Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks

Good news: Knicks play much better. Bad news: Still not good enough to beat Pacers.

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If you tried to use the words “moral victory” in the Knicks locker room Wednesday night the players’ reactions would have ranged from icy glares to a rant that would have earned them the same fine for swearing Boston’s Gerald Wallace was just given by the league.

There are no moral victories in the NBA. Especially not when you have lost six straight on your home court.

Especially not when you came within a borderline foul on Paul George as he shot a three in the final seconds of regulation, giving him the chance to tie the game at the free throw line (which he did). Despite the Knicks protestations, replays showed Iman Shumpert lightly touched George on the elbow and that was enough to get the call.

In the end a moral victory is how the Knicks are going to have to look at their 103-96 loss to the Pacers in overtime in Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. It’s their only option.

There certainly were positives for the Knicks to take away from this game — the 13-0 run to start the game, the 19 points from Beno Udrih (forced into the rotation with Raymond Felton out), the energy they put out on defense, the fact the way they played would probably have beaten 26 other NBA teams. Just not the Pacers on three days rest.

Still, a at the end of the day the Knicks are 3-8 and about to head out on a rough West Coast road trip that includes the Trail Blazers and Clippers.

New York started out hot, holding the Pacers to 14 points on 25 percent shooting in the first quarter. Yet the Knicks couldn’t pull away against the always tough Pacers defense, scoring just 19 points on 34.8 percent shooting themselves.

On the second night of a back-to-back, the Knicks looked more and more tired and their defense wore down as the game went on. The Pacers put up 31 points on 52.6 percent shooting, plus hit 4-of-8 from three, in the final quarter.

Once again the Pacers defense took away the shots the Knicks wanted to get — New York shot just 46.9 percent inside the restricted area and 40.9 percent in the paint overall, plus they were 8-of-30 (26.7 percent from three).

Carmelo Anthony had 30 points on 10-of-28 shooting, but where you could really see his effort was on the boards — 18 rebounds, nine of them offensive. He tried to carry this team, but he doesn’t have the efficient game at both ends of the floor to take them as far as he wants.

‘Melo was outplayed by Paul George, who had 35 points on 12-of-26 shooting and was 7-of-11 in the fourth quarter and overtime, at one point scoring 11 straight points. Plus his defense was part of the reason it was another inefficient night shooting for Melo.

George hill added 23 and the Pacers are now 10-1. They are a team with an identity on both ends of the court.

The Knicks took a step toward finding that Wednesday but they still have a ways to go.

Mike Krzyzewski: Team USA having too much fun, needs to tone it down

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  DeMar DeRozan #9 of the United States Men's National Team looks on during a break in the action against the China Men's National Team during the second half of a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Mike Krzyzewski hates fun (even more than he admits).

So, the coach wasn’t thrilled after Team USA’s exhibition win over China, which included DeMar DeRozan nearly 360-degree dunking on someone.

Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

I want to see Team USA make highlight plays. Dunk from the free-throw line. Shoot from halfcourt. Throw behind-the-back passes. Show up weaker competition.

So, it’s hard for me to get behind Coach K’s criticism.

But I also want to see the Americans win gold medals in the Olympics, and I’ll blame Krzyzewski if they’re not adequately focused.

Fair? Not one bit.

Doesn’t change what I want, though.

Report: Kevin Durant told Russell Westbrook he’d re-sign with the Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook #0 look on prior to game six of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 28, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Kevin Durant said he had to distance himself from Russell Westbrook entering free agency. Yet, Durant listened to the Warriors recruiting him all season and had clearly been interested in Golden State for months.

The writing was on the wall.

Except, a few days before taking meetings in the Hamptons (which led to signing with the Warriors), Durant dined with Westbrook.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Three weeks ago, Kevin Durant’s sitting there at dinner, telling him “Hey, I’m coming back, man. Don’t worry about it.” And now, Russell Westbrook has been kind of thrown into this in having to decide his future a summer earlier than expected.

Kevin Durant, more so than even that, was telling people, “Hey, yeah, I mean I’m coming back.” Like I said in there, a week before Kevin Durant sat down in the Hamptons, he was in Oklahoma City ready to make an offer on a multi-million-dollar house. So, the guy was pretty serious about coming back, and then things turned rather quickly for him to leave. And there’s no doubt that the organization felt a little bit burned by this.

Maybe Durant said that. Maybe he meant it in the moment. Maybe he was just trying to appease someone he didn’t want to let down. Maybe he was unclear. Maybe Westbrook read too much into a more clear statement.

There’s a lot of room for imperfect recollection/interpretation. We’re dealing with human beings.

Likewise on the house. Who says Durant was “ready” to make an offer? That’s an awfully difficult assessment to make outside his head. Just as the Celtics had a list of players Durant wanted them to add, it seems he was preparing for all contingencies. It’s hard to nail down rather he was house hunting because he was certain he wanted to stay in Oklahoma City or whether he just wanted a new place if he stayed in Oklahoma City.

So much of what we know about Durant’s process for picking the Warriors suggests a rational decision. He considered them for months, met with multiple teams, conferred with his inner circle then made a choice.

If Durant told Westbrook or anyone else he’d re-sign with the Thunder, that obviously changes the equation. But I’m left wondering:

How many people in Oklahoma City heard what they wanted to hear rather than what Durant actually said?

How many people are incentivized to paint Durant as impulsive, because the alternative — Durant thoughtfully deciding the Thunder weren’t his best option — indicates deeper flaws in the franchise?

Watch Carmelo Anthony put up 16 points in third quarter on China

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Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and DeMarcus Cousins are pretty much locked in as four of the Team USA starters come the Olympics. But who gets that fifth slot, the one for a wing player? Paul George? Jimmy Butler?

Don’t be shocked if Carmelo Anthony gets that slot.

He helped make his case Tuesday, scoring 16 in the third quarter alone on China in an easy Team USA victory in a pre-Olympics exhibition. Mike Krzyzewski likes to reward veterans, and ‘Melo is one of the old guy leaders of this team who has collected two gold medals already. Don’t be surprised if ‘Melo is a starter in Rio (Draymond Green started Tuesday, but only because the game was at Oracle Arena and Coach K likes to give guys a bigger role in front of the local crowds where they play).

DeMar DeRozan just missed spectacular in-game 360 poster dunk (VIDEO)

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Can a missed dunk attempt be brilliant?

DeMar DeRozan says yes.

The Toronto Raptors guard almost pulled off an in-game 360-dunk over a defender during the USA’s latest rout of China in an Olympics tune-up game. How impressive was the dunk? Ask LeBron James.