The Knicks fought hard and had their moments, but the San Antonio Spurs capitalized on New York's mistakes en route to a solid road victory on the new navy paint of Madison Square Garden. Led by Kawhi Leonard and 73 total points from their starting lineup, San Antonio stepped up after a slow start to control much of the game, winning their third straight.
The New York Knicks led by three points after the first quarter, but the game really picked up in the second. The Knicks started turning the ball over, and after a good defensive first quarter, the Spurs were suddenly banking in layup after layup, largely thanks to the shredding and smooth passing of Tim Duncan. Kawhi Leonard started to pick it up too, dominating on both ends of the floor and snatching a Carmelo Anthony lay up away only to hit a three on the Spurs' insuing possession.
But the second quarter wasn't all bad for the 'Bockers, as Kristaps Porzingis showed off his 7'6'' wingspan with two blocks in the last two minutes of the frame, while also feeding the Madison Square Garden crowd some energy by tipping loose balls out to Robin Lopez for rebounds.
New York struggled offensively throughout the night, scoring only 35 points in the first half. New York was down by 12 at halftime, and Melo was just 2 for 9 from the field, while Duncan seemed to be closing in on a triple-double with nine points, six rebounds, five assists, and a plus-15 plus-minus.
Melo only hit two more field goals in the second half, and finished going 4 of 17 from the field and 10 of 12 from the free-throw line. Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge led the game in scoring with 19 points apiece, but San Antonio had three others in double figures: Duncan, Leonard, and Tony Parker, who played his best game of the season so far.
In the second half, both teams picked up the pace, and at times, the Knicks appeared to be closing in on the road team. Porzingis brought the energy early on, with a thunderous putback jam over Aldridge. Another Knick rookie, Jerian Grant, also stamped his name onto the game in the third, bringing life to the Garden with steals and a nice scoop layup around Aldridge in transition. After the third, New York was suddenly down by five.
In the final 12 minutes, the Spurs showed why, well, they're the Spurs, hitting big shots to steadily extend their lead. With his team up 77-73, Manu Ginobili jabbed his foot on the hardwood to get himself free to knock down a big three pointer to put the Spurs up seven.
Manu only had seven points in 17 minutes tonight, though. With 6:38 remaining in the game, Boris Diaw hit a big three to put San Antonio up eight, and 90 seconds later, Parker hit a huge 20-footer over the stretching Porzingis to put his team up 12. In the final five minutes, the Knicks couldn't stop coughing up the rock, and their opponent's perimeter defense was stellar. New York was putting up low percentage mid-range jumpers, but with a couple minutes remaining, the big Knick fourth quarter story happened.
Scrambling for a putback, Kristaps Porzingis fell to the floor, as Carmelo Anthony picked up the loose ball under the basket. But as Melo leaped backwards to try and put the ball in the basket, he tripped over KP, hitting his foot on his head. Porzingis was on the ground on the Spurs' fast break, and NY called a timeout to get him off the floor. On replay, it appeared to be a neck injury, but the Latvian rookie was able to walk off the court and back into the locker room.
The Knicks fall to 2-2 after the loss, but many players showed promise tonight, as the fall to San Antonio certainly flashed positives. Porzingis was smart, took good shots, and snatched 14 rebounds. Grant showed his energy capabilities and ability to trample into the paint. Langston Galloway chipped in some solid minutes, but made too many mental mistakes down the stretch. Even Lance Thomas flashed his new and improved jumper. 2015-2016 Knicks are, so far, much cleaner and more entertaining than last year's edition, but while they had high points in this game, they certainly have work left to do.
Up next, New York heads to Cleveland to face LeBron James and the Cavs on ESPN on Wednesday night, while the Spurs finish their east coast trip with a Wednesday matchup in Washington against the Wizards.