Not every game has to be a nail-biter.
Knicks fans ought to get a blowout. They ought to have a chance to enjoy watching their team romp over a pretty bad team like Sacramento. They should be able to leave the television for a few minutes to tuck their kids in bed without returning to a potential disaster.
That day may come, but for now, Knicks fans will have to be content with the fact that their team pulled it together last night in time to defeat the Kings, 106-98, and avert what would have been a colossal collapse.
After the Kings scored 18 straight points in the third quarter to turn what once was a 21-point deficit into a one-point game, the Knicks (11-9) pulled it together and won their third straight.
They did it by clamping down on defense and holding Sacramento to four points in the final five minutes, and they did it by getting Carmelo Anthony the ball at the right time. He hit two clutch baskets down the stretch, including a three-pointer with 3:24 left that seemed to knock the fight out of Sacramento.
Jeff Hornacek opened his postgame news conference by declaring it was an ugly game.
“It would be nice to make it easy some nights,” he said. “Maybe the other team is having an off night and you can relax. But a win is a win. When your team is battling, you take it any way you can get it.”
The Knicks have won eight of 11, giving them the best record in the Eastern Conference in that stretch, and moved two games over .500 for the first time this season.
They finally found a way to stop DeMarcus Cousins in the fourth quarter. Cousins, who played the entire second half, had 36 points and 12 rebounds but shot 2-for-10 in the fourth quarter, did not score in the final 6:31 and finished 9-for-30.
Anthony scored 20 points and shot 8-for-20. Derrick Rose had 20 points, six rebounds and six assists and Brandon Jennings came off the bench to score 19. Kristaps Porzingis scored 15 points despite going 1-for-10 in the first half and added 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Porzingis drew a lot of defensive duty on Cousins as did Joakim Noah, who was back in the starting lineup for the Knicks after missing four of the previous eight games because of ankle issues and illness. Noah’s statistics continued to be dreadful — he had five rebounds, scored two points and was 0-for-4 from the free-throw line — but he did a decent job of getting inside of Cousins’ head.
“Defense is the one thing you can do even when the game is not going your way or you’re not in rhythm,” Porzingis said. “You can always work hard defensively, help your teammates and block shots.”
Cousins missed his last four shots and got into a shoving match with Noah underneath the basket that resulted in a double technical with 7:54 left. “Of course I was tired,” he said. “I played the whole second half . . . I tried to keep aggressive and keep pushing.”
Rose hit eight of his first 10 shots for the Knicks, who took a 48-27 lead in the second quarter. They led 72-53 midway through the third before the Kings scored 18 straight points to move within one.
The Kings, a team that is mainly Cousins surrounded by role players, knew they were going to have a tough time with Rose.
“He looks good,” coach Dave Joerger said before the game. “I like his body. I think he’s carrying a little less weight, not that he’s ever heavy. As you get older, if you can, if you can get leaner, it’s easier on your joints . . . It looks like he’s got that step again. I think it’s an exciting time with him.”