World news – Knicks was hard like the buzzkilling beatdown

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For a while, this seemed like another chapter in a surprising Knicks novella. For a while, the Knicks made every shot they saw, defending with their usual ferocity, wowing the small but noisy contingent of Knicks fans at the Amway Arena in Orlando.

And .500 was so close that you could smell it. You could taste it. Now look: .500 is not for everyone. Break-even feels like the worst consolation prize most of the time. It’s the definition of average. It’s mediocrity. And there are few things that are less satisfying in sport than mediocrity.

Still: The Knicks have not been at .500 since 2017 after 30 games. As of 2013, they were no longer at .500 on Feb.17. This is a season of incremental steps and fractional profits. Hitting .500 would not have drawn any dramatic conclusions – and frankly, it wouldn’t have sparked any celebration on either of the Knicks.

The Magic beat the Knicks, but well, 107-89, beating them in the final 37 minutes of the game by 29 points. More than a beatdown, more than a buzzkill, it was a two-hour reminder of an essential truth about those curtsey: you don’t have to play perfect basketball every night. You don’t have to maximize every last ounce of skill on the roster.

« They’re a team like us that scratch and scratch trying to make it to the playoffs, » said Quickley when the carnage ended. « Our energies weren’t the same as Orlando. »

Aside from Julius Randle, it was difficult to identify anything the Knicks had done well on Wednesday night – and even his 25 points and seven rebounds felt subdued, much of it that damage came in the first quarter.

Quickley shuffled through the toughest night of his young career, failing 11 of 12 shots. His runner-up, Derrick Rose, with whom he had built such immediate and obvious chemistry, was 1:10. Few teams can survive two key players who shoot 2v21. for the Knicks, that’s gangplank territory.

Even trainer Tom Thibodeau, usually unrepentant, had some scratchy moments. On a night when the Knicks Bank (usually a reliable strength) could barely get out of the way, Thibodeau kept both RJ Barrett and Elfrid Payton – who had a combined 28 points for three quarters, the only Knicks besides Randle, they reported for duty Wednesday night – attached to the bank.

Of course, he had his reasons: “We were in such a hole, I was trying to find a way out, I wanted to see where it would go as soon as it was going it’s 10 [with just over six minutes in play]. He said – and it’s not the smartest bet right now to reconsider Thibodeau, who worked with a master stroke most nights.

It just didn’t happen for the Knicks. You missed 15 goals in a row at one point. They dumped 16 3-pointers to a team that generally can’t shoot directly and allowed Terrence Ross (30 points in 30 minutes off the bench) to bury them on a night when they actually did a good job for the usual Knicks-Killer Nikola Vucevic had done (8-for-24-shooting, 0-for-7 of 3). Maybe it was just as simple as Randle’s explanation:

With the rescheduling of Saturday’s Spurs game in the garden, they’re now getting some training days, and the extra practice time is likely to come at an opportune time. There are a number of home games to be won. There will be other ways of reaching the holy grail again, hitting .500, floating at sea level. It’s still a worthy destination.

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