Mavs sink lethargic Knicks to 3rd straight loss

Luka Doncic got loose in the final quarter to power the Dallas Mavericks to an ugly 99-86 rout of the slumping New York Knicks Friday night at The Garden.

The Mavericks overcame the absence of their head coach Rick Carlisle, who tested positive for COVID-19 before the game.

Jamahl Mosley, who interviewed for the Knicks coaching job in the offseason, guided the Mavericks to their 26th win in 47 games for a firm grip of the seventh spot in West.

The loss dropped the Knicks one game under .500 (24-25), tied with the Boston Celtics for the seventh and eighth spots in the East.

Doncic delivered 13 of his 26 points in the final 9:36 while ex-Knick Kristaps Porzingis punctuated the road win with an alley-oop slam.

Doncic shot 6-for-11 in the decisive fourth quarter, converting one more field goal than the whole Knicks combined.

“It was a hard-fought game up to that point,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said.

It was a struggle offensively for the Knicks, who shot 5-for-19 in the final frame as they only coughed up 17 points.

Despite their shooting struggles all game long, the Knicks only trailed by three, 78-75, early in the fourth.

Then Jalen Brunson, son of ex-Knick Rick Brunson and a former Tom Thibodeau assistant, caught fire. He combined with Doncic in a back-breaking 12-0 run to pull away for good.

Brunson finished with 15 points. Former Knicks Porzingis and Tim Hardaway, Jr. added 14 apiece.

Porzingis, who got booed lustily by a sparse Garden crowd, overcame a 2-for-11 shooting in the first half. The 2015 Knicks’ fourth overall pick made four of his six shots in the second half.

On the other hand, the Knicks’ current top three players—Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and rookie Immanuel Quickley—were a combined 10-for-40 from the field. The entire team shot 36 percent overall.

Alec Burks paced New York with 20 points off the bench. Randle ended up with 14 points, eight rebounds, and 11 assists, but he was only 5-for-20 from the field. He also committed a team-worst five turnovers.

The Knicks looked banged up, lacking the bounce and energy in their game.

“We’re at the stage of the season where players start to feel something. We have to manage that, play better. Right now, we’re in a bit of a funk,” Thibodeau said. “We have to fight our way to get out of it.”

With their offense stagnant, the Mavericks pounced on the opportunity, punishing the Knicks inside the paint.

Dallas scored the bulk of their points around the rim, outscoring New York, 50-30 in the paint.

“We have to play with energy and share the ball,” Thibodeau lamented.

New York only had 18 assists, 11 of them coming from Randle. Derrick Rose was the only other Knick who issued more than one with four assists.

Obi Toppin was the only bright spot for the Knicks. The lottery pick finally hit his strides offensively, scoring all of his nine points in a fun stretch in the second quarter. Toppin’s explosion highlighted by a nasty putback slam over Porzingis had the Knicks jumping to a 13-point lead. But it was short-lived.

The Mavericks closed out the first half with an 18-2 run to go up by three at the break, 49-46.

It was all downhill from there.

The Knicks have barely 24 hours to recover and dig deep in their reservoir for energy as they travel to Detroit for the second game of a back-to-back schedule.

Perhaps they can find some energy from Norvel Pelle, the shot-blocking big man they recently signed to a 10-day contract in the wake of Mitchell Robinson’s foot injury.

The Pistons will also welcome back their lottery pick Killian Hayes, who hasn’t played since January with a hip injury.

New York has beaten Detroit twice this season. But with the way the Knicks are playing lately, a third straight win isn’t a guarantee.

It will get more challenging for the Knicks after the Pistons with the surging Brooklyn Nets and the Celtics on their plate next week.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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