As their middling 12-13 record would suggest, the Knicks have been one of the NBA’s most inconsistent teams through their first 25 games.
Free-agent signing Evan Fournier has been as emblematic of the team’s up-and-down ways as anyone, even if he pinned his latest two ineffectual performances this week against the Spurs and the Pacers on a bout with food poisoning he believes he contracted from “a terrible steak” in San Antonio.
Fournier scored just seven points in each game, including a quiet 2-for-9 combined from 3-point range, with zero fourth-quarter minutes as the Knicks split the first two games of this road trip entering Friday’s visit to Toronto.
“To be honest, as a team, that’s the challenge for us, to find consistency,” Fournier said after Wednesday’s 20-point loss in Indiana. “It’s a good question, because we are all aware of it. We all know what we have to do, yet we keep being inconsistent.
“I don’t know, I wish I had the answer. It starts individually — how do you approach the game and how do you get yourself ready to play? There’s nights where you don’t make shots, that’s just basketball. But from a focus standpoint, and execution, I think that’s the biggest area where we have to get better. The execution.”
The $78 million import averaged 16.8 points per game with a 47.9 percent success rate (23-for-48) from 3-point range over his previous six appearances.
Fournier added that he “thought I was doing better, to be honest, before these two games,” adding that the purported food poisoning zapped his energy “big-time.” That was clear, specifically on the defensive end, but then why did he remain in the lineup in the first place?
When asked after Wednesday’s loss about Fournier’s defensive play, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau replied, “It’s not any one particular guy, it’s the entire group. We can go down the list.”
Though Fournier recorded a minus-15 rating against the Pacers, that figure was fourth-worst among the Knicks’ five starters, behind RJ Barrett (minus-25), Julius Randle (minus-22) and Alec Burks (minus-16). Obi Toppin, whose between-the-legs dunk in the second quarter was a rare highlight, also was minus-13 off the bench.
Thibodeau assessed that an overall lack of energy also was a team-wide issue in Indiana on the second half of back-to-back road games. Even Toppin’s dunk did little to spark the rest of the team, as the Pacers responded by scoring the next eight points to begin pulling away.
“It was special settings, back-to-back [games], got in very late, so it kind of threw you off your routine. But we’ve all been there,” Fournier said. “So how do you prepare for a game like that? We knew coming in that it was going to be physical. … You have to get yourself ready for that kind of game regardless of the circumstances and we didn’t do that.”
The Knicks are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference after dropping 12 of 19 following a promising 5-1 start. They will look to climb back to the .500 mark again in their first trip to Toronto this season after the Raptors (11-14) defeated them at the Garden on Nov. 1.
“The games keep coming. We’ve been a very good road team all year and so this is a challenge,” Thibodeau said. “Now we go to Toronto next. Sometimes the schedule’s in your favor, sometimes it’s not. And when it’s not you’ve still got to play and you’ve got to find a way to get it done.”