Third Quarter Dooms The Knicks Once Again

5 thoughts on the loss:

1. Those who say you don’t need to watch an NBA game until the last five minutes clearly aren’t Knicks fans. How do you think we came up with the phrase “third quarter of doom”? It’s like every critical turning point of just about every loss and over these last three games, they have stayed very much on script.

Similar to the losses against the Celtics and the Warriors, the Knicks were competitive for a half against the Clippers and even held the lead at halftime. And when the third quarter began, it was a swift strike — this one a 10-0 run — that evaporated any hope of seeing a win.

I know, I know, Generation Tank. What are you talking about, King Fixer? Who the heck wants to see a win?! This is now a race to the bottom! (Just don’t tell Commissioner Silver!)

But, wait. Slow your tailspin. You do want to see evidence of progress, don’t you? At this point, progress would be a determined effort after halftime, which has rarely been the case this season, let alone lately. These poor third quarter efforts have taken any small glimmer of promise that you look for when a team is in this place in a season.

Over the last three games, the Knicks are -42 in the third quarter, which is the worst in the NBA. They’re shooting just 32.9% from the field in the third quarter and have hit just 5-of-20 from three-point range while averaging four turnovers per game in the third.

So they come out cold, there’s one issue.

Opposing teams are shooting 57.6% from the field in the last three third quarters and are scorching the Knicks shooting 18-of-28 from three-point range. Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry and Austin Rivers — all guards — each have gone off from three in these respective quarters.

The Knicks are giving up 34.3 points in these third quarters.

Is this a lack of effort, a lack of adjustments or a combination of both?

Here’s something to watch for on Sunday when the Knicks play in Sacramento: The Kings are one of the NBA’s worst third quarter teams. They have been outscored by 195 points in the third quarter this season, which is the highest deficit in the NBA. The Knicks, by the way, have been outscored by 139 points in the third quarter this season, which is the fourth-highest deficit.

So just understand if you tune in only for the last five minutes on Sunday, you might miss the game.

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2. I promised myself I would go one blog without droning on about Trey Burke (12 points in 18:31…why just 18:31?). Instead, I will say that one player who could walk out of the locker room after this game feeling good is Troy Williams. On the final day of his 10-day contract, Williams had 11 points in 16:55, with another highlight film dunk and, more importantly, he broke a 0-for-8 streak from three-point range to go 3-for-3 from downtown in the game.

In four games with the Knicks, Williams is averaging eight points per game in 12.5 minutes per game and shooting 65% from the field.

It seems like the Knicks plan to offer him at least another 10-day contract if they don’t sign him for the rest of the season. Jeff Hornacek before the game said Williams has “probably done enough to earn another contract.”

Williams, 23, has shown not just an ability to finish at the rim, but his energy has been terrific in the minutes he has played. What you want to see is the ability to knock down the kick-out three so he can be a legit floor spacer. Can he develop into a capable defender who can do more than just get ambush steals?

3. Hornacek was angry about the team’s effort after the game and without naming names, seemed to call out a few veterans for being passive on defense. One was Enes Kanter, who rarely looks small on the basketball court but against DeAndre Jordan, he seemed physically overwhelmed.

Kanter (18 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks, two steals) still managed a double-double, but Jordan had 19 points and 20 rebounds with two blocks and was a dominant force in the paint. He took 11 shots and all 11 were in the restricted area.

Hornacek’s issue was that the defense against Jordan was, in his eyes, passive.

“You foul the guy,” Hornacek said.

“That’s just playing smart and playing tough and having pride to not let someone get easy buckets,” he added.

Jordan, who was 1-for-2 from the line against the Knicks, has been notoriously awful at free throws (44.2%) in his career, but this season he’s actually shooting a career-best 60.3% this season. Teams aren’t fouling him nearly as much as they used to this season either. He’s attempting 3.6 free throw attempts per game, which is his lowest rate since the 2013-13 season.

Kanter did have five fouls in the game, but not one was against Jordan. After the game, he bristled at the criticism from Hornacek.

“It’s not just on bigs, it’s on everybody,” he said. “Defense is not about one or two, it’s about everybody . . . So I’m not just going to blame this guy, that guy. It’s on everybody. It’s on us.”

Kanter is one of 12 players in the league who is averaging a double-double (Jordan is another). His numbers are certainly important for a player who has indicated he may opt-out of his contract this summer to become a free agent.

4. Where in the world is Michael Beasley? He was such a revelation for most of this season, once he found his way into the rotation, that it seemed the Knicks might have found something in the former No. 2 overall pick, who was signed to a veteran’s minimum deal before training camp.

In the 40 games before the All-Star break, Beasley averaged 15.2 points on 50.4% shooting in 23.3 minutes per game.

In the four games after the break, he’s averaging just 7.8 points on 34.4% shooting in 24.3 minutes per game. He’s -48 in the four games.

“We need to get something out of Michael,” Hornacek said, “on both sides of the court.”

Jeff Hornacek holds his post-game press conference after the Knicks' 128-105 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles.

5. This was the anniversary of an NBA record that will never be broken. March 2, 1962, the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game against the Knicks.

This is a game a rookie named Cleveland Buckner is thrilled to know was not televised, never mind that Twitter wasn’t around to react to in real time. Buckner, who was 6-9, had to try to handle the 7-2 Chamberlain after the Knicks’ 6-10 center, Darrall Imhoff, was called for three early fouls.

Legend has it that after the third foul was called, Imhoff grumbled to the ref: “Why don’t you just give him the 100 points and we’ll all go home?”

Wilt had 23 in the first quarter and 41 at the half. After he went for 28 in the third quarter — see, even then the Knicks had a ‘third quarter of doom’ — the point total was 69 points going into the fourth. That’s when the game got goofy and here’s where the Hot Takes would have been flying like hot soup at a Cavaliers practice.

Knicks legend Richie Guerin said the game became “a little bit of a farce” because as the Knicks tried to slow the game down and burn time off the clock, the Philadelphia Warriors started fouling the Knicks on purpose just to put them on the foul line and get Wilt more chances to score.

That’s when coach Eddie Donovan ordered his players to foul other Warriors players and put them on the line to keep Wilt from scoring. They also employed the Hack-a-Shaq on Wilt because he was a career 51% free throw shooter. Of course on this night, he made 28-of-32 from the line.

He got to 100 points with 46 seconds left on a short jumper. The Knicks lost 169-147.

The Knicks and Warriors played the very next night at the old Madison Square Garden. The place was packed to see if Wilt could do it again. But this time, he had just 58.

Imhoff stayed out of foul trouble and the crowd gave him a standing ovation for his defense.

Only in New York.

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