step up and take on a heavier burden than ever before, the Knicks’ young troika of Quickley, McBride and Quentin Grimes have mostly been terrific .

Quickley replaced Grimes last week against Toronto and drained six 3s; he replaced Brunson at Dallas and had 11 assists in the first half (he had 15 for the game). Grimes became an essential Knick; he had 33 against the Mavs and in his last 10 games he is averaging 15.3 points and shooting .490/.438/.750. And McBride sank five of six free throws in the stretch, doing his part to help stave off disaster on Tuesday.

Luka Doncic scored 60 points against the Knicks on Tuesday night.

(Also: Julius Randle, forced by circumstances to be the undisputed alpha dog right now, played mostly brilliantly before being clearly gassed in overtime)

“I’m proud of the guys.” Grimes said in the loser’s locker room postgame clash on Tuesday night. “Proud of me, Deuce, Julius, the way we handled it, [Quickley]a lot of young guys go out there and fight as much as they can.

The Knicks will need more. There is no choice. There’s no pause button in the NBA, and if things aren’t always perfect, that’s part of the cost of membership. The Knicks have two winnable games ahead of them on this trip — at Spurs 11-23, Rockets 10-24 — and even in a reduced state, it’s vital they face that crucible like they did on Tuesday. They can’t let a four-game skid become six, or 10, or 12, which is so easy to do once the NBA grind takes effect.

The seasons are thus reduced to dust. The Knicks’ season doesn’t have to go that way. In the crisis, they received reinforcements; now those hopeful optimisms must translate into the scorecard. He can get away from you quickly.

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