No Jalen Brunson and no defense down the stretch equaled a disheartening Knicks defeat.
After allowing 18 points in the final four minutes — including multiple wide open treys — the Knicks finished their two-game Florida trip winless with a 111-106 loss Thursday night to the Magic.
It was a third straight defeat overall for the Knicks (42-33), whose defense is becoming increasingly problematic as the season winds down. Still sitting fifth in the East, they’ve dropped six of their last nine games and are now 4 ½ games behind the Cavs for fourth seed and just 1 ½ games ahead of No. 6 Miami.
”Right now, our team is out of sorts,” Tom Thibodeau said. “You have to pull together in rough times. You get into things together, you get out of things together. There are going to be ups and downs we have to navigate. Everyone does.”
New York was without Brunson, who sat with a sprained right hand sustained during Wednesday’s loss in Miami. Brunson has missed six games in the last 10, with the Knicks now 3-3 in those contests.
Against the rebuilding Magic, Julius Randle struggled and lost his cool yet again at the officiating. He shot just 7-for-20 with 23 points. RJ Barrett was worse while shooting 3-for-12 with just 10 points. The bench was drubbed at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters.
Quentin Grimes was the bright spot with 25 points in 38 minutes.
The Knicks, who have three days off before their next game (at home versus the miserable Rockets) trailed Thursday by as many as 19 in both halves.
Most of the first half was a slop fest from the Knicks. They shot just 32% overall and 21.7% from beyond the arc before the break. Still, the Knicks ended the second quarter on an 18-7 run and trailed by only eight.
Orlando pushed to a 19-point lead to start the second half, and the Knicks were resurrected in the third quarter with a 23-4 run.
Meanwhile, Randle’s temper is clearly activated. He picked up a technical foul for a third straight game, giving him a team-high 11th for the season. This time — like most of his previous techs — he was angry at a referee and pressed the issue. Immanuel Quickley tried to calm Randle, who redirected his frustration toward his teammate.
“It’s a long season,” Thibodeau said. “We have to do better. We know that.”
In early December, Randle pledged to be more patient and compassionate with the referees. It was a huge problem last season when his meltdowns became consistent. But Randle seemed more composed until recently.
After Wednesday’s loss to the Heat, Randle grumped about the officiating to reporters.
“Anytime I take that much contact and I take one free throw for the game, it pretty much tells the story,” he said.
The Magic are young and out of the playoff picture, making the Knicks the betting favorite heading into Thursday despite playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Also, the crowd in Orlando was decidedly pro Knicks, theoretically adding an advantage for Thibodeau’s crew.
It didn’t help.
Orlando’s bright beam toward the future is Paolo Banchero, the 2022 first-overall pick and frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. He finished with 21 points Thursday night with six rebounds on 7-for-17 shooting.
The Knicks were lamenting their defense in the previous two losses. That wasn’t fixed in Orlando.
“We have to get our defense in order first off,” Randle said. “Get our defense in order and find a way to get stops.”
Source: Berkshire mont
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