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Knicks being hurt by defensive lapses, Hornacek says

Head coach Jeff Hornacek of the New York

Head coach Jeff Hornacek of the New York Knicks reacts in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, at Madison Square Garden. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Jeff Hornacek says a sometimes predictable offense is not what’s causing the Knicks to lose leads or fail to close out games. It’s their predictable lapses on defense that continue to hurt them.

After their 105-102 loss to the 76ers on Friday night in Philadelphia, Carmelo Anthony said teams are adjusting throughout the games and the Knicks aren’t. Hornacek didn’t take offense to that and said the issues, particularly late, are on the other end.

“We didn’t score a couple times,” Hornacek said. “OK, we’ll get it on the defensive end, and we didn’t get stops.”

That’s been the story of the Knicks’ season. Their already porous defense will be tested Sunday when the high-powered Warriors visit the Garden for the only time this season.

The Warriors (50-11) will be without Kevin Durant because of a knee injury but still have plenty of firepower with the All-Star trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. And they’re coming off their first regular-season two-game losing streak since April 2015, so it could be a long afternoon for the Knicks.

“The biggest thing is we can’t get panicked when they make a few,” Hornacek said. “No matter what you do defensively, their players know those reads. You’ve got to keep fighting. They’re good at knowing who their shooters are, Klay and Steph, and they’ll make extra passes. They’re a team that passes up good shots to get great ones.”

Team president Phil Jackson brought in an offense that has a lot of reads, and the Knicks haven’t mastered it yet. They also don’t have the shooters or role players the Warriors have. But instead of playing to their players’ strengths, the Knicks have re-emphasized the triangle since returning from the All-Star break.

Hornacek said one of the reasons they’re utilizing it more frequently is because they wanted more movement and flow on offense and better balance on defense. Yet they remain predictable on both ends.

Many Knicks aren’t fans of the system. That made it unclear whether Anthony was taking a shot at Hornacek or the triangle when he said the Knicks don’t make adjustments and just run the same thing.

Anthony spun away from a double-team in the closing seconds against Philadelphia and missed a jumper that would have put the Knicks ahead. He made a game-winning jumper a week ago against the 76ers with three-tenths of a second left and missed a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer against the Raptors.

Hornacek said the Knicks can be predictable when they feed Anthony most of the time in those situations, especially if everyone else is just watching him.

“If they overplay it one way or another, you got to be able to figure that out,” Hornacek said. “See it happen and see it develop and take advantage of that and not just say, ‘OK, I’m going to get the ball to Carmelo.’

“Maybe later in the game [it’s predictable], but there’s different options off of that predictability or that set that they can do. It can be into a corner pick-and-roll. But . . . if we just throw it to Carmelo and stand, then it becomes predictable.”

The triangle is supposed to fix that, and Hornacek said he has run it more in the last several games. The Knicks are committed to using the triangle for the rest of the season, and Hornacek said they will evaluate players on whether they fit in the system.

The belief is that this is all Jackson’s doing. Last week, former Knicks coach Larry Brown said on SiriusXM NBA Radio that if Jackson wants the Knicks to run the triangle, he should coach them himself. Of course, Jackson has had input, but Hornacek said he does, too.

“We’ve talked about the system and having a system to run; not 48 minutes,” Hornacek said. “We still want to do other things. When we get down, especially in fourth quarters, we want to run something that’s part of a system. The triangle aspects is one of the systems that you can run that hopefully they can’t double, hopefully they can’t switch. It at least gets you organized in a set.

“It’s not like he’s saying, ‘I want you to run this all 48 minutes.’ ”

Notes & quotes: Willy Hernangomez (sprained left ankle) went through practice after missing the past two games. He is questionable against the Warriors.

New York Sports