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Improved Knicks no match for elite Mavericks

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The Knicks have been playing winning basketball lately, but the set of circumstances they faced heading into Thursday night’s contest against the Mavericks was simply too much to overcome. Playing for the fourth time in five nights, in the second game of a back-to-back, on the road, against one of the league’s elite teams, New York looked to be a step slow from the start, and trailed by as many as 26 points before falling by a final of 127-109.

It was a tough spot for the Knicks, but let’s be honest: they probably weren’t going to beat this Dallas team anyway. The Mavericks are elite — stacked with talent, size, and a multitude of scorers. They move the ball as well as any team in the league to get open shots. And against a sluggish and shorthanded Knicks team that was playing without Chauncey Billups for the sixth straight game due to a thigh injury, Dallas took advantage from the very start.

Amar’e Stoudemire opened the game by hitting just one of his first eight from the field, Carmelo Anthony started off 3 for 10, and by halftime, the Mavs had put up 72 points while holding New York to a dismal 34.2% shooting.

Stoudemire’s 18-point third quarter helped cut a Dallas lead that reached as many as 26 points down to 13, but his team wasn’t able to get any closer than 11 points the rest of the way.

Speaking of Stoudemire, he picked up his 16th technical foul of the season in the second quarter, after getting tangled up with Brendan Haywood while the two were fighting for position. If it stands, it will result in a one-game suspension, but there’s a pretty good chance it won’t. This one was extremely questionable, and once the level-headed folks at the league office take another look at it in the next day or so, it’s more than likely to be rescinded.

Coming into this contest, the Knicks had won three straight, four of their last five, and had posted a record of 6-3 since making the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York city.  The team is certainly improved, and the circumstances may have conspired to make this already tough game in Dallas even tougher. But the bottom line is that the game may also be seen as a way to measure just how far away New York is from an overall talent standpoint to truly compete with the league’s top teams.

This gap isn’t what it once was when the season first started. It is still there, however, and it is still substantial.

PBT Podcast: Derek Fisher fired, plus your trade questions from Twitter

Derek Fisher
Associated Press
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Derek Fisher is out as coach of the New York Knicks.

In this latest podcast, NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman discuss the odd timing of that move — we expect another shoe to drop as to why. It’s not that Fisher was a great coach, but replacing him with Kurt Rambis mid-season is not an upgrade. And Luke Walton isn’t available until this summer.

After struggling to figure out what the Knicks are thinking, Helin and Feldman answer questions off Twitter from readers/listeners on the coming trade deadline including discussions of Blake Griffin, Jeff Teague, the Pistons, the Jazz, the Knicks, and more.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Warriors’ center Festus Ezeli to have knee surgery, out indefinitely

Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli, left, of Nigeria, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Denver. Golden State won 118-105. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Associated Press
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Festus Ezeli has been a rock-solid backup for the Warriors this season, playing almost 18 minutes a night behind Andrew Bogut giving the team 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds a contest. Golden State’s defense is 3.6 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court, and he’s part of the team’s long-term plans.

But he’s going to be out for a while now following knee surgery, the team announced and as reported by Monte Poole at CSNBayArea.com.

http://www.csnbayarea.com/warriors/festus-ezeli-undergo-knee-surgery

The surgery is exploratory, which is why the Warriors say there is no timeline for recovery yet.

The surgery is on his left knee; it was his right one that had reconstructive surgery and forced him to miss all of two seasons ago.

This is a blow to the Warriors’ depth, but little has slowed their march this season. More Mo Speights is not ideal, but the Warriors can just go small more often and run teams out of the building that way.

Ezeli is a restricted free agent this summer and the Warriors would like to keep him on the roster and expand his role, particularly if they do not retain Andrew Bogut. The severity of this knee injury could impact Ezeli’s ability to earn a big contract this summer, but hopefully for him, it’s not that serious.

Russell Westbrook stands behind Kevin Durant, mimics him during interview (video)

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, right, gestures after scoring as forward Kevin Durant stands by during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Thunder won 117-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Choose your spin.

This is why Kevin Durant is leaving the Thunder. Russell Westbrook doesn’t respect him.

or

This is why Kevin Durant is re-signing with the Thunder. He and Russell Westbrook have so much fun together.

Report: Magic open to talking Tobias Harris trade, looking to add experience

Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) grabs the uniform of Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris (12) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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Tobias Harris signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Magic just last summer.

Now, just 50 games later…

Marc Stein of ESPN:

I’m skeptical this is significant. Teams discuss trades for many players for a variety of reasons. That doesn’t mean the player is likely to be dealt.

Orlando in particular has a roster of players who cause significant debate about their value. It’s helpful to know what other teams think of Harris, and soliciting trade offers is a good method to learn his worth.

It’s more intriguing the Magic are looking to add experience. They should probably go the opposite route, but they’ve tried (and failed) for years to accelerate their rebuild. At 22-28 – four games and three teams from playoff position – now is not the time to seek shortcuts. Spend the rest of the season developing young players – and probably securing a higher draft pick in the process.

One of Harris’ best traits is his youth. He’s just 23. See what other teams would offer for him, sure. But, in all likelihood, it’s better to let him grow into the veteran Orlando needs rather than trading him for one when the rest of the team isn’t ready to win, anyway.

My guess is that’s what Orlando will do. Remember, always consider who has incentive to leak this information anonymously and what they’d be positioned to know.