Knicks looking to put a stop to late-game collapses

As the Knicks headed toward the home stretch of their season, they were left trying to solve their woes in the home stretch of games.

Entering the second half of a back-to-back Saturday night, against the Pistons in Detroit, the Knicks had lost three straight games, all of which they led in the second half. That included blowing a 13-point fourth-quarter lead at the Timberwolves on Wednesday and then coughing up a 13-point second-quarter lead against the Mavericks on Friday at the Garden.

“We’ve just gotta be mindful of time, score and the pace of the game,” Derrick Rose said before making his return to Motown. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves at the end, but we gotta keep the pace up, make sure we rebound the ball and just stay together.

“Knowing that every game is going to be different, everybody’s going to give us their all, especially when we’re going down the road. Every team is fighting for something right now. Teams that’s not fighting for something, they would love to be the team to try to knock us out of the playoffs.

Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose
NBAE via Getty Images

“So that’s what the NBA is about: No Boys Allowed.”

The Knicks have been hovering around .500 for most of the season, but their recent late-game struggles dropped them to 24-25 entering Saturday. They were still hanging on to the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference, but had fallen into “a little bit of a funk and we got to work our way out of it,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.

The Knicks have been battling some injuries, with Julius Randle recently banged up with a contused thigh and Rose and RJ Barrett playing through ankle injuries. But Thibodeau noted that most teams are working through similar health issues at this point in the season, meaning it was something they just had to work through in order to get back on track.

“You trust your medical staff, the player, treatment, how you pace the team,” Thibodeau said. “You’re looking at where you are in your schedule and the amount of travel you have. You have limited practice time so you’re doing more in the ballroom and with film sessions. For us, this team has become a really good practice team but we’ve had limited practice time. So we still have to get it done and I believe this team will. We have to do better and we will.”

Thibodeau has said the Knicks — who were 2-6 in games decided by three points or fewer, entering Saturday — are striving to be a 48-minute team, though they had come up short in that regard of late. In Friday’s game alone, they shot just 5-for-19 in the fourth quarter as a three-point deficit became a 13-point loss.

Though the Knicks’ overall shooting percentage (36 percent) against the Mavericks was their third-worst mark of the season, Thibodeau pointed to a lack of ball movement as another culprit in their struggles.

“Offensively, we have to play with energy and we have to share the ball,” Thibodeau said. “One thing I love about our team is they’re committed to playing for each other and to work as a team and sacrifice as a team. Sometimes when you’re not making shots, you want to do better to try to help the team out of the hole and that’s not how you do it. We have to make sure we’re doing it collectively. That’s been the strength of the club all year and I believe we’ll get back to that.”