The afterglow of the Knicks outplaying the Thunder in Carmelo Anthony’s Madison Square Garden homecoming on Saturday night probably lasted into the wee hours. They feel that good about themselves after their season-high fourth straight victory.
Sure, the Knicks would rather win with Kristaps Porzingis, who missed the game because of a sore left knee and could miss Monday night’s game at Charlotte, too. But the Knicks (16-13) beat Anthony and the Thunder with six players scoring in double figures, led by Michael Beasley’s 30 points, which tied his season high. Beasley started in Porzingis’ place and outscored Anthony by 18.
Coach Jeff Hornacek explained how the team is coming together as 2017 comes to an end. Who knows if it will continue, but for now, the Knicks like where 2018 could be headed.
“I think our guys are kind of getting the idea,” Hornacek said. “We’re improving every day, it seems like. We watch the tape and I’m ‘OK, that was pretty good.’ We’re not having the multiple same mistakes, so I think the guys are getting it and they’re feeling good about what we’re doing. They love each other. Jarrett [Jack] said something [Friday] at practice how this team really feels good about each other and they’re playing for each other and that can lead to some success. Now they’ve kind of found that groove of knowing what we’re doing, what we expect from them. And they’re performing. You’ve got to give them all the credit. They work hard every day and they’re going after it and playing well.”
The Knicks took Sunday off, which gave Porzingis another day to heal. He tried to play on Saturday night but had to sit out after testing the knee in the pregame shootaround.
“I think it just wasn’t feeling exactly right on some of his moves,” Hornacek said. “So after talking with the doctors, we just felt that we’ll keep him out. Again, not having the worry of making it worse. As far as the little things that are getting him when he’s making certain moves, I don’t know if that just disappears overnight. We’ll have to see [about Monday].”
Without Porzingis, the Knicks turned to Beasley to score, and the former No. 2 overall pick didn’t disappoint. Surprisingly, he also contributed to the tough defense on Anthony, who shot 5-for-18 and didn’t score in the second half.
“What happens sometimes when a guy goes out, all the rotations change, guys’ roles — at least for a couple guys — may be a little different,” Hornacek said. “We may ask guys to do more. And then all of a sudden they’re thrown into that. Well, now after a couple games, the guys are now comfortable if KP’s not able to play. They kind of understand what they’re supposed to do. It makes it easier.”
What also makes it easier is that the Knicks have played nine more games at home than on the road. They are 14-5 at home and 2-8 away from the Garden.
But the scheduling worm is set to turn: The Knicks will play 18 of their next 24 games on the road. “We’re going to have a big road stretch here coming up,” Hornacek said. “We need to make sure we win these home games.”