GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks got up on Christmas Eve morning and went to practice. But their wake-up call came at Madison Square Garden the night before.
“As if we needed one,” Elfrid Payton said. “But, for sure.”
Their admitted lack of 20-20 focus in Monday night’s game contributed to a dreadful 121-115 loss against a Washington team that was missing six of its top eight scorers. The issue even was visible to the Knicks earlier in the day.
“We definitely could’ve been more focused overall as a group [Monday] at shootaround,” Payton said. “That’s just not respecting the game.”
So Christmas comes with the Knicks sitting at 7-24 — tied for the second-worst record in the NBA. They were an NBA-worst 17-65 last season before signing seven free agents and drafting RJ Barrett. Now this group will take the holiday off, then hope to bounce back against the Nets Thursday night at Barclays Center.
“Obviously, we’ve got to be thankful for things in our life, put things in perspective,” Payton said. “But it’s definitely a good time for us to reflect and see what we need to work on.”
At least they were into Tuesday’s practice session.
“We were just more sharper and focused on what we were trying to accomplish today,” said Julius Randle, who contributed a season-high 35 points against the Wizards.
After the game, Randle lamented the Knicks’ relaxed approach to a game that followed blowout losses to Miami and Milwaukee, labeling it as “unacceptable.”
On Tuesday, Randle said, “I felt like (from) me down on, it was a lack of focus. That’s all it was. … It was no ‘We had a letdown,’ or ‘We didn’t take our opponent seriously.’ Or whatever it is. I just felt we could’ve executed better. I feel like that all attributes to focus. A lot of things in the NBA are mental, attributed to focus.”
The Knicks were missing leading-scorer Marcus Morris (sore left Achilles) and Taj Gibson (illness), but Washington’s cast of mostly unknown characters won out
“They went to zone, and it just took us too long to figure it out,” Payton said.
A late run made it close. Barrett said they got outworked. Washington finished with a 16-11 edge in offensive rebounds and a 24-18 advantage on second-chance points.
“We didn’t execute consistently,” said Mike Miller, who is 3-6 since taking over as interim coach. “The urgency we played (with) at the beginning and the end wasn’t the same we played with in parts of the middle.”
Miller doesn’t feel the players have grown comfortable with losing.
“I don’t think that’s us at all,” Miller said. “We have to be the aggressor. We have to be the team that is always charging forward. And that’s the mentality we want to have.”
Notes & quotes: Miller said Morris and Gibson are questionable for the Brooklyn game, but added, “They appear to be feeling better.”