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Knicks Called Out by NBA Twitter for Abysmal Defense in Loss vs. Trae Young, Hawks

Adam WellsJanuary 21, 2023

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20: Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks reacts during the first half against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on January 20, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

It's safe to say the New York Knicks are officially in a rut.

They lost their third consecutive game on Friday night, a 139-124 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks. It's the second-most points the Knicks have given up to an opponent this season, trailing only the 145 scored by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 13.

The Hawks weren't exactly a defensive juggernaut in this game. They allowed 124 points and let the Knicks shoot 59.0 percent from the field, including 13-of-30 from three-point range.

But this was an embarrassing defensive effort from head coach Tom Thibodeau's squad. It's also the third consecutive game they have allowed an opponent to score at least 116 points.

Prior to this rough stretch, the last team to score at least 116 points against the Knicks was the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 29. That game also came at the end of a season-high five-game losing streak.

Trae Young didn't have his best game with 27 points on 9-of-21 shooting from the field, six assists and four turnovers. Dejounte Murray was excellent with 29 points, 12 assists and three steals in 36 minutes.

NBA fans had plenty to say about the Knicks' abysmal effort on the defensive end of the court against the Hawks:

Long Island Life(Dave) @D_DezUSA4Life

Knicks refuse to play any kind of defense once again this year. It's so frustrating to watch.

2023 sucks @AnthonyBialy

It's that new style of lockdown defense that concedes 70 per half. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Knicks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Knicks</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NewYorkForever?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NewYorkForever</a> <a href="https://t.co/RVy3Mh4ELe">https://t.co/RVy3Mh4ELe</a>

Long Island Life(Dave) @D_DezUSA4Life

I don't care that the Knicks scored 124 points tonight. Giving up 139 points is an absolute disgrace. Thibs was supposed to be a defensive coach and has always preached defense. For some reason that has just not happened here in NY. It's time to move on.

Papa G @papa_gardner11

Knicks might have an extremely brutal stretch and completely ruin that great 20-game stretch they had solely because they lost the most vital part to their defense at the worst possible time. <br><br>Must be what the Suns felt like.

Did the Knicks Win? @knickswintrack

Tom Thibodeau playing drop defense against Trae/Dejounte <a href="https://t.co/M3NTc7pUl4">pic.twitter.com/M3NTc7pUl4</a>

OYOMA MCCARLEY @yodafresh1

124pts once again I will say scoring is not our problem but defense definitely is people ๐Ÿ˜ค๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ We need a 2way Defender that can still shoot the ball ๐Ÿ€ Go Knicks โœŠ๐Ÿพ

Donald Stewart @DStewart267

This is a complete joke from the Knicks. Hawks with 131 points with time still to go to get plenty more, farcical defense. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Knicks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Knicks</a>

Seรกn Hartnett @SeanLikesSports

I thought the identity of the Tom Thibodeau Knicks was supposed to be grit and tough D. Even though Mitchell Robinson was out, 139 points against is inexcusable.

It's probably not a coincidence the Knicks had this defensive performance in their first game without Mitchell Robinson. The team announced he will be re-evaluated in three weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured right thumb after suffering the injury in Wednesday's loss to the Washington Wizards.

"Mitch is the anchor for our defense," RJ Barrett told reporters after the Wizards game. "Him going out is an adjustment for sure."

Robinson ranks fifth in the NBA with 1.8 blocks per game and second on the team with 8.9 rebounds per contest. Jalen Brunson had all three of New York's blocks against the Hawks, but the team was outrebounded 39-34 with Atlanta's edge coming on the offensive glass (14-9).

The Knicks entered this game ranked seventh in points allowed (111.4) and 11th in defensive rating (112.8).

There's no reason to hit the full-blown panic button yet, but three straight losses have the Knicks just 0.5 games ahead of the Hawks, who have now won five consecutive games, for the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.

New York is off tomorrow before taking on the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.