Jeff Hornacek wants the Knicks to play physical defense
Jan 31, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek yells to this team during the first half of the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Suns at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks only scored 88 points in Wednesday’s season-opening loss to the Cavaliers. But the focus has shifted to a Knicks defense that has lacked throughout October and into the regular season.

Cleveland scored 117 points against the Knicks, shooting 47.9% from the field and 37.1% from deep. And in the preseason, the Rockets blasted the Knickerbockers for 130 in the opener while Brooklyn averaged 104.5 points over two preseason games against New York.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said he wants his team to be more physical on defense, reminiscent of the Jerry Sloan-coached Utah Jazz teams he was a part of.

“I played for Jerry Sloan and that era where tough defense came into play and guys were hitting each other, and we have to do that,” Hornacek said according to documents obtained by the NY Post from his weekly show on MSG Network. “We expect Joakim [Noah] to do it, but we just can’t have one or two guys do it. We have to have that concept throughout the whole team, that we are physical, we get after guys and we don’t let teams run their offense. If we can establish that, then we can get out there in the open court and use our abilities of Derrick [Rose], Brandon [Jennings] and Carmelo [Anthony] and Courtney [Lee’s] shooting to break things down, but it starts on the defensive end.”

New York’s roster may not be tailor-made to have the gritty personality Hornacek envisions.

Behind Joakim Noah, the Knicks back up big men include Kyle O’Quinn and rookies Willy Hernangomez and Marshall Plumlee — not exactly Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett. And aside from Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas and Justin Holiday, New York lacks above average perimeter defenders.

Both Rose and Anthony are middle of the road defensively. Opponents shot 44.8% and 42.1%, respectively, when guarded by them.

Rookie Ron Baker sometimes looks like ex-Cavs point guard Matthew Dellavedova, whose bullish defensive tendencies earned him a big-time contract in Milwaukee.

Hornacek said it will take the entire team, not just a few players, to transform New York into a solid club on defense.

“Defensively, you have some people that like to play defense, but most people it is hard work,’’ Hornacek said on the show. “So we have got to get the guys to do that, I think the offense will flow better when we play good defense, but really if our guys can play together and play hard then we will have success.”

“Defense has to be all five guys doing the right thing. The situation we got in, four guys are doing it right, one guy is not, and it will cause a problem. One guy switches, one guys doesn’t, it creates a problem. They all have to be on the same page, figuring it out, knowing the personnel. We’re not taking it to the next level of who’s that player, what’s his strengths and weaknesses.’’

New York should take notes while playing against the gritty Memphis Grizzlies in Saturday’s home opener.

The Grizzlies, who signed Mike Conley to the largest contract in NBA history and added Chandler Parsons to the team, play with a signature defensive backbone Hornacek and the Knicks could learn from.

Kristian Winfield covers the New York Knicks for Elite Sports NY. You can start the conversation on Twitter @Krisplashed.

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I cover the New York Knicks and the NBA for SB Nation, Vox Media. Previously: Elite Sports NY, About.com Sports, NBC Sports, Bleacher Report. Some people call me "chef." Twitter|Instagram|Snapchat: @Krisplashed