Lance Thomas didn’t like what he saw on the defensive end of the floor from anyone on the New York Knicks roster—including himself. So he did something about it.
Someone had to do it. After losing three consecutive road games in which they gave up a combined 380 points (130, 127, 123) Lance Thomas did. The Knicks co-captain addressed the Knicks lack of defense before the final game of their seven-game road trip.
Prior to the Knicks 107-85 victory against the Phoenix Suns on Friday, which capped off the 3-4 road trip, Thomas called out the Knicks lack of defensive effort and will during a morning meeting, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
“I spoke to my team,” Thomas told Berman. “We had a breakfast meeting like we usually do after back-to-backs. I addressed the team about how we need to be better. The effort was there. That’s all I wanted. I wanted us to play hard and play off each other. That’s what I wanted. I told everybody we need to play for each other in order to win. We’re not one of those teams that can just show up and outscore teams.”
In a harbinger of things to come, Thomas had previously called out his own defensive effort in Thursday’s disappointing 130-118 loss in Denver, along with his team’s. “I’m going to stay at it and practice what I preach,” Thomas said. “I’m going to pick it up and let everyone follow.”
The impassioned plea seemed to have an impact as Knicks, who rank 21st in defensive efficiency and give up a shade over 106 points-per-game, as they held their opponent, under 90-points for the first time since Dec. 6 against Memphis and under 100 for the first time in 10 games. The win salvaged what can now be called a successful road trip despite their defensive struggles. Just 4-15 on the road entering this recent stretch the Knicks improved their road record to 7-19.
With their longest road trip of the season over the Knicks will finish the month of January with back-to-back games against Brooklyn at home and Boston on the road beginning Tuesday, after rare three-day hiatus. A recommitment to defense would be timely as the Knicks play four of the next five games at home where they own a 15-9 record.
Currently, the Knicks are 10th in the Eastern Conference, four games out of a playoff spot at the 50-game mark. The Knicks would have to go 19-13 down the stretch to reach the .500 plateau for the first time since 2012-13, the last time they made the playoffs.