The concept of playing a complete, 60-minute game is just as foreign as winning for the Knicks lately as a series of fourth-quarter cataclysms have sabotaged any hope that they can make a legitimate playoff push during the second half of the 2021-22 season.
The final 12 minutes have become losing time for the Knicks, who over their last 10 games have been outscored 289-206 in the fourth quarter while shooting a measly 33% from the field and an even worse 20.7% from three-point range.
It’s attributed to four blown double-digit leads and a pitiful 1-9 record during that stretch. During their current five-game losing streak, the Knicks’ fourth-quarter numbers have been even more dreadful — getting outscored 153-83 with a field-goal percentage of 26% and a three-point conversion rate of 11.9%
“I feel like we’re in a position right now where we are down two or three and teams get on a run. It’s like, ‘oh s–t, again,’” Knicks guard Evan Fournier said. “Maybe just a good win would help us more, more confidence would help.”
The latest debacle came on Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the 76ers where — after making a strong third-quarter push to take a 98-95 lead before trailing 106-105 with seven minutes left in the game — the Knicks scored just four more points the rest of the afternoon in what ballooned into a 125-109 loss to Philadelphia’s dynamic duo of James Harden and Joel Embiid.
“Our togetherness down the stretch is not good enough. By togetherness I mean we are not tied together enough,” Fournier said. “Down the stretch, we have no confidence, so we are second-guessing at times. It should be second nature: Boom, boom, boom, this is what we’re doing. As long as we are not doing that, it’s going to be hard to close out games against teams that are good.”
“It keeps happening and that’s what’s so frustrating.”
A lack of chemistry will lead the finger of blame to be pointed everywhere around the organization, but head coach Tom Thibodeau’s inability to get his team out of a current funk that has seen them go 1-9 in their last 10, 2-12 in their last 14, and 3-15 in their last 18 is alarming for the reigning NBA coach of the year.
It doesn’t figure to get better any time soon, either, as their next matchup on Wednesday night takes them to Philadelphia for a rematch against the Sixers.
But Thibodeau’s roster — especially at the point guard position — isn’t helping the situation. Kemba Walker is benched for the remainder of the season and Derrick Rose’s return from ankle surgery has been pushed back another few weeks due to a skin infection near the area.
“The intensity of the fourth quarter is different,” Thibodeau said. “Decision-making is different. When you have an experienced guy [at point guard], I think you can control things a lot better. So we’re working on it. We have to get better at it.”
And that, ultimately, falls on the shoulders of Leon Rose, who was unable to figure out the Knicks’ backcourt during the offseason.