Knicks whipped by Kings, fall under .500

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Representative defense often is a staple of success in the NBA, and a distinct quality that should translate whether games are played at home or on the road.

As the Knicks have learned more than once already this season, however, it’s almost impossible to cover up for a poor shooting night at the other end.

Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks had locked back in at the defensive end in posting three straight wins to mostly negate the preceding five-game losing skid, but they slipped back under .500 for the season with a frustrating 103-94 loss Friday to the Kings in Sacramento, Calif.

De’Aaron Fox netted 22 points, Harrison Barnes had 21 and impressive rookie point guard Tyrese Haliburton — the 12th overall pick in the 2020 draft, four picks after the Knicks grabbed Obi Toppin — contributed 16 pints, four blocks and two steals in 31 minutes off the bench as the Kings halted their four-game losing skid.

Julius Randle posted 26 points with 15 rebounds, but the Knicks (8-9) couldn’t overcame a 5-for-22 shooting night from 3-point range or a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter, failing to build on Thursday’s defensively responsible win at Golden State with a second straight win to open a four-game Western trip.

The Knicks were just 3-for-18 from long range through three quarters and trailed 76-72 entering the final 12 minutes. A three by Glenn Robinson III and a jumper by Cory Joseph barely four minutes into the fourth boosted Sacramento’s lead to a game-high 12, 86-74.

A 3-pointer by Alec Burks and a converted three-point play by Randle keyed a 13-3 run and got the Knicks back within two with 4:30 remaining. But Haliburton’s three with 2:35 to go highlighted a 7-0 Sacramento run to replenish the lead to 96-87.

RJ Barrett finished with 21 points on 8-for-17 shooting one night after recording a career-high 28 against the Warriors, while Mitchell Robinson contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks. Toppin had six in 12 minutes for the Knicks, whose trip continues Sunday night in Portland before concluding Tuesday in Utah.

The Knicks also fell to 5-5 away from Madison Square Garden, which still should be considered encouraging after they compiled a 54-143 road record over the previous five seasons, including a 10-23 mark last year and an even worse record (8-33) in 2018-19.

Perhaps the best explanation is that the Knicks entered ranked first in the NBA in fewest points allowed (102.8 per game), while holding opponents to the lowest field-goal percentage (43.0 percent) and 3-point percentage (30.7 percent).

Luke Walton’s Kings, meanwhile, came in having allowed the most points in the league — 123.0 per game — over their first 15 games. But they recorded a season-high 14 blocked shots, also including six from center Richaun Holmes.

Eleven straight points propelled the Kings (6-10) to a quick 23-13 advantage. But the Knicks closed the first quarter on a 13-2 spurt to lead by one, led by a dozen in the period by Randle, who came within one assist Thursday night of his second triple-double of the season.

The Knicks led by as many as six in the second, but Haliburton’s three with 2:15 remaining drew Sacramento back within one. A 3-pointer by Barrett and two dunks by Robinson carried the Knicks into intermission with a 54-49 lead.

The Knicks’ intensity appeared to lull, however, in the third quarter. Barnes’ layup and Buddy Hield’s 3-pointer midway through the period helped the Kings regain the lead, 68-67, and carry a four-point cushion into the fourth.

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