The New York Knicks are off to a 2-4 start to begin the second half of a much stronger schedule. Previously, an article was published illustrating the difficulties the second half of the season could bring to the Knicks. 

About a week ago, an article was published explaining how the Knicks failed yet passed a litmus test. 

It’s more of the same. 

On Tuesday, with center Mitchell Robinson and guard Derrick Rose on the injury report, the Knicks faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers in South Philly. The Knicks gave the Eastern Conference leaders a headache. After three quarters, the Knicks led the Sixers, 82-73. But the Joel Embiid-less Sixers proved why they are the creme of the crop in the East.

They upped the intensity and held the Knicks to only 14 points in the final frame and stole one away from the Knicks as they failed to handle the pressure. Knicks forward RJ Barrett had a great look from a fall away jumper after Julius Randle put him in a tough position after dribbling most of the shot clock down. Barrett left the jump shot short and Randle was unable to secure a putback. That was the last real shot for the Knicks that night. The Sixers defeated the Knicks, 99-96.

They then hosted the Orlando Magic at the World’s Most Famous Arena. In a game where the Knicks didn’t have the aforementioned Robinson and Rose, the Knicks didn’t have surprising rookie guard Immanuel Quickley due to an ankle ailment. Julius Randle did everything he could to will the Knicks to a win, dishing out a career-high 17 assists on his way to a triple-double. Randle’s assist total on Thursday is the most by a Knicks starting forward/center since starters were tracked in 1970-71. Bernard King’s 13 assists on March 9, 1985 against Philadelphia was the precedent. The assists were a huge part of Randle’s third triple-double of the season. He is the first Knick since Michael Ray Richardson to have at least three triple-doubles in a season in 1981-82. 

But yet again, the Knicks were outscored in the fourth quarter. Out of everyone, it was Evan Fournier who was willing the Magic on the comeback. The Magic outscored the Knicks, 27-22 in the final frame, but it was the battered Knicks who were able to escape with a win, 94-93.

On Sunday, the Knicks faced off against the Sixers again, who were still the number one seed in the East. In a game where they got Mitchell Robinson back from his hand surgery, the Knicks got off to a slow start at home, scoring just 15 first quarter points. The Knicks were able to up the intensity on defense, which led to buckets on the other side of the court. By the half, the Knicks narrowed the gap to one at 43-42. The back-and-forth continued into the second half. The Knicks outscored the Sixers, 22-21 in the third quarter, while they tied in the final stanza, 24-24. 

This led to overtime.

Quick sidenote: at some point in the third quarter, Mike Breen and Walt Frazier noticed on the MSG Network broadcast that the game was being officiated by two men. One of the officials was placed in health and safety protocols before the game and the game had been officiated with two men the entire time and not many had noticed (except for the production crew in the MSG truck). When they said this on the broadcast, I sent out the following tweet.

Guess what happened?

Yeah. A foul that doesn’t get called 99 times out of 100 was called. The Knicks then proceeded to call a timeout for a review, but as Thibodeau drew up a play in the huddle, the officials stood still. It was until after the timeout was over that the Knicks realized the referees did not review the play.

For the second time in six days, the Knicks lost to the referees. 

After the game, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about it.

 

Sounds like a guy who doesn’t want to get fined by the NBA.

Afterwards, Randle was asked about it.

Sounds like a man who’ll be getting a $50,000 fine in the mail soon.

The officiating has been egregious all season and I hope NBA Commissioner Adam Silver does something about it, because the relationship between players and officials will continue to strain if this continues.

NBA stars are tired of this officiating. Donovan Mitchell and Julius Randle have been vocal about it. Good for them. If Silver won’t listen to the fans, maybe he’ll listen to the players.

But now time for some analysis.

In a season where it is acceptable for Knicks fans to feel a sense of happiness with moral victories, these moral victories must turn into victories on their record.

Sure, I feel good when the team I thought would have single-digit wins by this time is putting up battles against the top of the league in the Nets and Sixers, but they still end up with a loss on their record. Moral victories won’t get the Knicks into the playoffs.

Lastly, my “Elfrid Payton hampers this team” agenda is alive and well. The ball continues to touch multiple hands and the right shot is taken more times than not. Can’t quite say the same when Payton dribbles the shot clock down to 10 to start a drive, stop and shoot a free throw line extended jumper that if left hilariously short. I really do not miss that.

Barrett surely thrives when Payton isn’t clogging the court up. He has scored 53 points on 47% shooting from the field. Offensively, the Knicks are so much better with Payton off the floor.

IN OTHER NEWS: The Knicks are starting to get healthy again. Robinson made his return on Sunday, but rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter and did not return. As of Monday, he is listed as probable. Quickley has also been on the injury report over the last few days with an ankle ailment, but he has not missed a game. He too is listed as probable. Payton continues to nurse his hamstring ailment and is questionable. Guard Austin Rivers has been out due to personal reasons. His wife recently gave birth to a baby girl, Reign Rivers. He continues to be listed as out.

Rose has been removed from the health and safety protocols. After it was originally reported that Rose did not have COVID-19, it was reported on Monday that he in fact was infected and that his whole family, including his kids, were infected. There is no timetable for his return as Thibodeau said Rose will need to do some conditioning before returning to the court.

WHO GOT NEXT?: The Knicks have a pair of winnable games ahead of them. Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards, who are finding some momentum, will come to town for a quick two-game series. The two will do battle in Manhattan on Tuesday and Thursday. The Knicks will then get on a plane and head to Wisconsin for a fight against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.

BONUS WHO GOT NEXT: A Lativan may get heavily booed by 2,000 people two Fridays from now.

TW: @ERodriguez_TV

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