PORTLAND, Ore.— James Dolan says the Knicks aren’t tanking. Imagine if they were.
They fell to 10-30 on Monday night with a 111-101 loss to the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center. The Knicks, who snapped an eight-game losing streak in their previous contest Friday against the Lakers in Los Angeles, have dropped 14 of their last 16.
They will reach the halfway point of the season and wrap up their road trip against the defending NBA champion Warriors on Tuesday night.
Enes Kanter led the Knicks with 18 points and 14 rebounds off the bench. Emmanuel Mudiay scored 17 and former Blazer Noah Vonleh added 16. Tim Hardaway Jr. shot 2-for-12 (1-for-7 from three-point range) and finished with five points.
Portland (24-17) was paced by Jusuf Nurkic’s 20 points. CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard each scored 17.
Dolan made his “no tanking” comments in Las Vegas, where the MSG executive chairman and CEO watched the Rangers practice before taking on the Golden Knights on Tuesday night.
Dolan was asked about all the losing that is going on at the Garden (the Rangers are 17-17-7 and have lost three in a row by a combined score of 18-3). His answer included a hopeful portion about Knicks forward Kevin Knox, who recently was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December.
“The key is you just want to know your team’s getting better,” Dolan said. “You want to know that the player’s executing better. You want to know that he’s developing something.
“With kids, it’s all about the development. And we got a kid, one of our stars, the Knicks, the kid called Kevin Knox — he doesn’t turn 20 until [August]. That’s young. So you can’t look at Kevin Knox and say, ‘That’s the player he’s going to be.’ It’s totally not the case.
“Kevin Knox could be a really great player. It depends on how well he’s developed and how much effort and what his level of concentration is, etc. And that’s what our guys work on.”
Knox, beset by early foul woes on Monday, finished with eight points in 22 minutes.
The Knicks struggled early in each half. They didn’t score their first points of the game until Knox hit a pair of free throws with 8:50 left in the first quarter with the Knicks trailing 8-0. Their first basket came on Luke Kornet’s leaner 1:02 later.
Still, they rallied to take the lead and ended the first quarter tied at 30. They led for most of the second quarter, but the Blazers took a 54-53 lead into halftime and scored the first nine points of the third quarter to take their first double-digit lead at 63-53.
Portland went up by as much as 18 in the third quarter and brought an 86-76 lead to the fourth. The Knicks got no closer than 10 in the final quarter.
“The first five minutes of the third quarter, we had a rough start, 1-for-10, I think, to start that quarter,” coach David Fizdale said. “Some tough shots in there. Some real tough offensive possessions, which allowed them to really get to their game, which is flying up the court, putting a lot of pressure on you with those two guards [Lillard and McCollum].’’
With Colin Stephenson
in Las Vegas