So when the Knicks snapped their franchise-record losing streak at Madison Square Garden at 18 games by beating the San Antonio Spurs 130-118 on Sunday night, actor Samuel L. Jackson made the announcement from on stage to Lee . Lee was in the audience on the night he won the award for best adapted screenplay for "BlacKkKlansman," but for so long sat courtside when the Knicks used to win home games.
"It's major," guard Dennis Smith Jr said after his first home victory as a Knick. "We've been having our fans come out and support every night and haven't won here since Dec. 1. I wasn't part of that one, so I'm glad that we could get it tonight and just give the fans something to see."
Damyean Dotson scored 27 points, and Smith, Kevin Knox and Emmanuel Mudiay all had 19. Smith had 13 assists and Knox had 10 boards, while rookie Mitchell Robinson finished with 15 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Coach David Fizdale said the Knicks never talked about their home skid, which began after a victory over Milwaukee. "They get over it, they get back to work," he said. "And at some point you know the basketball gods will look out for you when you're doing that."
DeMar DeRozan had 32 points and nine rebounds for the Spurs, who fell to 1-6 on their trip that ends Monday night in Brooklyn. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 18 points, but was limited to just 13 minutes through three quarters because of foul trouble.
The Spurs came in as the NBA's best 3-point shooting team but were just 6 for 24 behind the arc, far too poor to make up for a dismal defensive effort that had the Knicks wearing out the rims with slam dunks and shooting 51 percent.
Coach Gregg Popovich credited his reserves for getting the Spurs back into the game in the second half, but the hole was too big. "That group gets credit for playing and doing their job the way they should," he said. "Other than that, it was a pathetic performance defensively, but the Knicks had something to do with it."
The Spurs were so off early that they didn't even make one of their baskets. Knox and Smith both went for the rebound of Aldridge's miss with no Spurs around and knocked it into the basket, with Aldridge getting credit for the field goal.
The Knicks led by nine at halftime and then started to run the Spurs off the floor in the third quarter. Pushing the pace and getting some easy dunks on lobs, they opened a 90-67 advantage on a 3-pointer by Dotson. The Spurs had to call three timeouts in the period — two at the same time when they couldn't get the ball in after the first one — and were still down 19 with just over 2 minutes left in the period.
They scored the final eight to cut it to 94-83 entering the fourth, but whenever they seemed to have any momentum, they would throw the ball away, allow an offensive rebound or commit a foul to stall.
"We crawled back from 20, got back in the game, gave ourselves an opportunity," DeRozan said, "but it's really hard to find positives when you're supposed to come in a building like this, against a team like this and get a win."
TIP-INS Spurs: Popovich said G Derrick White, recently returned from a heel injury, would play Monday in Brooklyn after sitting out the front end of the back-to-back. ... Jacob Poeltl had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Knicks: C DeAndre Jordan sat out with a sprained left ankle. ... Fizdale said G Frank Ntilikina was progressing in his recovery from a sore groin and now able to do some running. ... Fizdale was asked if he had considered any different types of techniques to deal with the Knicks' struggles at home. "Like incense?" he responded.
COACH ON COACH Popovich coached against Jeff Van Gundy when the Spurs beat the Knicks in the 1999 NBA Finals, and selected him to coach the U.S. team in qualifying games for this summer's Basketball World Cup, where Popovich will lead the Americans. Popovich praised the work of Van Gundy, who hasn't been an NBA coach since going 52-30 with Houston in 2006-07.
"He's better than most of us as a coach. I think most people know that, but that's not always what gets you hired," Popovich said. "It's circumstances and those sorts of things and personal situations, and timing has to be right and all that. But he certainly is somebody who would make a franchise better, without any doubt."
FAMILIAR FACE David Lee sat courtside with his fiance, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Lee played for both teams, beginning his career with the Knicks in 2005 and playing his final season with the Spurs in 2016-17.
UP NEXT Spurs: At Brooklyn on Monday night. Knicks: Host Orlando on Tuesday night.
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