New York Knicks must dig deep to save what's left of this road trip
Dec 30, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts to a call during the second half of a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Knicks 104-92. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

With Houston on the docket, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks must find a way to salvage this trip. 

The New York Knicks knew the importance of capitalizing on the opportunity of beating the New Orleans Pelicans last night and bouncing back from their tough loss against Atlanta. Breaking their mini-losing streak on the road and getting ready for a final road game against the Houston rockets on Saturday was the all-important goal.

Instead, they came out like they took it for granted, and ultimately the Pelicans found and kept the lead.

It didn’t help the Knicks that the Pelicans were hot. They didn’t miss much and didn’t let up. Anthony Davis and company ran pick and rolls over the Knicks’ tired feet all night. They used their energy to outrun, outshoot and out defend the Knicks.

Post-game reflection was all about defense, and rightly so. They had an off day offensively and could not afford to neglect the defensive end, especially against a young, hungry team like New Orleans.

Here’s what the Knicks have to do to stay in the game against James Harden and the Houston Rockets on New Year’s Eve:

Learn to be engaged defensively, even when they’re not on offensively

Kristaps Porzingis himself said in his post-game interview that when they’re not doing well offensively, missing one-on-one shots and the like, not everyone is involved, and it’s hard to keep that energy up on the other end as well. But the Knicks have to learn to be even stronger and more engaged defensively when they can’t make it happen offensively.

Derrick Rose should pass the ball

Stop trying to do it all, Rose. He took 21 and made nine, which wasn’t the worst part. He had zero assists until late in the fourth when he got his one and only out to the man Holiday who sunk a beautiful three from the right side. Trust your teammates more, Rose.

Make the freebies

It happens to the best of ‘em, but tonight it was a perfect storm of shortcomings. They needed the freebies. Instead, they missed uncontested shots that the big three and second string can normally be counted on to make.

Stop giving up the ball

Especially because the Knicks are not the youngest, quickest team in the league, efficient passing and low turnover rates are key; since they’re bound to get beat on the fast break.

Stop relying on outside shots

Move the ball. Run. Somehow make it into the lane and take the ball to the basket. Shoot, take a page out of Davis’s book and run a pick and roll. Relying on outside shots when as a winning strategy on shooting below 40 percent won’t earn the W.

Knicks have their work cut out for them against James Harden and the Rockets tonight, who scored 140 against the Clippers last night.

One can only hope the offensive end runs more smoothly than it has the last two and a half games, but the Knicks can control their defensive effort and overall energy, and they need to dig deep to finish strong against Houston.

A NY resident, Ayshlee Koontz is a West coast native, born and raised in Portland, Ore., and a University of Oregon School of Journalism graduate.