The New York Knicks’ remaining schedule is getting easier by the day. But the problem is, wins are getting hard to come by. And they are running out of games to recover lost ground.
The Knicks blew another big lead in a 123-108 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night.
The same script unfolded.
The Knicks went off to a hot start, building a 16-point lead in the second quarter. Then they collapsed in the second half.
It’s a recurring theme in their league-worst 3-16 record over their last 19 games. Each numbing loss was jarring.
The Knicks (25-36) are now closer to the 13th seed Indiana Pacers (22-42) than the 10th seed Atlanta Hawks (29-32) in the Eastern Conference.
They will continue their daunting road trip in Phoenix Friday night, where the Suns, the first team to reach 50 wins this season, await them. Even without their All-Star backcourt, Devin Booker (health and safety protocols), and Chris Paul (broken thumb), the Suns are still a solid team. On the same night the Knicks blew a 16-point lead in Philadelphia, the Suns ambushed the Portland Trail Blazers by 30.
“I’m more [of a] half glass full type of guy,” Julius Randle told reporters after opening their make-or-break seven-game road trip with their sixth straight loss.
They have the ninth-toughest remaining schedule from fourth after the All-Star break. But the problem is, the teams ahead of them and even the one trailing them have a more manageable schedule, according to Tankathon.
The Hawks and the 11th seed Wizards have the third and fourth-easiest remaining schedules. The Pacers are not far behind with the sixth-easiest remaining schedule. The Knicks have the Wizards and Hawks after this daunting road trip, and by the time they face them, the season might be practically over for them by then.
But despite their bleak outlook with 20 games left, the Knicks tried to sound confident even if their body language betrayed their words.
“We’ll try to go in and have the mindset to try to win every single one and take it one day at a time. Try to get somewhere,” said RJ Barrett after scoring 30 points in a losing effort.
Barrett’s emergence into a consistent offensive force serves as the shining light that gives hope for the Knicks in the dark place they’re in right now.
Since the turn of the year, Barrett has been averaging 24.0 points on 43.3 percent from the field and 39.7 percent on 6.2 three-point attempts. On top of his confident shooting and increased aggressiveness, Barrett is also facilitating more with 3.5 assists per game. He had a season-high seven dimes against the 76ers Tuesday night.
Some of RJ's passes that really popped from last night pic.twitter.com/kX3QdIH4Zq
— ShwinnyPooh (@shwinnypooh) March 3, 2022
This season, Barrett is enjoying a career-high 25.7 usage rate.
While it hasn’t translated to winning yet, Barrett’s development is critical to the Knicks’ future. Still, the third-year wing could not hide his frustration about their present situation.
“Losing is frustrating no matter what,” Barrett said.
The Knicks’ third-year wing is clinging to the one thing they have done well during this dark stretch.
“The way we’ve been playing, and we come out strong, you know, playing well. We’ve been playing against top teams, and we’ve given them a run for their money,” Barrett said.
There were stretches they looked and played like a serious contender. But when the game counts the most, they folded to pressure—a sign of a young team. But the Knicks aren’t that young. They have a motley crew of veterans surrounding their young core. But this season, injuries to Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel, and the losing their gamble on free agent signings Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier have pulled them back to earth.
Randle, who has ceded to Barrett more than he ever did in his first two seasons in New York, said he wants to do something may it be words of encouragement or whatever it is, to stop their bleeding, but he admitted it’s hard.
“That’s why winning is so precious,” Randle said. “We just need a way to maybe get a win and go from there.”
Easier said than done.
After the Suns, the Knicks will face the Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, and Brooklyn Nets in their current road trip. Among that group, only the Kings have a losing record.
“It‘s tough,” Randle said. But we can’t give up just like that. That should never be an option. So we just got to keep fighting until we find a way and keep them on.”
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