It happened again Wednesday night — the Knicks had seized a lead with a 15-6 run just before halftime then solidified it with a 7-0 spurt early in the third quarter. They had a shot at a big win over Orlando.
Then it fell apart, as it has so often lately for the Knicks. The Magic were even by late in the third quarter and then went on a 9-0 run of their own early in the fourth and never looked back, winning by a dozen.
It’s a pattern. The Knicks have been giving up a lot of leads and playing terrible defense in the fourth quarter, notes NBA.com’s John Schuhmann.
The Knicks have led 10 of their 17 games since the trade at the end of the third quarter, and have lost four of those 10 games. They’ve been outscored in 11 of the 17 fourth quarters they’ve played, including each of the last four. They’ve give up 26 or more points in the fourth quarter in 12 of the 17 games, and 30 or more in seven.
Since the trade the Knicks have given up 109.4 points per 100 possessions (26th in the league) overall, but in the fourth quarter that has jumped to a 121.8 per 100 possessions — which is about the defense you get out of a set of orange traffic cones.
There are a number of factors at play here, but one is that is when the tired legs of the Knicks seem to be catching up with them.
After the loss to the Magic, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said Amar’e Stoudemire was tired, having been worn down by the weight he carried this season and a lot games recetly.
Stoudemire agreed when talking to the New York Times, noting the Knicks had 18 games in March.
“I don’t think I’ve played in a month this hectic in probably my career,” Stoudemire said. “So it’s putting a toll on us a little bit.”
A toll like four straight losses and a 1-7 record in the Knicks’ last eight games, complete with some ugly fourth quarters. Which in the pressure cooker of New York leads to people thinking the trade was a mistake, the coach stinks, and that Raymond Felton is way better than Chauncey Billups. None of which is true. The Knicks have a long way to go to get to a contending level, but the team is not this bad, either. It just needs some rest, some practices and some more time together.
There are no vacations coming for the Knicks, but in April the schedule becomes more reasonable — they might even be able to fit in some of those practices. By the playoffs, things should look a little better. Not good enough to win a round, but better. But this is all about the long term for the Knicks, not the now.
No matter how ugly those fourth quarters look.