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.

Watch Lance Stephenson get into flopping battle in China

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You can take the flopper out of the NBA but you can’t take the flopping out of his game.

Unable to land an NBA contract this season, Lance Stephenson signed with the Liaoning Flying Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association. He has taken his flopping skills to China.

However, he may have met his match with one Chinese player, who tried to sell a non-contact, off-the-ball, sniper-in-the-grassy-knoll level flop that even legendary flopper Vlade Divac would have called extreme. The Chinese referees saw through that and awarded a technical to Stephenson’s team.

Then Stephenson drew another foul later in the game with a flop as he tried to grab the ball away from a player after the play. That drew a foul on the opposing player, who complained and then got his own technical.

It’s all just Lance being Lance.

Kyrie Irving out Saturday vs. Bulls due to shoulder injury

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Already without Caris LeVert for a couple of weeks due to thumb surgery, the Nets just lost their primary playmaker for at least one game.

Kyrie Irving is out Saturday night for Brooklyn’s game in Chicago.

Irving has been battling this pain for some time. This is the kind of injury often seen in swimmers where, due to usage, the bones in the shoulder impinge on the tendons or bursa (the sac of fluid in the joint that makes movement smooth and painless).

The treatment for this is generally rest and time off, it would not be surprising if Irving missed more time to get his shoulder healthy and right (a specialist told the New York Post exactly this). Call it load management or whatever you want, better to get Irving healthy now rather than have this be a chronic thing all season long.

Irving is leading the Nets averaging 28.5 points and 7.2 assists a game, hitting 34.1 percent of his threes, and he’s the guy with the ball in his hands being asked to make plays. The Nets offense is 10.4 points per 100 possessions better when Irving is on the court this season.

Spencer Dinwiddie, who has struggled some with his shooting and efficiency to start the season, now will be asked to step up and carry the load. With the Nets off to a 4-7 start, they don’t want to give up a lot more ground in the East playoff chase (the Nets are currently in a four-way tie for the nine-seed, just half a game out of the playoffs).

Kings’ Dwayne Dedmon snags french fry from Lakers’ fan during game (VIDEO)

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The french fries at Staples Center are pretty good. Better than the popcorn.

Kings’ center Dwayne Dedmon was on the bench at one point Saturday night during the Kings’ loss to the Lakers, looked at the dude sitting next to him in fan seats (and look at that guy, he’s a “dude”), and asks if he can have a french fry.

No ketchup or sauce, but the fries seem to get Dedmon’s seal of approval.

A player like Dedmon burns a lot of calories during a game, you got to keep that energy level up with a few carbs. Plus, french fries are awesome. Can’t blame the guy.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo on Malcolm Brogdon: ‘Definitely wish he was still here’

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Malcolm Brogdon is thriving with the Pacers.

The Bucks are doing just fine without him.

But with Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s super-max decision rapidly approaching, Milwaukee’s controversial decision to sign-and-trade Brogdon during restricted free agency last summer looms over the entire NBA.

The Bucks visit Indiana tomorrow. So, it’s an opportunity to take Antetokounmpo’s temperature on the move.

Jack Maloney of CBS Sports:

“Wish he was still here” because that’s a nice thing to say about a friend? Or “wish he was still here” because Antetokounmpo wanted the Bucks to handle last offseason differently?

The difference means everything to Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo has consistently said he wants to stay with the Bucks as long as they prioritize winning. Though there were also basketball reasons to move Brogdon, losing him also kept Milwaukee out of the luxury tax. That financial motivation is impossible to overlook.

If the Bucks wanted to keep Brogdon, they could have. They wouldn’t have a first-rounder and two second-rounders incoming from Indiana. They might not have lured Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver in free agency. They’d likely be in the luxury tax. But they would have had Brogdon.

As Antetokounmpo pointed out, Brogdon was complicit in his own exit. Brogdon wanted to play point guard, wanted to have a bigger role. That wasn’t happening in Milwaukee with Eric Bledsoe at point guard and Antetokounmpo as focal point. So, one some level, Antetokounmpo might appreciate the Bucks helping Brogdon get to a more desirable situation rather than leveraging restricted rights over him.

But, at the end of the playoffs, how will Antetokounmpo feel about Brogdon not being at his side for the postseason run? That’s the big question that will determine everything. For now, we’re getting only clues.