Kings Discover Defense to End New York’s Three-Game Winning Streak

If you have been a fan of the New York Knicks for a long period of time you should have seen it coming. A three-game winning streak. An impressive win at Golden State 24 hours earlier. An opponent that ranks dead last in the league defensively. That exciting feeling that the franchise is finally on the right track. Then, like a balloon that someone stuck a pin in at a children’s birthday party, all of the wind is gone out of that excitement in a split second.

Sacramento overcame a fourth quarter offensive dry spell, and suddenly discovered that there are two ends of the court to play on as they took down the Knicks 113-104 Friday night at the Golden 1 Center. The win snapped a four-game losing skid for the Kings. New York (8-9) entered the game winners of three straight.

The Kings (6-10) connected on just three field goals over the final six minutes, but made 7-of-8 foul shots down the stretch to compensate for their offensive futility. Sacramento set a season high with 14 blocked shots and held a 15-0 advantage in fast-break points.

The Knicks trailed by 10 early, but a 13-2 run propelled them to a 26-25 advantage after a quarter. New York extended it to a 16-2 spurt to open the second. The Knicks opened up a seven point lead, but could not pull away as Sacramento play surprisingly stellar defense. Tom Thibodeau’s team took a 54-49 edge to the half.

The Knicks came into the game with the best defense in the NBA and performed respectably in that aspect of the game. However, they shot just 38.3 % from the field. New York was an abysmal 5-for-22 from three-point range.

“This was a weird, weird game for us,” forward Julius Randle said. “We started off slow, worked our way out of it and was up at the half. The third and fourth quarter was a little bit of a funk. I don’t even know what happened. The ball stuck a little bit.”

The Sacramento defense limited the Knicks to a measly 18 third quarter points. The Kings led 76-72 heading to the final stanza. In the fourth, Luke Walton’s squad fashioned a 10-point lead, but New York was able to slice it to 89-87. The Kings outscored the Knicks 14-7 over the final minutes to hold on for the win.

“Obviously we didn’t finish well,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I did like the fight in the fourth quarter to come back, but we didn’t close it out. It’s hard to win on the road if you’re not doing all the little things. The games keep coming. We have to improve.”

De’Aaron Fox scored 22 points and seven assists for Sacramento. Harrison Barnes added 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Richaun Holmes had 10 points, 14 rebounds and matched his career high of six blocks.

Rookie Tyrese Haliburton, who the Knicks passed on in the NBA draft when they selected Obi Toppin, finished with 16 points. Ironically, Haliburton nailed a dagger 3-pointer and came up with a key steal late in the game to help clinch the King’s victory. The rookie from Iowa State wouldn’t admit that he was motivated by the Knicks passing on him with the eighth pick as he slipped to the Kings at twelve.

“I guess it fueled me personally,” Haliburton said. “My job is to make them think about that when they go to sleep. So I’m just going to go out there and be the best player I can be. I’m not that big on motivation.”

Julius Randle had a double-double with 26 points and 15 rebounds for the Knicks. RJ Barrett had another solid contest with 21 points and seven rebounds.

New York is now 1-1 on their four game road trip. The Knicks will play at Portland on Sunday night.

 (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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