What is there to ultimately make of the Knicks' performance Sunday against the Clippers? On the way to the first of two games over three days at Staples Center in Los Angeles, New York experienced a double-digit lead and deficit before it suffered its second straight loss.
The Knicks led the Clippers by 16 points to open the game before the script was flipped in the second half, but New York cut into Los Angeles' 15-point lead down the stretch. Refusing to roll over, the Knicks made things interesting, trailing by only three points under the one-minute mark before finally falling 135-132.
While the Knicks (10-26) followed Friday's 120-112 road loss to the Phoenix Suns (14-22) with a consecutive defeat, power forward Julius Randle put the latest effort into perspective.
"We've definitely grown," said Randle, who had 16 points with eight rebounds and four assists. "We've still got room to grow, but we're definitely growing as a team and if we continue to get better, we'll be fine."
Small forward Marcus Morris, who dropped a career-high 38 points on 13-of-19 shooting (6 for 7 on three-pointers), was overmatched by a Clippers trio -- Montrezl Harrell (34), Paul George (32) and Lou Williams (32) -- that combined for 98 points in Kawhi Leonard's absence.
But Morris -- who said after the game that he wants to remain a Knick, despite the surfacing of trade rumors -- kept his outlook positive. Leadership shown by Morris is why some in the Knicks organization view the team's go-to scorer as potentially a long-term piece, sources told SNY's Ian Begley. Morris has kept the same message throughout the Knicks' turbulent early season in 2019-20.
"We've definitely grown as a team"- Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) January 5, 2020
Julius Randle says the team has improved since Mike Miller took over pic.twitter.com/TOCQbUvOxt
"We compete," Morris said. "Our starting point guard's not here. You know that part. We've been competing. We fall short. But like I said, we're taking steps each and every game and I think guys can tell you that we're getting better -- each game."
The Knicks fired second-year head coach David Fizdale on Dec. 6, elevating assistant Mike Miller into the interim role. In the time since then, the Knicks are 6-8, initially sitting at the .500 mark before consecutive losses to the Suns and Clippers brought the mark under. Staying in Los Angeles, the Knicks return to action with Tuesday's 10:30 p.m. ET as another test at Staples Center -- against the Lakers (29-7) -- looms.
"Each game, he provides so many things -- we're not even talking about what he brings in the box score," Miller said of Morris. "He's had an outstanding year and every day, we come out and keep talking about all the great things that he's doing. He just keeps playing better. He keeps raising it up to another level."
"Guys are coming together and we're having fun"- Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) January 5, 2020
Marcus Morris says the Knicks are getting better pic.twitter.com/jR24RX0c1c