NEW ORLEANS — The Knicks are a frustrated team right now. They’re trying not to sound any alarms, but they could be getting close.
They showed as much frustration in the locker room after Friday night’s game as they did on the court in their 104-92 loss to the Pelicans. They were just as out of sync, too.
Jeff Hornacek and Kristaps Porzingis talked about what the Knicks struggled with offensively. Derrick Rose didn’t want to hear anything about the offense. Carmelo Anthony said they have to re-evaluate themselves as players and as a team.
Three straight losses can do that, but it’s also the way the Knicks (16-16) lost to New Orleans. They played poorly on both ends of the floor and trailed by double figures in each quarter. The Knicks were sloppy with the ball, took bad shots and were slow defensively.
“I don’t even want to talk about offense,” Rose said. “I think it’s the defensive side of the ball. If we stop people, it would be a lot easier to score. I’m tired of being down 10 quick. When you play that type of game, it affects you after a while.
“We got to catch ourselves from slipping.”
The Knicks, who dipped back to .500 with their sixth loss in eight games, could slip again Saturday night when they close out the three-game trip and 2016 in Houston against the high-scoring Rockets.
They let the Pelicans get any shot they wanted, but they also played into New Orleans’ hands.
The Pelicans (14-21) switched everything on defense, so on many possessions, Porzingis and Anthony had much smaller players on them. Hornacek said he would have liked to have seen them take it to the basket more instead of taking so many turnaround jumpers, which is Porzingis’ specialty.
The result was that the Knicks played too much individual basketball, with Anthony, Porzingis and Rose taking turns shooting and, more often than not, missing. “We got stagnated,” Hornacek said.
Anthony led the Knicks with 26 points and 13 rebounds, but he shot 8-for-22 overall and was 4-for-14 in the second half. He also committed four turnovers.
Porzingis shot 8-for-20 and had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Rose scored 20, shot 9-for-21 and had only one assist. No other Knick reached double figures.
“We got to kind of re-evaluate where we’re at as a team right now,” Anthony said. “The different schemes we’re seeing against us. We got to be able to adjust to that, react to that. We got to play better.”
When asked exactly what he meant, he said, “I think as a whole, all of us as players, we got to figure out what we want to do, how we want to do it and go out there and execute that. We do it sometimes and we don’t. That’s where the lack of consistency comes from.”
The Pelicans had much more balance and flow. They shot 12-for-29 from three-point range and had six players in double figures. Anthony Davis had 23 points and 18 rebounds. Tyreke Evans scored 16 off the bench, Jrue Holiday, Buddy Hield and E’Twaun Moore added 12 each and Solomon Hill had 10.
Davis was a handful for the Knicks, just as he is for most teams. Hornacek threw different players at him.
Joakim Noah started on him in the first and third quarters, but Hornacek pulled Noah 3:17 into the third quarter and went with rookie Willy Hernangomez. Noah didn’t seem happy about being removed so quickly, and it didn’t change much.
Hornacek was looking for something with the Knicks struggling on both ends of the floor in the third quarter. That’s when things unraveled for the Knicks, who led 51-48 late in the second quarter and then saw the Pelicans go on a 20-2 run, including the final seven points of the first half.
The Knicks scored only 18 points in the third quarter, had as many turnovers as field goals (six) and were down 10.
The fourth started with Porzingis badly missing a wild step-back shot and Brandon Jennings’ breakaway layup rolling off the rim two trips later. Two possessions after that, Jennings lost the ball out of bounds on a drive toward the basket.
The Pelicans took a 91-75 lead with 7:45 left on a three-pointer by former Knick Langston Galloway. The Knicks finally cut it to single digits, 99-90, on Porzingis’ three-point play with 2:37 left, but Dante Cunningham’s three-pointer on the next trip made it 102-90 with 1:59 to go.
“The slippage comes from defense,” Rose said. “Every time you look up we’re down 10, we’re down 10. We’re trying to fight back into the game or get back into the game. I don’t know when we’re going to get tired of it.’’
It sounds as if they are.