Ninety minutes before game time, Knicks coach David Fizdale gave a passionate take on his task this season, reiterating what he has made clear from the day he arrived, that this is a developmental season for the Knicks.
And the centerpiece of that is the team’s lottery pick, Kevin Knox. But in the first quarter at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, Knox went racing downcourt on a fast break, measuring up the Celtics’ Terry Rozier as the defender ran alongside him. As Knox tried to plant to rise up, drawing a foul, his left ankle turned and his foot twisted as he crumpled to the floor.
The eventual 103-101 loss to the Boston Celtics, which dropped the Knicks to 1-2, seemed far less important than the status of their prize rookie.
In the worst nightmare for the Knicks right now, Knox grabbed his leg in pain and had to be helped off the floor by teammates and then carried to the locker room on the shoulders of Luke Kornet and a member of the team’s training staff. Unable to remain on the floor to shoot the free throws, he was disqualified from the game, which seemed like the least of the problem. The immediate diagnosis was an ankle sprain, with the Knicks reporting that X-rays were negative. But Knox was gone from the arena before the locker room opened and the Knicks had no word on whether he will undergo further testing or be able to accompany the team on the road Sunday.
“I had a real bad feeling in my gut when he went down,” Fizdale said. “Where my angle was at, I could see the thing basically hit the floor, roll to the floor. I knew right away when he stayed down that it was a good one. I feel for the kid. Obviously, he’s had his fair share of adversity already. That was what I joked with him about. I said, ‘Welcome to the NBA.’ You play like crap, you play great and then you get hurt. That’s the roller coaster of our league. And so this is good for him. He’s going to learn from this. He’s going to grow from this and come back stronger and better.”
“Next man up. That’s all I’ve got to say,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “It [stinks] that Kevin went down like that. Prayers to him. I’m definitely going to make sure that he’s all right, see how he’s doing.
“It’s next man up. There’s no excuses. Everybody worked hard to get to this point. You’re here for a reason.”
Hardaway kept the Knicks in the game, scoring 24 points, and Allonzo Trier picked up some of the slack, contributing 15 points off the bench.
The Knicks had trailed by 16, but Hardaway hit back-to-back three-point field goals in the fourth quarter, with the second one tying the score at 89.
Kyrie Irving hit two free throws, and after a basket by Al Horford, Irving drove through the Knicks’ defense for a three-point play with 2:51 remaining to give the Celtics a 96-89 lead.
The Knicks’ Lance Thomas made it a one-point game with a three-point field goal and the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum missed a dunk, but he recovered the rebound and hit a tough jumper with 21.1 seconds remaining for a 101-98 Boston lead.
Out of a timeout, Trey Burke penetrated to cut the Knicks’ deficit to one with 10.1 seconds left. The Knicks sent Tatum to the line with 7.9 seconds left, he hit both and the Knicks called timeout again.
When Burke’s inbounds pass was deflected into the backcourt, he recovered the ball, fired up a 35-footer with 1.9 seconds left and was fouled by Tatum. He missed the first free throw and, after converting the second, intentionally missed the last shot, and the Celtics escaped with the rebound and the win.