The Knicks began the game with the youngest lineup in the franchise’s history. By the time the game ended it was past their bedtime.
In theory it is nice to talk about a process and a youth movement. And then sometimes you have to watch. With injury and intention dictating, Knicks coach David Fizdale tossed out a new starting lineup and for much of the night the team played just the way you would expect — misfiring from all angles, turnovers and inexplicably inept play. And also, in small bursts, highlights.
But after a hard to watch learning curve for much of the night and thanks in no small part to the play of the opposition on this night, an equally inept Chicago Bulls squad, the Knicks found a way to push the game into overtime, a second overtime and to the final second of that extra session. But Emmanuel Mudiay fouled Zach LaVine with two-tenths of a second left and the Bulls guard hit a free throw for his 41st point and a 116-115 Bulls win at Madison Square Garden.
With Tim Hardaway Jr. active, but never removing his warmup suit, Fizdale inserted Allonzo Trier into the starting lineup alongside Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, Mitchell Robinson and Noah Vonleh. It was far from the best Knicks lineup, but it was the youngest one in team history according to Elias Sports, an average age of 22 years and 100 days.
That beat out the lineup from January 19, 2006 — 23 years and 73 days — that included David Lee, Eddy Curry, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson and Channing Frye. The Knicks might be content if the current youth came close to the careers of that quintet.
The highlights were outnumbered by the players stepping out of bounds and in extended viewing it was easy to see why these teams came in with a combined five wins. With 10 additional minutes of trading baskets, air balls and errors, it seemed appropriate that with a chance to tie they got a misfire from Trier and then had the ball stolen away, setting up the Bulls final chance.
Trier, inserted into the starting lineup for a night, finished with 21 points, but struggled much of the night. He came up with a game-tying three in the final minute of regulation, where he had another chance to win it. Trier tried again as the clock was running down in the first overtime, this time having a drive swatted out by Robin Lopez. Mudiay tried to lob an inbounds pass to Enes Kanter, who provided 23 points and 24 rebounds off the bench. But Justin Holiday swiped the pass, calling time with 2.8 seconds left.
“The first one I thought I had a really good look,” Trier said. “Probably if I took my time a little bit more I probably could have got fouled. But I raised up, I got a shot that I usually make. It didn’t go down. The second one was tough. I tried to turn the corner and they made a great defensive play, came over and stopped it. Unfortunate plays.”
If the repeated attempts from the Knicks seemed inept, the Bulls couldn’t get a shot off as the inbounds pass went to LaVine who stepped out of bounds. The Knicks best effort was a three-point heave from Kanter, which by that point seemed good as anything else and didn’t miss by much.
The Knicks had announced before the game that Hardaway was available, but he never came close to entering the game. Kevin Knox, who had sat out the last seven games after suffering a sprained left ankle, was also declared available after getting cleared by team doctors. He entered the game in the second quarter, played five minutes and never came back on the floor.
Before Trier finished a twisting drive to the rim with 5:17 remaining, three starters — Ntilikina, Trier and Robinson had been a combined 0-for-14 from the floor. But Trier’s bucket still closed the gap to 91-89 as the Bulls weren’t much better most of the night.
Trey Burke then tied the game at 93-93 with 4:14 left. Mario Hezonja misfired from three with a chance to give the Knicks the lead and LaVine (41 points) countered with back to back three-point field goals, sending the Knicks to a timeout with 2:55 to play, down 99-93. A pair of free throws from Trier and a follow from Dotson cut it to two again, but LaVine delivered again with a three-pointer, giving him 31 points on the night to push the lead back to five with 2:02 remaining.
Trier went to the line again for two free throws and after LaVine missed from three, Dotson found Trier open on the arc and the rookie drained the three-point field goal to tie the score at 102 with 48 seconds left.
“We’re going to keep chopping this tree,” Fizdale said. “We’re going to get over this hump. I see great character in this team and the way they bring it every single night no matter who’s on the court for us, no matter who’s healthy. These guys really compete and yes, that was one of the challenges I issued here coming in on a back to back, tough loss. You gotta leave it behind us. Can we come in here and take care of business tonight? I thought we brought a winning effort. We just didn’t get over the hump.”