Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau demonstrated an economy of words on Tuesday night, meeting with the media in a state of obvious frustration after his team dropped a winnable 129-123 overtime game to the Los Angeles Lakers in a blaring, sold out Madison Square Garden. They extended a stretch of flawed defense that has them 2-6 in their last eight games when they host the Miami Heat tonight at MSG. The Knicks are 27-25 and No. 7 in the East.
In the Knicks’ past six losses they have allowed opponents to score an average of 126 points per game. “It’s not one particular thing,” Thibodeau said of the Knicks’ defensive issues. “It’s the consistency of doing it over and over again. It’s all aspects. It starts [with] competing on the ball, being tied together, being connected.
“From defensive transition to pick and roll defense,” he expanded, “to catch and shoot defense to isolation defense, to dribble hand off defense to low post defense you need everyone connected together. Oftentimes it’s a second, third, fourth effort… And so what we can’t do is we can’t let up. We gotta keep fighting and pushing through this.
“We’re hitting some adversity,” Thibodeau acknowledged. “We just have to make it go our way, that’s all. Gotta bear down and make it go our way.”
A recurring issue for the Knicks this season has been losing close games due to defensive lapses or not executing offensively in the waning seconds. An evident shortcoming is not having a singular player who can routinely get buckets when the opposition locks down. Before explaining the Knicks aforementioned defensive concerns, Thibodeau described the difficulties of trying to stop players that unlike his sporadic group are validated game clinchers.
“Look, you got LeBron James, and you got Anthony Davis. You got two unbelievable players that command a lot of attention so it’s going to change the game,” he underscored. “Westbrook is another guy who can hurt you off the dribble and so we knew we’d be tested in that way.
“The way they attack the paint, we need to keep our defense tight, and we didn’t keep it as tight as we should have. Then, when you have those types of players that can go off the dribble on you, keeping the ball out of the middle of the floor is the challenge. So, we need to do better.”
Following the Heat, the Knicks, who are 12-14 at home, will have a back-to-back at the Garden versus the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday and Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. With a road record of 15-11, they’ll be in Orlando on Tuesday to meet the Magic.