Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Humbled Knicks Stumbling toward NBA Trade Deadline

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Humbled Knicks Stumbling toward NBA Trade Deadline

Article excerpt

MILWAUKEE - Jeff Hornacek stepped in front of the waiting microphones and cameras Wednesday night and before a question was posed he calmly said, "I've got nothing for you."

He politely proceeded to try to provide something, some sort of explanation, for what he'd just witnessed on the TD Garden floor. But his first words might have been the most accurate. How does a coach who has pleaded for hard work to serve as the trademark for his team since the summer explain away another night when the most simple assessment was that the Knicks were simply outworked in a 30-point loss?

If the preaching from the coaches had been hard work, the words from the players in the locker room had been of a playoff chase. And with two straight wins over a pair of the dregs of the NBA the Knicks had a test in front of them, a meeting with the Celtics, the top team in the Eastern Conference. To make it a fair fight the Celtics were without their star point guard Kyrie Irving and also without Marcus Smart, the defensive stopper who had given Kristaps Porzingis so many problems.

But when the dust cleared the shorthanded Celtics had humiliated the Knicks, 103-73, providing a dose of reality to the playoff hopes and rendered the coach suitably silenced, with little to say except the truth.

"I have no explanation for it," Hornacek said. "They played better, they played harder and they're a little bigger than us. When you're not as big as the other team you got to out-hustle, out-muscle, you've got to do little things. They did those things on top of that. That's a good team."

"They're one of the top teams," Porzingis said. "Even without Kyrie, they're still one of the top teams. Nights like this you learn from this. Take this game and use it as motivation. We don't ever want to lose by 30. Take this and then take that anger if you have it inside and bring it out the next game."

So the Celtics are all of those things and what are the Knicks? That's a question worth answering for the franchise as they head toward the Feb. 8 trade deadline. After the game was over they still spoke boldly, hoping to use this beating as more motivation. But with a 23-29 record, 30 games to play and a rebuilding project still in its infancy, the vast gap between the Knicks and the contending teams is easily apparent. …

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