Knicks resume MLK Day tradition by hosting Thunder
The New York Knicks suffered a familiar result in unusually agonizing fashion and in a different locale Thursday. Perhaps a return home to a nearly annual tradition will help the Knicks snap out of their slump Monday afternoon, when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Knicks have been off since Thursday, when Allonzo Trier was whistled for goaltending with four-tenths of a second left to give the Washington Wizards the winning basket in a 101-100 decision in London. The Thunder last played Saturday, when Paul George converted the game-winning four-point play with five seconds left in a 117-115 victory over the host Philadelphia 76ers.
The loss to the Wizards was the fifth straight, the 13th in 14 tries and the 18th in 20 games for the Knicks, who are in a race with the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns for the worst record in the NBA and the best chance to win the lottery and the opportunity to select Duke freshman Zion Williamson in the June draft.
Of course, the Knicks can't say that, and so head coach David Fizdale continued to toe the company line following Thursday's defeat.
"As much as we try to win games, and winning is a priority every night, we still have to keep in mind our player development," Fizdale said. "And we're still getting all our young talent out there to get reps."
The focus is much more urgent and short-term for the Thunder, which leads a gaggle of eight teams vying for the final six playoff spots in the Western Conference. Oklahoma City will enter Monday third in the West but just 3 1/2 games ahead of the 10th-place Sacramento Kings.
As a result, Thunder players and coaches were aware the win Saturday - just the team's second in the last seven games - could have ramifications months down the road, especially given how Oklahoma City earned the victory. The 76ers took the lead with six seconds left on a layup by Jimmy Butler and had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, when Butler missed a contested 3-pointer.
"We found a way to regroup after Butler scored (in) transition on that layup and found a way to make a play and get up by two," Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said afterward. "I thought a big play in the game, personally, was when Butler came off, we didn't jump, because he shot fake twice and you get vulnerable fouling him and he's behind the three-point line. So I think for us it was good we didn't foul him, we made him shoot the ball."
The Knicks will resume a tradition when they take the court on Martin Luther King Jr. Day afternoon. Last year marked the first time since 1987 they didn't host a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. New York was on the road because Madison Square Garden was being prepared for the Grammy Awards.
The Knicks are 19-12 all-time at home on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 20, 2019