Almost one-quarter into the season, the Knicks were 10-10 when they faced the Miami Heat last night at Madison Square Garden. Their surprisingly positive start has been buttressed by defending their home court. The Garden has been a fortress for the Knicks, where they had attained a mark of 9-4 before hosting the Heat. In contrast, they were 1-6 away from the Garden.

Monday, a listless 103-91 loss to the Portland Trailblazers at MSG, preceded by defeats at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks (116-104) and the Houston Rockets (117-102) on Friday and Saturday, respectively, both on the road, was a reminder the Knicks still have large strides to make before becoming a consistently good team.

“The game was low energy from our guys,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said after falling to the Trailblazers. “We’re not the team that can just come out there and think we’re just going to play, and then step it up later. We have to do it from the tipoff, and I don’t think our energy was there for the first three quarters.”

“I don’t know what to say. We gotta come out better, no excuses,” assessed Tim Hardaway Jr. “We’re a better team and we know that. We have to make sure this doesn’t ever happen again.

“All it is is effort. There’s no big math or science problem to figure out why we lost the game. It’s effort. Like I said, we’ve got to do a better job of it from the jump.”

In all three losses, playing without starting center Enes Kanter, who was experiencing back spasms, the Knicks seemingly allowed stages of offensive inefficiency to affect their intensity and focus on the defensive end of the court. They clearly missed Kanter’s production and energy, whose 13.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game have been crucial to the Knicks’ competitive beginning. Yet Hornacek didn’t make allowances for their irregular defensive performance.

“It should never affect the other end,” said Hornacek. “It should be the opposite. When you’re not scoring, that’s when you should be defensively all over the place. It’s all about winning the game; it’s not about getting points or anything like that.”

He continued, “So, that’s where we have to have that mentality, we have to develop that mentality in our guys that when you’re not scoring you can still win the game. Play some defense and get after it.”

The Knicks’ next game will be Sunday at the Garden versus the Orlando Magic (3:30 p.m.), followed by a matchup with the Indiana Pacers Monday night on the road.