LOS ANGELES — One day after Tim Hardaway Jr. talked about the Knicks wanting to be a playoff team, they showed how far away they are.
Facing a Lakers team that was without two starters, the Knicks played with no resistance or effort on the defensive end. The Lakers scored at least 30 points in each quarter and handed the Knicks an embarrassing 127-107 loss Sunday at Staples Center.
“They wanted it more,” Hardaway said. “We can’t let that happen. It shouldn’t be happening. Both teams should be competing at an equal pace. You’re going against a team that leads the league in pace. They’re that fast and they want to get up and down. You’ve got to be ready for it and we were not ready for it.”
This was an opportunity for the Knicks (21-26) to go 3-1 on this seven-game road swing, but they let the Lakers — who were missing rookie guard Lonzo Ball and swingman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope because of injury — get whatever shot they wanted from wherever they wanted to take it. The Lakers (17-29) shot 56 percent from the field (51-for-91).
“We didn’t get enough stops,” Hardaway said. “We really didn’t get any stops. That team is so well-energized, well-coached. They do a great job of just crashing the glass, going hard every possession, diving on the floor. You could tell they want it.”
The Knicks dropped to 6-17 on the road and are three games out of the Eastern Conference’s last playoff spot.
“They just played harder than us in everything,” Enes Kanter said. “Just out-hustled us, lot of offensive rebounds, got a lot of turnovers. I don’t think we can play like this in road games and expect to get a win.”
Now the trip turns much more difficult for the Knicks. All four teams they’ve played — the Nets, Grizzlies, Jazz and Lakers — had worse records than they did. Now the Knicks will face Golden State (37-10) and Denver (23-23) before closing out the trip Friday in Phoenix.
Hardaway, Kristaps Porzingis and Michael Beasley each scored 17 points to lead the Knicks. Courtney Lee added 16.
Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers with 29 points off the bench. Julius Randle had 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
“Randle and Clarkson, they were killing us,” Jeff Hornacek said. “We were throwing multiple guys on both of them. But they took it to whoever was guarding them.”
The Knicks actually shot the ball well. They were 44-for-81 overall (54.3 percent) and 12-for-25 on three-pointers (48 percent). From that standpoint, this game was like a recent loss in Minnesota in which the Knicks scored easily but couldn’t get stops. It also had a script similar to Wednesday night’s game in Memphis. Although the Grizzlies were without three starters, the Knicks fell behind by 18 in the third quarter.
The Knicks allowed 55 points in the first 18:32 of Sunday’s game. The Lakers scored 25 points in the first 6:32 of the second quarter.
“I thought the energy was OK,” Hornacek said. “We just didn’t play good enough defense.”
The Knicks went 5-for-5 from three-point range in the first 3:48 of the third quarter and later led by as many as six points. They then went the last 4:28 of the quarter without a field goal and were outscored 10-0 to fall behind 97-89.
The Lakers got to the basket at will in the fourth quarter, and Randle had back-to-back dunks during a 10-0 run that gave them a 120-103 lead.
“We just didn’t play hard enough,” Kanter said. “Cannot just go out there and say, ‘Hey, let’s get a win.’ That’s not going to work. They went out and they played harder than us in everything.”