NBA Basketball

Knicks open road swing against Nets

NEW YORK -- The road struggles of the New York Knicks already are a focal point. Their issues away from midtown Manhattan are about to become even more magnified if they continue.

The Brooklyn Nets would like to be the opponent handing the Knicks another road loss.

The Knicks start their season-high seven-game road trip Monday afternoon when they cross the East River to face the Nets at Barclays Center.

"Those are trips that in the past, that teams I have been on, teams our coaches have been on, teams some of our players have been on, that can turn things around," Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. "You go out there and somehow win five of seven road games, all of a sudden your mentality becomes that much different. We're looking at it as an opportunity. We'll see if we can rise to it."

New York (19-24) owns a 4-15 record outside of Madison Square Garden and its four road wins are tied with the Atlanta Hawks and Utah Jazz for the fewest in the league. The difference is that its 19 road games are the second fewest in the league, only one behind Charlotte.

New York, which averages 99.5 points in road games, is going on this trip because the Grammy Awards are being staged at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 28 and they're inheriting the "Grammy Trip" previously forced on the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in recent seasons.

New York's trip will feature five games against teams with losing records, though the quality of the opponent doesn't seem to matter in its road games. One of its four road wins occurred Dec. 14 in Brooklyn when Courtney Lee scored 27 points after Kristaps Porzingis injured a knee in the first half of a 111-104 victory.

The Knicks were 15-13 after beating the Nets for the second time this season but are 4-11 in their last 15 games after blowing a 19-point lead in a 123-118 overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

New York also is 3-10 in its last 13 games since Porzingis returned from the knee injury. He is averaging 20.2 points in those games but shooting 37.1 percent.

On Sunday, the forward scored 25 points, but only three after the third quarter, and he was 1 of 7 from the floor in the fourth quarter and overtime when the Knicks were outscored 41-22 while missing 22 of 31 shots.

"So, so many similar games like this," Porzingis said after the Knicks fell to 15-7 when leading or tied after three quarters. "It's painful. We need to do a better job at the end of games. It's simple.

"They made some good plays, but today one quote popped through my mind. It was, 'A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.' So we just have to stay positive and try to find something positive."

New York is hoping to find something positive in a stretch that will see them play 17 of the next 23 on the road because of the Grammy Awards, and the Big Ten and Big East conference tournaments in late February and early March.

Meanwhile, the Nets (16-27) are in the middle of playing 15 of 23 games at home through the All-Star break. After losing the final two games of their five-game homestand against Toronto and Detroit, the Nets split a back-to-back set by beating Atlanta on Friday and losing in overtime at Washington on Saturday.

Brooklyn is 5-11 in its last 16 games since the meeting with the Knicks after trailing by as many as 23 points in a 119-113 loss on Saturday. Of their 27 defeats, 11 are single-digit losses when the Nets have trailed by double-digits at some point, including last month when the Knicks led by 18 points.

"It's a recurring theme with our team this year," Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. "We're in so many close games."

Dinwiddie is right. In games decided by five points or less, the Nets are 9-8, but in games when Brooklyn has trailed by double-digits at some point, it is 4-23.

The Nets will be looking to get off to a better start than Saturday, when they trailed by 20 at halftime. They also will hope to see the version of Dinwiddie who nearly had a triple-double Friday and not the one who was 4 of 16 Saturday.

"We had a good second half, fought hard, but we can't come out the way we did to start," Brooklyn guard Caris LeVert said. "We just came out sluggish, not cutting hard on offense, not fighting through screens on defense. The score got out of hand early."

New York has won six of the last 10 meetings after Brooklyn swept the four-game season series in 2014-15.

Updated January 14, 2018

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