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Knicks take big step backward, losing to Kings at the Garden

RJ Barrett of the Knicks controls the ball

RJ Barrett of the Knicks controls the ball in the first half against the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

No one said it was going to be easy.

No one said that meshing a team of veterans on one-year contracts with a bunch of promising but untested young players was going to be a quick and clean process.

But no one said it was going to be as tough as the Knicks made it look Sunday night in their 113-92 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks fell behind by 20 points in the middle of the second quarter and trailed by 32 in the third quarter. The loss was particularly demoralizing considering that the Kings had been winless before Friday night, when they upset the Jazz.

“Just a crap game,” said coach David Fizdale, whose Knicks fell to 1-6. “We did nothing right. To keep in perspective, we played six crap quarters in the season. Three of them were tonight.”

The loss also was troubling because the Knicks had looked respectable Friday against the Celtics. Fizdale said he expected much more from his group of young players on Sunday.

“We weren’t connected tonight at all. At all,” he said. “Offensively and defensively, we weren’t tied together. And it was really disappointing right after a really great effort in Boston. I thought we would take a big step forward.”

The Kings (2-5) appear to be the team stepping forward.

Sacramento, led by talented young players De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, had been having trouble pulling it together under new coach Luke Walton. Entering Sunday night, the Kings had been outscored by an average of 14 points a game — the biggest margin of loss in the league.

Before the win over Utah, the Los Angeles Times ran a column asking: “Is Luke Walton a good coach?” It answered its own question with: “It’s hard to say.”

The Kings were good enough to dominate the Knicks on both ends of the floor. The Knicks had prided themselves on their defense in their first six games, but on Sunday, the effort seemed lacking, especially in the first half. The Kings shot 54.8 percent before halftime and made 8 of 18 three-pointers (44.4 percent).

In the second quarter, Sacramento ripped off 14 straight points and went ahead 43-23 on Bogdan Bogdanovic’s three with 7:34 left. After that, the game never was close.

Fox led the Kings with 24 points and six assists. Hield added 22 points and was 5-for-11 from three-point range. Every Kings starter finished in double figures.

Marcus Morris led the Knicks with 28 points and RJ Barrett had 22.

The Knicks started Frank Ntilikina, one of their best defensive players, for the second straight game and his first at home. The hope was that Ntilikina would help contain Fox, but the  Knicks didn’t have time to see what he could do against the player who was taken three spots ahead of him in the 2017 draft. Ntilikina picked up his second foul with 7:33 left in the first quarter, which limited his effectiveness.

Ntilikina and Bobby Portis, who started in place of Mitchell Robinson, each finished with two points.

Notes & quotes: Walton got some big-time celebrity support before Sunday night’s game. Bill Walton, his father, and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead showed up at Luke Walton’s pregame news conference wearing Sacramento Kings sweatshirts. Said Walton: “My dad’s been great my whole basketball career, whether when I was a player and now in coaching. He offers advice when I want it and knows when to leave me alone. He’s a great person to be able to talk to and communicate with about the game and what he sees. He also knows it’s my job and I’m doing it.”

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