Tuesday NBA Roundup: Knicks Flash Compelling Potential Without Carmelo Anthony

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterJanuary 27, 2016

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 26:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder has words for Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks after Durant dunked the ball over him in the second half at Madison Square Garden on January 26, 2016 in New York City.The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the New York Knicks 128-122 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

On a night when the biggest stars at Madison Square Garden were sporting either street clothes (Carmelo Anthony) or the visiting team's apparel (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook), the New York Knicks delighted the home crowd with a tantalizing sneak peek at a promising future.

The Knicks fell short against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime, 128-122, but if ever there were a regular-season moral victory for the organization, this was it.

While Anthony nursed a sore knee from the sideline, six Knickerbockers scored in double figures. Langston Galloway (21 points) and Derrick Williams (19 points, 10 rebounds) led the way off the bench, but Kristaps Porzingis (15 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks) once again paced his compatriots in jaw-dropping highlights.

The slender Latvian sent the MSG faithful into a frenzy early with another of his signature putback slams:

The rookie also helped New York work up a lather in the fourth quarter by rejecting Westbrook, who rarely (if ever) finds a match for his vicious athleticism inside:

The Knicks, though, were no match for Durant, who scored a season-high 44 points. The All-Star was responsible for 13 of OKC's final 17 points of the fourth quarter, including a wicked shake-and-bake on Porzingis, to dig the Thunder out of a double-digit hole:

Where Porzingis and Galloway clanked critical free throws and Arron Afflalo (17 points on 6-of-21 shooting) seemingly forced the issue in overtime, OKC's established star stepped up with big shots and even bigger freebies.

Despite the disappointing result, New York can take some comfort in the kind and quality of product put forth on the Garden floor in Anthony's absence.

The Knicks not only managed to keep up with the run-and-gun Thunder for most of the night, but they looked good doing it. They picked up 20 points in transition—more than double their league-low average of 8.9 per game

That total, while impressive, paled in comparison to the 31 fast-break points OKC piled up. But with so many young legs on the roster, the Knicks could get some mileage out of pushing the pace, especially if Anthony has to miss multiple games.

Such a shift would have everything to do with Porzingis. His legs are the longest and (perhaps) springiest in the Knicks' locker room. What better way to deploy a 7'3" 20-year-old whom Durant compared to a mythical beast?

"He can shoot, he can make the right plays, he can defend, he's a 7-footer that can shoot all the way out to the three-point line," Durant said, per ESPN.com's Royce Young. "That's rare. And block shotsthat's like a unicorn in this league."

Porzingis is, indeed, a rare talent, one who could command center stage at MSG some day.

Just not today. As well as the Knicks fared against the Thunder sans Anthony, they could've used his world-class scoring touch to scrounge up some half-court buckets in crunch time. Instead, that honor fell to Afflalo—a productive pro, but not necessarily a reliable go-to guy in the clutch.

Head coach Derek Fisher commented on the 30-year-old's performance, per Al Iannazzone of Newsday:

In the bigger picture, New York has been a much better team with Anthony on the floor:

That's not exactly a newsflash for the Knicks. Their 2014-15 season devolved into a franchise-worst slog in large part because Anthony's knees put him out of commission.

But those Knicks were barren beyond him. These Knicks clearly aren't. The better the rest of the roster becomes, either by addition or internal growth, the closer New York will come to not just entertaining fans at the Garden, but sending them home happy with W's against the NBA's best.

 

Dark Day Ends with Silver Lining for Clippers

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 26:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers watches the action during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on January 26, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In addressing Blake Griffin's broken hand and the internal tussle that led to it, Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers made it clear he won't let his players dwell on the ongoing absence of their superstar forward.

"We do not talk about injuries or guys that are not playing," Rivers told media in Indianapolis on Tuesday afternoon, per Clippers PR. "We just do not, that has been a policy of mine. We talk about the guys that are going to play, and so we have to figure it out."

The Clippers managed to do just that during their 91-89 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Chris Paul pointed the way with 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds. J.J. Redick kept his hot streak going with 19 points and four threes. DeAndre Jordan, the other half of L.A.'s imposing frontcourt, vacuumed up 19 rebounds.

In truth, this was business as usual on the court for the Clippers. They've been without Griffin since the day after Christmas due to a quad injury—and they have won 12 out of 15 games, no less.

Still, with Griffin out of commission for another four to six weeks (if not longer), the Clippers could find themselves hanging on to a top-four spot in the West by a thread.

 

Miami's Old Heroes to the Rescue

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

As murky as the present and future may be for the Miami Heat, they can still count on their glorious past shining through from time to time.

Tuesday's 102-98 win over the Brooklyn Nets was one of those times. With Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside battling injuries, the Heat turned to the battle-tested tandem of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to guide them to victory at the sparsely populated Barclays Center. Wade and Bosh scored 27 points apiece and combined for 12 assists and nine rebounds.

"We had to go all the way into the bottom of the bag tonight," Wade said, per the Miami Herald's Ethan Skolnick.

Ideally, Miami wouldn't have to dig so deep to beat a lackluster Nets squad on a weeknight in January. But that's where the Heat are as a team right now: tired, banged-up and in need of every win they can get after recently dropping seven of eight.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra recently told NBA.com's David Aldridge

We still have opportunities to build habits, and that's something we're reminding guys every time out. At some point, you look down there and you smile when there's not bodies. But we've all been around this league long enough. It happens to every team at some point. You just have to weather the storms. This, too, will pass—hopefully sooner rather than later.

 

Raptors Reach Back to Move Forward

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 26:  Kyle Lowry #7 of  the Toronto Raptors talks to the referee during an NBA game against the Washington Wizards at the Air Canada Centre on January 26, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

On Vince Carter's 39th birthday, the Toronto Raptors did something they haven't done since the prime days of Vinsanity, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

The Raptors rode Kyle Lowry's 29 points and double-digit efforts from four of his teammates to wallop the Washington Wizards, 106-89. The win extended Toronto's streak to nine games, tying the franchise record Carter and company set in 2002.

The Raptors will look to top that mark on Thursday when they host the Knicks on national TV. Lowry, fresh off his second straight All-Star selection, figures to be in the lineup after spraining his wrist during the win over the Wizards.

 

Bucks Get Big Win for Comeback Kidd

Tom Lynn/Associated Press

The Milwaukee Bucks made sure that Jason Kidd's return to coaching duties was a successful one. His young squad battled back from a 16-point deficit to upend the scuffling Orlando Magic, 107-100.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton led the way with 25 points each—16 on dunks for the former, 11 from free throws for the latter. Greg Monroe (21 points, 11 rebounds) held down the middle with his 25th double-double of the season. Those three combined for 11 straight points to shave a double-digit gap down to three at halftime.

The win moved Milwaukee to within four games of a playoff spot, albeit with five teams to leapfrog. The Bucks held their own (8-9) while Kidd was away, but they'll need all the help they can get to climb through the newly competitive Eastern Conference, what with four of their next five games on the road against Western Conference playoff hopefuls.

 

Suns' Slide Continues

Jan 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Phoenix Suns center Tyson Chandler (4) reacts at the foul line during the first half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns hit yet another bump in the road—and on the road—in the City of Brotherly Love. With their starting backcourt still sidelined by injuries and Tyson Chandler starting next to Alex Len up front, the Suns fell behind by as many as 19 points on the way to a 113-103 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Losing to the sorriest squad in the Association only begins to tell Phoenix's tale of woe. For one, the Sixers were without Jahlil Okafor, their prized rookie center, on account of a sore knee. The result also put the Suns in select company as the only squad to get swept by the Sixers this season.

The ignominy for Phoenix goes beyond just one poor opponent. The loss extended the Suns' road losing streak to 11 games—their longest since the 2012-13 season. Six more of those, and Phoenix will equal the franchise record for traveling futility set by the 1973-74 squad.

Chances are, these Suns will come close. They'll finish up their current four-game swing with trips to Cleveland, New York and Dallas.

 

Boogie Falls Flat After Big Night

Steve Dykes/Associated Press

On Monday, DeMarcus Cousins left it all on the court at Sleep Train Arena, and he didn't have much left in the tank at the Moda Center on Tuesday.

A mere 24 hours after piling up a career-high 56 points in a double-overtime loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Boogie hit just 4-of-21 from the field, missed eight free throws and banged heads with Rajon Rondo—incidentally, not maliciously—during the Sacramento Kings' 112-97 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Kings were already plenty hobbled from the night before. Rudy Gay missed the game after getting poked in the eye against Charlotte. In his stead, Omri Casspi scored 10 points. Ben McLemore dropped in four from Sacramento's other wing spot and was among several to look silly defending C.J. McCollum, who had a game-high 18 points:

The defeat was doubly painful for the Kings. It dropped them out of eighth place in the West, mere percentage points behind Portland.

But with an 0-2 mark against the Blazers this season, Sacramento will have to win out against Rip City in order to avoid a potentially perilous tiebreak should the two teams finish 2015-16 with identical records.

 

Kobe Daps Dirk in Lakers Loss

A sore shoulder sidelined Kobe Bryant from what would've been his final game against the Dallas Mavericks, but it couldn't stop him from showing appreciation for a fellow legend.

With the clock winding down in the fourth quarter and the score tied at 90, Dirk Nowitzki (13 points) hit one of his patented fadeaway jumpers from the baseline to seal a 92-90 win for the visiting Mavericks.

The 37-year-old just happened to backpedal into Bryant, who patted his longtime rival on the rear end in approval. Ben Golliver of SI.com shared footage of the shot and pat:

When there are two all-time-great scorers and future Hall of Famers involved, game can't help but recognize game.

 

Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter

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