The Knicks opened the New Year at home, but it seemed the Manu Ginobili fans outnumbered their supporters.
Throughout the game inside Madison Square Garden, fans were singing, “Ma-Nu. Ma-Nu. Ma-Nu,” to the tune of “Ole, Ole Ole.” The Argentine forward gave his fans far more to cheer about than the Knicks gave their fans.
The Knicks’ offense sputtered and the Spurs made Kristaps Porzingis look like an average player in a 100-91 loss Tuesday night.
It was the second time in six nights the Knicks have fallen to the Spurs. But they felt good about how hard they fought in San Antonio. They had no reason to feel good Wednesday night.
“They just played harder than us,” Enes Kanter said. “We’re younger than them but they just played harder than us. They played with more energy.”
The Spurs (26-12) played with more energy, they played smarter and they held the Knicks down from early in second quarter until the end.
The Knicks (18-19) scored 34 points in the first 14:14 and led by nine. The Knicks totaled 57 the rest of the way. They had a 20-point second quarter, an 18-point third.
“We got stagnant,” Jeff Hornacek said.
Porzingis never got going. But the way the Spurs play him, with LaMarcus Aldridge or Pau Gasol fronting him while another defender is putting pressure on the ballhandler contributed to Porzingis’ performance.
He shot 5-for-19 and scored just 13 points in the Knicks’ fifth loss in six games. Porzingis was 0-for-2 during a scoreless fourth quarter.
“It takes a lot of energy when you fight for position and you don’t get the ball,” Porzingis said. “It was a tough one.
“If I hit two, three more of those shots early on then the game could have been pretty different. At the end, it was just an off-night for me offensively. There’s nothing I can do right now but look forward to the next game.”
The Knicks have been a good home team, but this was their second straight loss at the Garden. Now they set off on a three-game trip beginning Wednesday in Washington. The Knicks are only 3-12 on the road.
Michael Beasley led the Knicks with 18 points. Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas each scored 13.
Aldridge outplayed Porzingis for the second time in six days, and led all scorers with 29 points. Kawhi Leonard, who missed last week’s game due to “return from injury management,” added 25. Ginobili scored 12, including a strange bucket in the final seconds of the third quarter.
Ginobili, standing behind the three-point line, threw a lob pass intended for Aldridge. But it swished through the net and gave the Spurs a 14-point lead heading to the fourth. His fans loved that and sang some more.
“Maybe they came from Argentina,” Porzingis said.
The Spurs didn’t shoot the ball well (31-for-82, 37.8 percent) but they made shots when they needed to, and more importantly they got stops.
The Knicks were 1-for-7 with four turnovers during a 17-3 Spurs’ run in the second quarter. The Spurs went on a 20-4 surge in the third after the Knicks took a two-point lead. The Knicks shot 0-for-9 during that 5:36 stretch.
Then in the fourth, the Knicks were scoreless during a 4:01 stretch. They had cut a 16-point deficit to 90-83 with 5:43 remaining — and with Porzingis on the bench. The Knicks’ next points — on free throws — came with 1:40 to go when they were down 96-83. Overall, they went 5:03 without a field goal in the fourth.
“Teams are starting to figure out more of what we’re doing, what plays we’re running,” Porzingis said. “That’s why we need to execute them even better and maybe we need to find some different options and so on, maybe mix it up a little bit.
“In a game like this there’s so many things you can look at and get better at. That’s because we’re playing against a good team. They force a lot of things that you don’t want to do.”