The Knicks returned home, and everything was as they had left it.
Returning from a six-game, 13-day road trip, the Knicks started the second half of the season making a high-end lottery selection seem the team's top priority, suffering their seventh consecutive home loss, 121-106, against Pacers on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks (10-32) have not won at home since December 1 and have lost 16 of their last 18 games. Even though they play 14 of their next 20 games at the Garden, the misery can only get worse, with the next home games against the 76ers, Thunder and Rockets.
"It's not the result we wanted, but it was good to be back here," said rookie Kevin Knox. "On that long road trip, we were all ready to come back here, in our own beds, in front of the crowd in the house."
The local crowd did not miss much, and had cleared the stands before the fourth quarter began. By then, the Knicks' short lead felt like fiction.
After falling behind with 13 points at the beginning of the second quarter, the Knicks defended themselves behind Noah Vonleh, who hit his first four shots, but never regained the pace after having fouls problems, and jumped ahead, 46-45, then of returning to -back 3-pointers by Tim Hardaway Jr.
Quickly, sanity returned to the scoreboard, and the Pacers (28-14) began to move away by closing the half in a 12-0 run – led by Victor Oladipo (19 points) – and taking a 64-52 lead for the break .
Coach David Fizdale had a simple explanation for the game swing career.
"Defensive woes," he said. "For whatever reason … we're moving there, competing with them step by step, and we probably made three shots where we did not make a pass, which put a ton of pressure on our defense."
The deficit grew to 21, and never fell back to single digits.
"When they hit us, when they go for a little run, we have to get together and get back together so we can do our own race," said Knox, who finished with 14 points. "We just have to be able to find a way when they hit us in the mouth so we can strike back."
As usual, the blows kept coming, with little resistance.
If there was defensive effort, it was hard to believe. If the defensive effort was present, it was even more embarrassing.
The Knicks entered having allowed almost 116 points per game this season, including 20 consecutive games that allowed 109 points or more, and repeatedly opened glances to the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, which shot 52 percent from the field, and He hit 12- of-26 triples. The Pacers were also driven by the inner game of Domantas Sabonis, 22, who had 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Emmanuel Mudiay, one of the seven double-digit scorers for the Knicks, scored all of his 21 points in the second half, while the team threw 39 unusually high 39 triples, making 14.
"That was not in the plan," Fizdale said, "but some of those shots you get when you just do not make the game easy and move the ball and end up getting stuck with the ball at the end of the clock, or take it early on the clock "