At some point, the Knicks are going to have to beat a superstar if they want to reach the postseason, and they will get another chance on Saturday afternoon.
The Mavericks and Luka Doncic, the NBA’s leading scorer, will visit the Garden for a matinee, giving coach Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks another chance against one of the league’s top players. So far, the Knicks have lost to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks (twice), Stephen Curry and the Warriors, Ja Morant and the Grizzlies (twice), Kevin Durant and the Nets, Jayson Tatum and the Celtics and Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers.
The closest they have come to knocking off a top-flight star was when they beat Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves. The Knicks did nearly defeat Morant and Antetokounmpo in the past week at the Garden, but lost to the Grizzlies and the Bucks by a combined 10 points.
Doncic, 23, has become one of the premier players in the sport. He is averaging 33.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.7 assists while shooting a robust 50.5 percent from the field. He leads the league in player efficiency rating at 32.18 and already has five 40-point games.Luka DoncicAP
He will be a major test for the Knicks’ top perimeter defenders, RJ Barrett and Quentin Grimes. They did a good job on him last year in a season sweep of the Mavericks, holding Doncic to 20-of-48 shooting and an average of 26 points in the two games.
The Knicks will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak at the Garden and hoping to improve upon one of the worst home marks in the Eastern Conference. Only the Hornets, with three, have fewer home wins than the Kncisk, who are 4-6 at the Garden. On the road, the Knicks have been much better, with six wins, second in the Eastern Conference to the Celtics’ seven.
“I just think that we have to bring our same road intensity back home,” Jalen Brunson said. “At home, we’re obviously more comfortable and all that. On the road, it’s just us on the road, it’s us and the hostile environment. I think we just got to bring that same mentality at home and finish games.”
The Knicks have lost their last three games at home, to the Trail Blazers, Grizzlies and Bucks, by a combined 13 points.
Former Knick Kemba Walker, who signed this week with Dallas, isn’t expected to play for the Mavericks until the middle of next week, general manager Nico Harrison said on Dallas radio station KTCK-The Ticket. Walker was traded by the Knicks on draft night to the Pistons to free up salary cap space to sign Brunson, and Detroit later bought him out. … The Knicks’ Ryan Arcidiacono (sprained left ankle) didn’t practice on Friday.
With the Mavericks in town, Thibodeau was asked about the NBA’s ongoing tampering investigation regarding the Knicks’ pursuit and acquisition of Brunson.
“At the appropriate time, I think [president] Leon [Rose] will make a statement. But let everyone do their job,” Thibodeau said. “So, that’s the way we’re approaching it. We feel very good about the way we went about things.”