After going 41-31 in the 2020-2021 season, the expectation was that the New York Knicks would take the next step and become a legit contender. After adding established veterans such as Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, the team thought it fixed its issue at the guard spot. The Knicks started the year 5-1, which included a thrilling double-overtime opening night win over the Boston Celtics. However, since then, the team is just 24-38 and barely holding onto their slim play-in hopes. During the first few weeks of the season, the Knicks showed everyone why they were poised to take the next step and become a contender. Since then, they have been an utter disappointment. Below, I’ll discuss the most significant things that have gone wrong with the team.
Knicks’ Ability To Close Out Games
In the 2020-2021 season, the Knicks massively overachieved. They won many close games. They were up by as many as 20 points in many of those games, and the opposing team nearly came back and won. This year, it’s been a different story thus far. Over the past month, the Knicks have blown three 20-point leads, as well as many 10-plus point leads.
On February 16th, when the Knicks hosted the Brooklyn Nets, they held a 28-point lead in the second quarter. Twenty-eight. At halftime, the Knicks were still up by 19 points. However, Brooklyn clawed back and managed to win the game. For the third time in just 11 days, the team squandered a 20-point lead and lost the game. In the Jazz, Suns, and Lakers games, the team held leads above 12 points late and lost. If they were to hold on to their lead and win the seven games they blew significant leads in, they would be 36-31 and in a play-in spot. Instead, they are 29-38 and four and a half games back of the tenth seed.
While coaching certainly is a significant factor in why the Knicks have lost these games, the veterans throwing the game away in the fourth quarter has been a recurring theme. In addition, Julius Randle has consistently been a bad option in crunch time. If the Knicks somehow want to sneak into the play-in tournament, they have to hold big leads, as it has been a problem all year long.
Julius Randle’s Regression
After having a disappointing first season in New York, Randle made his first All-Star game last season. It was truly a remarkable turnaround after his poor first year with the team. Randle averaged over 24 points per game, which was a big reason the Knicks made the playoffs.
Instead of taking the next step and becoming an MVP candidate, Randle has heavily regressed this season. Though he is still averaging 20 points per game, stats don’t tell the story for Randle. Last year, he let the game come to him. He didn’t force many shots and took what the defense gave him. This year, he is constantly forcing shots, hogging the ball, and turning the ball over far too much. Randle’s regression is a huge reason the team has underperformed this season.
These reasons, along with poor coaching, have been the main reasons why the Knicks have been playing below average this season. While the hope is that the team can make a big splash this offseason, it doesn’t seem likely.