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Knicks are again the worst team in the NBA after loss to Kings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Knicks didn’t play too horribly Monday, but they became the NBA’s worst team again nevertheless.

Coupled with the Suns’ upset victory over the Bucks, the Knicks dropped a 115-108 decision to the resurgent Kings at Golden 1 Center to drop to 13-51.

That is now the NBA’s worst record as the Suns (14-51) moved a half game ahead of them in the Zion Williamson standings. It’s the first time since the All-Star break the Knicks have been in last place.

The league’s bottom three teams hold the same 14 percent chance at the top pick in the draft, but if the Knicks finish with the worst record, they can’t fall further than No. 5 in the draft. The Knicks and Suns meet in Phoenix on Wednesday.

The Knicks remained in striking distance for nearly three quarters, but things took a turn for the worse late in the third. Kings star point guard De’Aaron Fox intercepted a Damyean Dotson pass and glided in for a ferocious dunk. The loudest roar came soon after, though, when Allonzo Trier missed two free throws, giving ticket-holders a free jumbo hamburger at Jack In The Box.

Backup center Nemanja Bjelica scored on a tip-in to give the Kings their largest lead at 12 points with 10:30 left.

Dennis Smith Jr., who was in the same draft class as Fox, had one of the highlight plays with a driving tomahawk dunk with 8:09 left in the third that brought the Knicks within five. Smith Jr. finished with 15 points and five assists.

The Knicks were able to contain the red-hot Fox for the most part, but he still finished with 17 points, three assists, four steals and four rebounds. The lefty’s rise this season has been one of the bigger success stories in the NBA. Knicks general manager Scott Perry drafted Fox when he had his short stint with the Kings.

Kings coach David Joerger cited Fox’s offseason strength work, saying he’s been hit more than anyone in the NBA this season. The Kings coach noted Willie Cauley-Stein and Fox have run more pick-and-rolls than any tandem in the league.

After watching his sleepwalking club allow 82 points in a first-half fiasco Sunday at Staples Center, Knicks coach David Fizdale understandably changed the starting lineup.

But instead of inserting surging rookie center Mitchell Robinson, he dusted off Luke Kornet as starting center and benched Lance Thomas, who was brutal in Los Angeles. It marked Kornet’s 13th start this season as he was a favorite of Fizdale’s in late December and January.

Robinson finished with four points and seven rebounds and fouled out with 5:10 left. He made one silly foul on Buddy Hield (28 points) from the 3-point line in the third quarter and nearly had a flagrant when he crushed Harry Giles on an uncontested drive.

Kornet’s 3-point shot was off again, going 1-of-4 from deep in the first half. Kornet also got clocked in the face late in the fourth by Giles, leading to Giles’ ejection. DeAndre Jordan, who missed the game with an ankle sprain, looked to be fuming on the bench.

On his reluctance to start Robinson, Fizdale didn’t want to fix what’s not broken.

“We thought about it, but he’s in such a good groove right now,’’ Fizdale said before the game. “We’ll keep him where he is. He’s still getting good minutes and getting better every game. I’m not ready to throw him in. He’s had a good month of basketball. Why mess with it.”

Jordan, the regular starting center, will “maybe, probably, hopefully,’’ be back in Phoenix on Wednesday after missing his fourth straight game with an ankle sprain.

Trier led the Knicks with 13 points off the bench in the first half as the Knicks kept it close, trailing 55-51 at halftime. Trier finished with a team-high 29 points.

Kevin Knox, the struggling rookie, got back on track in the first half, making 3-of-4 shots for nine points early on. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting but Fizdale benched him for the fourth quarter, likely because of lax defense.


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