GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Their coach labeled them not ready to play at the start of the game in Chicago the night before. He said they “gave in” during the franchise’s worst offensive fourth quarter in its 70 seasons.
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Little wonder that Derek Fisher had the Knicks viewing video and practicing Saturday at the MSG Training Center.
“If you score eight points in the fourth quarter, that’s totally unacceptable,” Carmelo Anthony said, thinking about the four-point hole that grew to 27 points after the Knicks shot 2-for-19 from the floor. “We can’t win games scoring eight points in the fourth quarter.
“As a player, you never want to say that guys gave up. You don’t want to believe that guys gave up. The coach’s perspective is always a lot different than the players’ perspective.”
By any perspective, the Knicks (15-19) are a better team than they were last season, standing only two wins from their meager 2014-15 total of 17. But they continue to show they have XL-size room for improvement and have lost five of their last six games.
Now they tip off a brutal stretch of four games in six days, beginning Sunday at home against the Hawks (21-13), followed by a rematch Tuesday night in Atlanta, a game Wednesday night in Miami against the Heat (19-13) and a road date Friday night against the Spurs (28-6 entering Saturday night).
Anthony was concentrating on the first game, knowing the Knicks will need more of a steel will — the sort of fortitude they showed in coming back from 17 down to take a two-point lead over the Bulls in the third quarter Friday night.
“We’ve just got to win [today],’’ Anthony said. “ . . . We’ve just got to go out there and everybody’s got to have a will about themselves.”
They also will need to apply themselves on defense. Fisher said the Knicks have “been horrendous on the defensive end” during this skid.
“The focus is always the offense; we only scored eight points,” he said. “But we’ve been last in the league the last six games on defense. That has a lot to do with it as well.”
The Hawks are rather disruptive on defense. They entered the weekend ranked No. 1 in points off turnovers (20.3) and No. 2 in forcing turnovers (16.9). They’ve already beaten the Knicks twice by double digits, forcing a combined 44 turnovers good for 54 points. They scored 112 points Oct. 29 at MSG and 117 on Dec. 26 in Atlanta.
“They force you to work hard at both ends of the floor, which is really what good teams do,” Fisher said. “Those are the teams that we struggle with the most. We’re going to have to figure out a way to continue to chip away at how we cut into their ability to break us down.”
It also would help if Kristaps Porzingis and Arron Afflalo could shoot a little straighter. Porzingis is shooting 33.1 percent from the floor in the last 12 games. Afflalo is at 31.7 percent in the last six.
“I just have to get back in the gym,” Afflalo said, “exert more effort on the court, be more efficient and more effective with the opportunities that I do get.”