The Knicks’ loss in Washington on Thursday night didn’t sit well with anyone. So the players, coaches and team president Phil Jackson sat down and cleared the air during an hourlong meeting Saturday.
Carmelo Anthony said the players expressed what kind of team they want to be, and that Jackson was a willing listener during the sit-down. Then, less than 24 hours later, the Knicks beat the team with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks, 104-94, on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
“I thought the players did a great job of just kind of voicing their opinion on kind of where we want to be, what type of team we want to be, where we want to go and things that we want to see change,” Anthony said after leading the Knicks with 31 points.
“The conversation was a long conversation. I don’t want to go into details about what we spoke about, but my guys responded very well to what was said in that meeting. As you can see, it was a different focus, it was a different mindset, it was a different energy that we approached the game with.”
Anthony said Jackson was there for a “portion of” the meeting and didn’t say anything.
“Nah, he actually just listened this time,” Anthony said, “which is good.”
Players were frustrated after the loss to Washington, a game in which they fell behind by 27 points. They have expressed frustration with the triangle offense, which they don’t like to run all the time. They would prefer to play to their strengths.
The Knicks stormed back against the Wizards with a 47-point fourth quarter by freelancing more and using pick-and-rolls. The Knicks utilized Anthony in pick-and-rolls Sunday, and he matched his season-high point total.
“We got him off on to some other guys in pick-and-rolls and he was able to step out,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He’s one of the best in the league at one-on-one play. We have confidence in him when he gets the ball over there.”
The Knicks played without Joakim Noah because of an illness, and with Hornacek using several different lineups, they led for the last 42:38. They were up 15 in the third quarter and won their fourth straight at home.
The Knicks (6-7) aren’t cured — they have allowed 115, 118 and 119 points in their last three road games — but they appear to be building something at home. They can climb back to .500 Tuesday night when Portland visits the Garden.
Kristaps Porzingis said of Saturday’s sit-down, “We talked a lot about what we want to do, how we want to be better. We had a good meeting. We talked a lot of stuff through. We came out today playing the way we need to be playing.”
Porzingis had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Derrick Rose and Courtney Lee scored 14 points each.
The Knicks got big lifts from Kyle O’Quinn, who started in place of Noah and had eight points and eight rebounds, and rookie Willy Hernangomez (seven points and eight rebounds).
Paul Millsap led Atlanta (9-4) with 19 points. Dwight Howard had 18 points and 18 rebounds.
After Atlanta got within 77-71 on Kyle Korver’s three-pointer 2:27 into the fourth quarter, four of the Knicks’ next five field goals were three-pointers. They extended their lead to 91-78 on Justin Holiday’s three-pointer with 4:36 left.
The Hawks got within 100-94 in the final minute, but Rose made four free throws in the last 31.4 seconds to ice the game.
“There comes a point and time throughout the season where you have to re-evaluate things and step out of the situation, look into the situation, see what you can do better, look in the mirror at each other, at yourself, and see the things you can improve,” Anthony said. “We did that yesterday and today.
“I don’t want to say we won today because of the meeting, but you clear the air like that and guys speak out and talk and they don’t have to hold it in. They don’t feel pressured in the open forum. Guys spoke and everybody responded.”