The Knicks’ starting backcourt averaged 15 points in Wednesday’s 120-108 loss to the Grizzlies at the Garden.
Not bad, right?
The problem was the breakdown: Evan Fournier scored 30 points. Kemba Walker had zero.
It was Walker’s second straight scoreless game. He attempted only four shots in 17:10 after taking two shots in 16:41 in the previous game. When the Knicks tried to make a fourth-quarter comeback, Walker was on the bench and Immanuel Quickley played point guard.
Asked after the game if he is concerned about Walker, coach Tom Thibodeau said: "Not really. To me, it’s like Kemba, he’s a proven scorer in this league. Players are going to go through different things. When he’s open, I want to see him shoot every single time. He can miss 10 in a row; I believe he’s going to make 10 in a row. That’s just the way the game is. Shoot your open shots . . . What he has been doing is throwing the ball ahead really well, and I think that’s helped us. If you’re not shooting well, find something else, find a different thing that you can help us with, and usually he does."
He didn’t on Wednesday, as Thibodeau had to go with quicker guards against Memphis All-Star Ja Morant. Rookie Quentin Grimes had some good moments defending Morant, who scored 23 points but shot 9-for-27.
Fournier shot 11-for-18 (8-for-12 on three-pointers). He scored 10 in the final period as the Knicks cut a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to five and a subsequent 14-point deficit to six before the Grizzlies finished it.
"He’s in a good rhythm right now and I think that his teammates are doing a good job of searching him out, which I think is important," Thibodeau said. "If people are loaded up on the strong side to Julius [Randle], then that means the back side is open. If we’re making plays for each other, we’re making quick decisions, guys are going to get in a rhythm because there’s going to be multiple touches on every possession for everyone. I like the way he’s playing a lot. I think it creates space and opens up the floor for everyone. It’s been good. We’ve got to keep them going."
In his last three games, Fournier is averaging 24.3 points and shooting 58.3% overall and 54.8% from three-point range.
"As an aggressive player, you’re just trying to look for opportunities," he said. "When you get it going, that feels like every time you touch it, you can create something because there’s always space, there’s always air space and there’s always ways to get a shot off. When you get good looks early, it helps your confidence. We have guys that are very unselfish and that are trying to feed you."
The Knicks will open a five-game western swing on Saturday in Los Angeles against the Lakers. LeBron James, who has a sore left knee and was not active for Thursday night’s game against the Clippers, is a question mark for Saturday.