Knicks face strange problem with starting team after 2nd consecutive loss

Alexander Wilson

The New York Knicks dropped their second-consectuive game on Friday evening to the Charlotte Hornets, and it was primarily due to the inefficiency of the starting team. Aside from Kemba Walker, who contributed a healthy 26 points, the remainder of the starters were unable to crack 11 points.

Julius Randle finished with 10, Mitchell Robinson 11, Evan Fournier 5 and RJ Barrett 2. Another poor outing for the first-team is in the books, but why are they struggling and how is the second-team putting together more efficient performances?

Prior to the Knicks’ loss to Charlotte, SG Evan Fournier stated the primary difference between the starters and second-team lately:

“The main difference between the first and second units is really ball movement, body movement. It feels likes at times, we’re very stagnant. We have to find that rhythm that we had early on in those first five games of the season,” Fournier said.

Fournier seems to hit it right on the head, but it still didn’t contribute to a better outing for the starters in the 104-96 defeat to Charlotte. The top team squandered opportunities, recording 11 turnovers, lacked ball-movement, and made lazidasical passes. If not for Walker hitting nine field goals, the Knicks would’ve been blown out and Tom Thibodeau might’ve benched his starters for the second consecutive game.

However, we’ve seen what they’re capable of doing when firing on all cylinders. In the Knicks’ first five games, the first team moves the ball nicely, found open shots, and played off one another. Their default is to force-feed Randle in isolation and condense the court.

One of the primary reasons the 2nd team has been domianting is mainly due to more intense defense, better point guard play from Derrick Rose, and spreading the floor, allowing bigger driving lanes and open shooters from the corners. Alec Burks has feasted on corner shots with Rose driving to the hoop and forcing opposing defenses to collapse. Walker simply hasn’t achieved that same production and result, mostly forcing up ill-advised 3-PT shots and failing to drive defenders to make decisions.

Preferrebly, Thibodeau would consider injecting Rose into the starting unit for a few minutes at the beginning of games, acting as an opener. From there, Walker can take over and give Rose the necessary rest to come back out with the second-team. With Walker’s streaky shooting, the Knicks have found themselves in early deficits lately, which has put too much pressure on Rose and the second team to fight back.

Once the starters can find their rhythm and begin playing as a cohesive unit, the Knicks will be extremely difficult to beat, but it’s a team effort. Also, it’s fair to mention to inconsistent play of RJ Barrett, who has contributed just 11 points over the past two games. When RJ isn’t knocking down shots and playing confident ball, the entire team is effected — he needs to forget poor outings and move forward without the dark cloud that seems to pain him after missing a few shots.