Hornacek, Knicks Don’t Need Excuses

The Knicks just gave Jeff Hornacek carte blanche to make any coaching move he desires.

Bench a starter, go ahead. Sub the first unit, be my guest.

The team’s 105-99 loss in Memphis Wednesday night was arguably the worst setback of the season.

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You want to blame ref Derrick Stafford for the loose ball rebounding foul on Kristaps Porzingis, go ahead. You want to rip him for the technical foul he called on Courtney Lee, be my guest.

Wally Szczerbiak, Alan Hahn and Bill Pidto discuss the controversial late calls that went against the Knicks and look at the team's comeback attempt in the fourth.

Were they bad calls, maybe terrible calls? Sure.

But the Knicks never would have been left at the mercy of refs or bad three-point shooting, or first-time starter Deyonta Davis, if they had shown up for the first three quarters.

The Grizzlies (15-28) won just their 10th home game of the season and they did it without star center Marc Gasol, injured star guard Mike Conley and injured swingman Chandler Parsons.

They took an 18-point lead over the Knicks (20-25), who made it easy for the Grizzlies to shoot 35.7 percent on 3s (10-28) and grab 15 offensive rebounds.

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This was as winnable a game as the Knicks will get on their current seven-game road trip that could decide their postseason chances.

The Knicks are 1-1 on this road trip if you count beating the Nets in Brooklyn. They are 5-16 on the road for the season.

The Knicks felt they were making progress after their recent trip in which they went 1-3 with a double overtime loss to Chicago and a double-overtime loss to Miami.

Jeff Hornacek holds his post-game press conference after the Knicks' 105-99 loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis.

But the loss in Memphis proves the Knicks have some work to do on the road. They surrendered 88 points through the first three quarters.

So by the time Tim Hardaway Jr. and Tyreke Evans went up for a jump ball with 17 seconds left and the Knicks having closed to 102-99, the technical foul called on Lee for jabbering with rookie Dillon Brooks was irrelevant.

“They won the tip anyway,’’ Hornacek said. “That had nothing to do with this game. It was from the start. We talked about setting the tone. We came out and I’m not happy with not closing out on guys, giving guys easy shots.’’

The Knicks have a formidable game at Golden State on this trip, but of the other four games, three are against teams with sub-.500 records. Hornacek said the Knicks were angry after their performance against Memphis. They should have been.

“They got to take that anger they had in the locker room after the game into the next one,’’ Hornacek said. “Talk is cheap. You got to go out there and lay it on the court. That’s the desperation. They played with desperation when down 18.’’

Which is why Hornacek now has carte blanche. Whatever moves he chooses to make, the Knicks will have to live with it. Or prove him wrong.

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