After a laborious 107-99 loss to the athletically superior Orlando Magic at home Monday night, which ended their four-game winning streak, the Knicks were 14-15 when they began a three-game road trip Wednesday evening against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks will also meet up with the Atlanta Hawks Saturday and the Boston Celtics Sunday. The games have added significance given the unexpected status of the East.
In a reversal of a trend that has seen the Western Conference patently stronger than the Eastern Conference from top to bottom for the better part of a decade, 12 of the East’s 15 teams were either over .500 or two games within that mark at the start of this week. In contrast, the West had only seven teams .500 or above.
The Cavaliers were at the top of the East at 18-7, the 18-12 Hawks stood in the third spot and the 15-13 Celtics were in the 10th position. The Knicks were directly behind the Celtics at 11th. Derek Fisher and his staff have nearly maximized the collective abilities of their roster. While there is still ample room for improvement, on most nights, the Knicks are at an athletic disadvantage, as evidenced by them being last in the league in fast-break points per game at 8.5. Despite Fisher’s emphasis on his team playing at a faster pace, they continue to struggle to get easy baskets in their primary and secondary fast breaks, generating few buckets in their early offense.
Another issue impacting the Knicks’ offense is the shooting slump rookie Kristaps Porzingis has recently experienced, including going 3-12 for nine points against the Magic.
“My shot is feeling fine, it’s just not falling,’’ Porzingis said Monday. “Sooner or later they will fall again. I’m not too worried about that.”
His running mate Carmelo Anthony agreed. “We all go through it,” he said “We [have] to do a better job of helping him figure this out right now while he’s not playing as well as he wants to.’’