Lakers 121, Knicks 107: Pounded by Lowly Lakers, Knicks Fall Further From Playoff Field
The Lakers had lost 12 consecutive road games before their stampede at the Garden, and the ragtag group of youthful talent and veteran nomads turned into Showtime Light.
As each Knick offered his own analysis for the loss, the comments laid bare a team that seemed to be experiencing a systemic breakdown, not simply a one-night lull.
“You’ve got to play for some pride,” Hornacek said. “If you’re just going to come out and just play basketball, then you’re in the wrong level.”
While Hornacek pointed to self-respect as the issue, Carmelo Anthony and Jennings scrutinized the Knicks’ effort. Jennings had called this a must-win game, and shook his head as he was reminded of that. The Knicks had played as if it were anything but.
“You can’t coach effort and energy,” Jennings said. “That’s something we should all have. I mean, we all make millions of dollars playing this game, so the least we can do is go out there and play hard every night.”
Kristaps Porzingis saw a team bereft of unity and cohesion. It was, he surmised, a team lacking trust in one another.
“It’s kind of everybody for himself a lot of times,” he said.
That statement might explain why defense, rebounding and ball movement were all missing against the Lakers. It was the kind of night for the Knicks in which it took far less time to identify what had gone right than what had gone wrong. The list of positives, headlined by Anthony’s 26 points, was not long.
Now the Knicks find themselves sinking further into a quandary of their own making. A season that started out with playoff hopes is dissolving quickly.
The Knicks are 22-31 and have lost four of five games, and rumors of a possible reckoning hang over them. Three teams and two and a half games in the standings separate the Knicks from the eighth playoff spot in the East. They are a veteran team that may be nearing a rebuilding, even if their own stalwarts may not be ready for it.
“We’re not there right now,” said Joakim Noah, who did not play because of a hamstring injury.
But uncertainty about Anthony continues to abound. The Knicks have reportedly shopped him to Cleveland and to the Los Angeles Clippers, who visit the Garden on Wednesday night. Anthony holds a no-trade clause that would allow him to dismiss any deal, but he has hinted in recent weeks at being willing to accept a move, saying he would consider it if the organization decided to commit to a restart.
He has also admitted to being troubled by the reports that he could be traded. They have tested his will, he said.
While the Knicks’ front office decides how to proceed before the Feb. 23 trade deadline, Hornacek said he had not discussed the possibilities with Jackson and General Manager Steve Mills. For now, Hornacek said, he has his eyes on the postseason, but he understands that the future should be kept in mind.
“We’re all competitors, and we all want to get there, but we all understand that we have to develop something for the long term,” Hornacek said. “If we’re skipping steps just to get in the playoffs, that’d be great for this year, but what do you do next year? We want to try to combine those two.”
Monday, the Knicks did not make much of a case for a balancing act. They fell behind by 10 in the first quarter, and that deficit continued to grow. Their few moments of competence came only after the Lakers had taken a 57-30 lead with 4 minutes 5 seconds remaining in the second.
The Knicks cut the lead to 16 by halftime but could not mount a sustainable comeback. Instead, the Lakers continued to toy with them.
“Pride, effort, however you want to put it, it just wasn’t there,” Anthony said. “My word is effort. Coach’s word is pride. It just wasn’t there tonight.”
An earlier version of this article misstated the Los Angeles Lakers’ position in the N.B.A. standings. They had the third-worst record in the league entering Monday’s games, not the second-worst record.