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Knicks find fatigue at end of long road trip

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, center, is fouled

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, center, is fouled as he dribbles through the defense of Knicks guard Alec Burks, left, and guard Austin Rivers during the second half of an NBA game in Portland, Ore., on Sunday. Credit: AP/Steve Dykes

The Knicks made the last stop on their seven-day, four-city trip Tuesday with a 108-94 loss in Utah and before they even took the court, Austin Rivers acknowledged that they were tired.

The Knicks have played 12 of their first 19 games on the road and not yet had the ease of the one-city, two-game set that the NBA had planned to insert in the schedule to ease travel.

"Oh, we’re definitely tired," said Rivers, who shot 10-for-10 in the first half Tuesday but was scoreless (0-for-4) in the second half, when the Knicks were outscored 62-35. "Our schedule, I would challenge anybody to put up their schedule versus ours. I don’t know how a schedule could be tougher than what we’ve played. Physically and mentally. At the same time, it is what it is. Here we are. I don’t know. We’re fatigued but we’re ready to go. You know what I mean?

"Just got to go out and compete and figure out how to win games every night. Each night is a new challenge. I think the biggest thing, when you have a long season, the best way to approach these games is to try to put a positive spin on everything. We’ve lost two in a row but at the same time, we won our first game on this road trip."

As you might expect, Tom Thibodeau did not share the theory that this presented any sort of reason for the struggles.

"The schedule is the schedule. It’s balanced," Thibodeau said. "Sometimes it’s in your favor where you may have a home stretch where you’re playing every other day or you may have a couple days in between. The thing that makes this a little more unusual with the COVID stuff [is] you could be walking into teams that are off for an extended period of time.

"But that’s all part of it, as I mentioned before. you could probably find an excuse for every game. That’s what you have to guard against. You have to have the mental toughness to get through anything that you’re facing, so whether it’s a back to back, travel involved, we have good depth on the team. You’ve just got to find a way, a group that can help us win. That’s what we’re trying to do, to build those habits, to build that mental toughness that we can get through any adversity that we might be facing."

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