Two slow starts put the New York Knicks behind the eight ball in a pair of close weekend defeats to the Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets.
Fisher’s group dropped Friday’s matchup to the Grizzlies by a final score of 91-85 and in Sunday’s defeat at the hands of the Nuggets, the Knicks lost by a final score 101-96. The Knicks continued the trend of not coming out of the gates strong and had to battle back from first quarter deficits in both games.
“Overall, it’s a lack of readiness mental or physical,’’ Fisher said after Sunday’s loss. “I’ll take some responsibility for whatever isn’t happening so we’re ready to play right at the tipoff. We have to figure that out. The last three or four games at least, if you wipe out the first quarter, we’ve won the rest of the game. That is something we have to look at. It’s not about taking one or two guys out. It’s a collective readiness that our team needs to have.’’
Against the Grizzlies the Knicks fell behind 10-0 to start the contest. New York was without Carmelo Anthony and one of its best defenders in Lance Thomas, but it still managed to push the Grizzlies down to the wire.
The game wasn’t decided until the waning secondswhen Arron Afflalo nearly tied it with 10 seconds remaining in regulation. Fisher opted not to call a timeout and Afflalo attempted a fallaway jumper over Jeff Green that bounced in and out. Green was fouled after the defensive rebound and he iced the win for the Griz with a couple free throws with 6.2 seconds remaining.
“[Afflalo] got a really good look at the basket. Those are situations where you kind of have to give those first few seconds to see what happens,” Fisher said. “Arron made a great move, got good separation, great look at the basket and it goes in and out…when he turned to shoot out that was as good a look I think that we were going to get there down the stretch.”
Afflalo finished the night having an off-night shooting the basketball, going 4-of-15 on his field goal attempts to tally 14 points in a team-high 41 minutes of action. The veteran shooting guard also came down with five boards and dished out a couple assists in the contest.
Jose Calderon stood out for New York with a team-high in points and assists. He finished the game with 19 points to go along with eight rebounds, five assists and a steal in 35 minutes.
Rebounding was a strength for the Knicks in this matchup against the Grizzlies, and Kristaps Porzingis and Robin Lopez both had big nights on the glass as well. Porzingis had a double-double and was tied with Lopez for the team-lead with 10 boards to go along with 17 points and a whopping 6 blocked shots in 38 minutes. Lopez added nine points on 4-of-7 shooting to contribute to the solid performance in the paint from both of New York’s big men.
After the game Fisher discussed how the rebounding, along with not turning the ball over helped the team claw their way back into the game.
“Against a team like the Grizzlies rebounding is going to be one of two top priorities. One is limiting turnovers…the other is rebounding,” D-Fish said. “I thought overall we did a good job in both of those areas for the most part and the rebounding was key. I thought we were physical, we competed hard but again we played uphill all night and that was tough on us.”
On Super Bowl Sunday, Fisher’s Knicks found themselves down 19 points to the Nuggets in the first half after another lackluster start. Melo returned to the floor against his former team, but the superstar’s presence couldn’t help the Knicks get back on track. He had a chance to tie the game with 11 seconds left, but his three-point attempt was just slightly off the mark.
Melo, who finished the game tied for the team lead with 21 points to go along with six boards and seven assists, wasn’t going to let his coach take all the blame for the group’s overall struggles this month. Instead, he said that it’s a mindset the players themselves need to work on improving and that D-Fish has been doing a great job getting the guys fired up and motived before tipoff.
“I don’t think it’s anything [Fisher] can do as far as getting us to get up and start the game the way we should,’’ Anthony said. “He motivates us and gives us great speeches. We have to take it upon ourselves to figure it out.’’
Porzingis had one of his higher scoring games of late with a 21-point effort to go along with game-high 13 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 35 minutes. Afflalo and Calderon both had good nights for the starting unit as well. Afflalo finished with 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal in 40 minutes while Calderon added 11 points, four boards and three assists in 30 minutes.
Most of the production off the pine came from Langston Galloway and Derrick Williams, who combined for 12 points in six rebounds. Kyle O’Quinn, Kevin Seraphin and Lou Amundson each knocked down a field goal and combined for six points in the contest.