The Knicks have a new coach, but are still losing in the same old painful way.
Twenty-four hours after firing Derek Fisher, the Knicks lost their sixth straight game and were defeated, 111-108, Friday night by the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden.
The first loss of the Kurt Rambis Era was at times as hard to watch as some of the worst losses of Fisher’s final month with the team. After a terrible first half, the Knicks dug themselves out of a double-digit hole but came up short at the end when Langston Galloway missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer.
Galloway had hit a three-pointer eight seconds earlier to pull the Knicks within one point, 107-106, but John Wall made four free throws down the stretch to help the Wizards hang on.
Wall was a speedy force that the Knick defense had trouble with all night. He finished the game with 28 points and 17 assists. Carmelo Anthony, who told reporters before the game that he had been shocked by Fisher’s firing, led the Knicks with 33 points and 13 rebounds. Kristaps Porzingis scored 20 points, blocked three shots and grabbed five rebounds.
The Knicks entered the game having lost nine of their last 10. Before the free fall that led to Fisher’s firing, the team was 22-22 on Jan. 20 and just a half-game out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Twenty awful days later, the Knicks had plummeted to five games out of eighth place.
The Knicks trailed by as many 16 points late in the first quarter. Thanks to Porzingis, who had 14 of his 16 points in the third quarter, the Knicks were able to tie the game, 83-83, on a Derek Williams jump shot at the end of the third quarter.
It had been more than 24 hours since the Knicks announced Fisher’s firing, so the mood inside the team locker room before the game was more solemn than shocked.
Almost every player said they were as much to blame for the team’s problems as their former coach.
“I think it’s all of us. It wasn’t just him,” said Williams, adding that Fisher was 50 percent of the reason he decided to come to the Knicks. “It’s the bad thing about this business. We didn’t play well. We were 1-9. We struggled over the last 10 games. Something had to change.”
Said Jose Calderon: “I think sometimes coaches get blamed, but it’s just about everybody. He was the guy let go but at the end of the day we are starting all together, from the top to the bottom of the staff, players, everybody.
In his introductory news conference, Rambis said he has been around the league too long “to have that hope” that he could hang onto the job next season. Before his first game as interim coach, however, Rambis made it clear that being a head coach has long been his goal and he is thrilled to be here.
Said Rambis: “This is a real unique situation. This is the team that drafted me when I came out of college. So to get back to this environment, this basketball culture and coaching in this arena, from a basketball perspective, it doesn’t get any better than that.”