Inconsistencies costing Knicks some victories

Another New York Knicks loss, another career night from an opposing player.

This time, two Cavaliers torched the Knicks defense as Cleveland dealth New York its fourth loss in 10 games with a 126-109 beating Sunday night.

Ricky Rubio scored 37 points behind eight triples — both career highs — as he stepped up when starter Collin Sexton went down with a torn meniscus in the first half. The draft’s third overall pick Evan Mobley added a career high 26 points for the surprising who are off to a strong 7-4 start.

The dispirited Knicks effort came two nights after they shackled Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on the road.

In all the Knicks’ four losses this season, an opposing player had a career game against them.

In their shocking upset to Orlando Magic, New York native Cole Anthony grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds that went with 29 points and eight assists. For the season, the 6-foot-3 Anthony is averaging 7.8 rebounds per game and has logged in only two double-digit rebounding effort in 10 games.

The Knicks’ second loss came at the hands of the Toronto Raptors where OG Anunoby stepped up in the absence of Pascal Siakam and rookie stud Scottie Barnes. Anunoby dropped a career-high 36 points on 13 of 27 shooting. It was the only time this season that Anunoby scored more than 30 points. His previous season-high was 25.

Two nights after Anunoby’s explosion, it was Myles Turner’s turn. The Indiana Pacers’ big man connected on an astounding 7 of 10 threes, a career-high. Turner’s 25-point, 13-rebound and 3-block monster game was too much for the Knicks in a 111-98 loss. The outlier against the Knicks has catapulted Turner into a respectable 35-percent three-point shooter this season.

Against the Cavaliers, the Knicks had a 90 percent chance of winning the game based on the quality of shots.

So, how outlier was Rubio’s ’en fuego’ performance on Sunday night? The Spanish guard just became the first player in NBA history to post at least 30 points and 10 assists while making eight 3s off the bench. Rubio entered Sunday’s game as a 34-percent three-point shooter this season. While Mobley had shown generational talent as a modern big man, it was the only second time in 11 games that he scored more than 20 points.

But despite the Cavaliers badly outrebouding the Knicks, 48-32, the disparity in shot attempts isn’t that wide. But the Cavaliers hit 49 of 90 shots (54.4 percent) in contrast to Knicks’ 39 of 85 (45.9 percent). The Knicks simply missed good looks.

But fluke or not, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau lamented his team’s lackadaisical defensive effort.

“Our defense wasn’t very good. Our rebounding wasn’t very good. And if we’re gonna rely just strictly on offense, we’re gonna pay a price for it,” Thibodeau said.

On Sunday night, they paid dearly for it.

The Knicks have been plagued by inconsistent shooting and defensive effort throughout their uneven 6-4 start.

In their six wins, the Knicks averaged 16.4 made three-pointers on 40.8 shooting percentage. In their four losses, that went down to 10.8 made three-pointers on just 30.5 shooting percentage. It’s night and day.

On the other side of the ball, the Knicks’ once-stout perimeter defense is nowhere to be found. They have allowed 91 wide-open 3-pointers, the most by any team this season, according to NBA stats tracking data. The definition of a wide-open three-pointer is that no defender is within six feet of the shooter. The Knicks are currently in the bottom seven of opponents’ three-point field goal percentage, allowing 36.3 percent per game. Last season, they were no. 1 (33.7).

Are they running out of luck? Or is it an alarming sign of lack of defensive effort in closing out to the perimeter shooters?

Fluke or not, it’s these inconcistencies on both sides of the ball that have been costing Knicks some early season victories.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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