SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs built a 17-point lead late in the third quarter at Madison Square Garden, but collapsed in the final 15 minutes and lost a game that could have sent them to the play-in 102-98.
San Antonio allowed the Knicks to close the game on a 44-23 run. After the game, coach Gregg Popovich said that All Star Julius Randle got away from them late and they gave up too many threes on a night when they shot just 6-21 from deep against the league's top defense.
Keldon Johnson said after the game that the Knicks stick to their game-plan, don't make defensive mistakes, and do a good job of shrinking the floor.
Though it was a disappointing game for San Antonio, they got good news a few minutes later when the Sacramento Kings lost, clinching a play-in tournament spot for the Silver & Black. Because of the circumstances, the mood was understandably mixed.
"Sucks losing, it's frustrating losing the way we lost. We wish we would've did it with a win. It's hard to rely on somebody else doing something for us, we've gotta do it for ourselves. Until we're able to gain that feeling and that confidence back, everybody's gonna be on edge, and can't wait to get out on the court."
RJ Barrett picked up where he left off in the third, hitting an open three. Alec Burks hit an open corner three, and San Antonio's 17-point lead evaporated in about five minutes.
Finally, Jakob Poeltl finished a finger roll at the rim to tie it at 79. Lonnie Walker IV crossed over, drove in strong, and scooped it in to put the Spurs in front. Barrett hit another corner three to take the lead back. Julius Randle hit a three after DeRozan free throws.
Jakob Poeltl came in, impacted a shot at the rim, got an offensive board on the other end, and Dejounte Murray finished. The Spurs just couldn't stop giving up corner threes, as Alec Burks hit another.
DeMar Drove in and finished through contact. San Antonio went to a zone look and finally got a stop, then DeRozan used a post spin and pump fake for an and-1 to tie it at 90.
Burks caught at the arc, pumped, drove in, and finished a tough layup through Poeltl for three the old fashioned way.
DeRozan took a herky jerky drive just inside the free throw line and drilled it. Burks hit another three, giving him a season-high 28 points, putting the Knicks up 4, and drawing a timeout from Pop with 2:47 to play.
Burks got another open corner three, but missed it. DeMar drove in transition for a physical layup with no call. New York missed again, but DeRozan couldn't tie it on an elbow jumper.
Barrett caught in the corner, but stepped on the sideline and turned it over. At least, that's what the refs said before reviewing the play and overturning it. Randle pulled up and hit a mid-range jumper to give the Knicks a 98-94 lead with under a minute to play.
With 10 seconds left Keldon drove in for a layup and-1 to make it a one-point game. San Antonio sent Alec Burks to the line, where he hit both to make it a three-point game.
New York fouled DeRozan up three with 5.7 seconds left. He hit the first and missed everything trying to miss the second, a violation.
New York won 102-98 after closing the game on a 44-23 run.
Dejunte Murray drove into the chest of Nerlens Noel for a layup, then Noel goaltended a layup by DeMar DeRozan. Keldon Johnson drilled a triple to give the Spurs a lead, then Murray drove in for another layup.
DeRozan ripped through and hit a shot and the foul, hit the technical free throw but missed the other. After a timeout Jakob Poeltl finished a roll to make it a 14-0 San Antonio run. They took a 61-51 lead.
Lonnie drove in for a floater to put the Spurs up 11 on an extended 22-5 run, forcing another timeout by Thibs. Walker hit a three out of that, Drew Eubanks blocked a shot, and DeMar hit a pair of post fades to make the Spurs 13-13 from the floor to start the second half as they built a 16-point lead.
Eubanks swatted All Star Julius Randle, then Rudy Gay hit three free throws to build the largest lead of the game at 17 points with 3:45 left in the quarter. New York trimmed it to 13, and Pop called time. After that timeout, the Knicks made it a 9-0 run.
New York's defense tightened up, RJ Barrett hit a three and then a layup and-1 through Jakob Poeltl, making it a 14-2 Knicks run.
San Antonio held on to a 77-73 lead heading to the fourth.
New York opened the second with a 9-2 run to build their largest lead at nine. Spurs defenders were bumping into each other in an ugly stretch, and Pop called timeout.
Jakob Poeltl finished a rolling layup on a feed from Patty Mills coming out of the timeout. Rudy Gay took it at Obi Toppin and finished a hook, cutting New York's lead to five.
The Knicks called time, but the Spurs made it a 10-0 run to take the lead with a triple each from Patty Mills and Rudy Gay.
DeMar DeRozan hit a post fade, then drew multiple defenders down low to give Drew Eubanks a dunk on a mid-air adjustment.
Eubanks got to the free throw line to put the Spurs in front 36-35. Keldon Johnson ran pick and roll, driving in for a scoop layup. DeRozan got to the line and hit a pair, then Keldon drilled an open triple to put San Antonio up five.
New York hit two well-contested shots in a row, and Pop called time with the score tied. The Knicks led 46-43 at halftime.
San Antonio started slow, as a three by Lonnie Walker IV was the only Spurs make of the first four minutes. The Knicks built an 8-3 lead on their league-leading defense.
The second Spurs make also came from Walker, a thunderous dunk.
DeMar DeRozan drove in for an open floater to cut New York's lead down to one. Walker drove and found Drew Eubanks in the dunker spot to give San Antonio a lead.
The Knicks re-took that lead with a slow 5-0 run, but then Patty Mills drew a foul on a three. Eubanks finished a rolling lob from DeMar, and Devin Vassell hit a mid-range pull-up to tie.
After 12 minutes, the Knicks led a defensive battle 20-18.
San Antonio Spurs vs. New York Knicks
When, where: Thursday, 6:30 p.m., New York
All-time series record: Spurs lead 56-40
Last season: Spurs won 2-0
Season series: Spurs lead, 1-0
Last meeting: Spurs won 119-93, March 2, 2021
Knicks' last game: Lost vs. Lakers, 101-99 (OT)
Spurs' last game: Lost vs. Nets, 128-116
Knicks' last 10 games/streak: 6-4, lost 1
Spurs' last 10 games/streak: 3-7, lost 1
Knicks' injury/inactive report: Luca Vildoza, OUT (not with team); Mitchell Robinson, OUT (foot); Derrick Rose, OUT (ankle).
Spurs' injury/inactive report: Trey Lyles, OUT (ankle); Luka Samanic, OUT (finger); Derrick White, OUT (ankle).
Spurs dig early hole in Brooklyn, fall to Nets 128-116
The Spurs dug themselves a 15-point hole in the first quarter in Brooklyn and couldn't climb out of it, losing to the Nets 128-116.
Coach Popovich pulled the plug early in the fourth quarter with the game seemingly out of reach, and the young third-string unit made the game a bit more interesting with James Harden still on the floor.
After the game, Pop said that the group that played the final eight minutes was the best lineup all night, and if the guys who started the game had played that way, it would have been a whole different ballgame. He said his team needed to maintain a consistent effort after a huge win like the one they had against the Bucks, and they didn't do that.
"We had zero assists in the first quarter, gave them a lead," Popovich said. "That mental toughness to play after you play a hell of a game, has to be there, hasn't been there. That's what we're striving to do, that's the next step. If everybody that played the first three quarters had moved like the guys who played the last eight minutes, we'd have been in a lot better shape, but that's what makes you a really good team, when you have that consistency."