The New York Knicks ran out of steam in a stunning end to their season-high nine-game winning streak.
Their tired legs betrayed them in the second half as the Knicks blew a 16-point halftime lead and fell to the lottery-bound Charlotte Hornets, who were missing their best player LaMelo Ball.
Julius Randle, who looked gassed in the second half, blamed it on fatigue after back-to-back emotionally-draining road wins in Miami and Boston.
“We just ran out of gas, that’s all,” Julius Randle said.
That was evident in his 2-for-10 shooting in the second half. The Knicks missed all their nine three-point attempts in the fourth quarter. They just hit 5 of 26 overall from the field, as they could only cough up 16 points in the final 12 minutes.
The loss also meant the end of Josh Hart’s unbeaten mark with the Knicks since his arrival at the trade deadline.
Unlike Randle, who was visibly gassed, Hart does not want to blame fatigue for their disheartening loss even if it was the obvious excuse.
“It’s a reality,” said Hart, who had 10 points and eight rebounds in a losing effort. “But the reality also is our job is to play basketball, and you got people getting up at 6 am doing 12-hour shifts. Those people are tired.”
For us, we’re playing a game. We’re fortunate. …We got to keep that in perspective. We got to go out and compete at the highest level. We got to make sure we’re full of energy and lively every time we step on the court.”
It was the opposite of what happened in the second half for the Knicks after building a 16-point lead in the second quarter.
Without going into details, Hart added, “sometimes, winning is like a band-aid to the bad habits.”
All the big effort plays — from shooting, rebounding, and defense — that became the foundation of their winning streak crumbled in the second half.
New York coach Tom Thibodeau always warned his team about this.
“Everyone in this league is talented, so you got to play with an edge and you got to play for 48 minutes,” Thibodeau said. “You see it every night. There are big leads that dissipate very quickly. That’s why you can never let your guard down.”
“You certainly can never feel too good about yourself because you know what’s looming around the corner.”
A brutal four-game West Coast trip is on the horizon for these gassed Knicks beginning Thursday against the surprising Sacramento Kings, owner of the no. 1 offense in the league.
“There’s always motivation in this league, so you can never, never shortcut the preparation that goes into playing each night and what goes into winning each night,” Thibodeau said. “We’re not going to be perfect and [Tuesday night] we didn’t play a great game. But bounce back tomorrow.”
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