The tension in the visitors’ locker room after Thursday night’s loss was thick as players seemed to be stewing about the Knicks’ ongoing troubles on both ends of the floor.
Heads were down and sometimes shaking. Blank stares were prevalent. There was some animated conversation — albeit in low voices so no one could hear — after the Knicks fell behind by 27 points in their 119-112 loss to the Wizards.
This is common in locker rooms after defeats, but the way the Knicks are losing has led to this scene after many games.
The Knicks came into this season believing they not only could contend for a playoff spot but be a dangerous team. They haven’t jelled, haven’t figured out how to get in an offensive flow and almost never commit to trying to stop teams on the defensive side of the court.
That comes down to schemes. It’s also effort. Jeff Hornacek is stressing that, but no matter who has coached the Knicks in recent years, a lack of effort has been evident in games and is spoken about afterward in the locker room.
“It’s effort,” Derrick Rose said. “When we see someone down or see that things are not clicking, that’s when we got to come together as a team.”
Rose was asked if the effort should be there every night, no matter what. “You would think so,” he said. “But when you’re playing in a game like this, if we’re not together, things build on top of each other.”
Brandon Jennings added, “A lot of separation was going on but we got to stick together . . . [It takes] effort and trust. Effort and trust and communication.”
The Knicks have shown those things on occasion this season, but not often enough, as evidenced by their 5-7 record.
Jennings made his point loud and clear about the Knicks “not locking in” on the road. In their last three road games, the Knicks have allowed 115, 118 and 119 points, respectively. They are allowing 111.95 points per 100 possessions, the worst defensive rating in the NBA.
Joakim Noah was brought in to be a defensive anchor, but he’s playing 23.4 minutes a game and has admitted to being a step slow because of past injuries. Some of the Knicks’ most effective lineups have been when they’ve gone smaller, with Kristaps Porzingis at center.
The Knicks don’t have great individual defenders, and they’re letting their offensive woes affect them when they need to get stops. The 112-point total looks impressive, but they had only 65 through three quarters. They scored 47 in the fourth, playing freely and to their strengths and not in the triangle.
You can’t blame it all on the offense. which continues to hang over the players’ heads. The players can’t sulk. They still have to do what Hornacek wants and get back on defense or there will continue to be these kinds of nights, home and away.
“When the coaches are doing their game plan, we got to listen,” Jennings said. “When the coach is writing a play, we got to pay attention. There’s a lot at stake for us. We got to start locking in. This is bull. These are games we need to win.”
The Knicks will play their next three games at home, starting with Sunday’s matinee against Atlanta. The Knicks have won three straight at the Garden.
Establishing a home-court advantage has been one of the Knicks’ objectives. It could cover a lot of their flaws, but there still is plenty to fix if they’re ever going to meet their own expectations.
“We’re not being consistent right now with a lot of stuff, rotations, defensive effort,” Courtney Lee said. “We’re not consistent. It’s hurting us.”
Blocks for bucks. Porzingis will donate $500 for each of his blocked shots to the “Ben Jobe Educational and Scholarship Fund,” courtesy of the RENS, a youth basketball program. Jobe, a former college coach, works in the Knicks’ scouting department.