The New York Knicks tried to address a few of last year’s problems in the offseason. However, they still didn’t manage to solve their biggest issue in the first game of the season.
Coming off yet another fourth-quarter meltdown, the Knicks visit San Antonio to take on the defending NBA champion Spurs.
New York lost 11 games last season after holding a double-digit lead. It happened again in Wednesday’s season opener as the Knicks squandered a 10-point lead with less than four minutes remaining against Orlando, falling 85-83 in overtime. The Magic scored the final 10 points of regulation to send the game into OT.
After finishing off last season last in the league in rebounding and blocked shots, New York tried to get bigger with the additions of forward Keith Van Horn and center Dikembe Mutombo. The Knicks were able to outrebound the Magic 48-44.
Van Horn had a stellar debut, scoring 29 points and grabbing eight rebounds before fouling out with 34 seconds left in regulation.
“I had a lot of good opportunities,” said Van Horn, who made 11 of 18 shots. “We made some mental mistakes. We got out of sync.”
Mutombo had seven points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes.
The Spurs were concerned about their own rebounding this season with the retirement of center David Robinson. However, the point guard situation may be a more pressing need.
“It stiffened up on him,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It was bad enough in the first half where he was dragging his leg and couldn’t move it.
“We didn’t have any point guards after that. We’ll have to bring somebody in to make sure we have somebody there when our next game comes. We can’t depend on Carter’s knee right now.”
Reigning MVP Tim Duncan had 17 points on 7-of-22 shooting and 21 rebounds for San Antonio on Wednesday. The Spurs opened the season at home Tuesday with an 83-82 win over Phoenix.
STANDINGS (through Oct. 30): Knicks - 3rd place (tied), 1 GB, Atlantic Division. Spurs - 1st place (tied), 1/2 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Knicks - Van Horn, 29.0 ppg; Thomas, 15.0 rpg; Howard Eisley, 7.0 apg. Spurs - Duncan, 20.5 ppg and 16.5 rpg; Ginobili, 4.5 apg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 30, 2002; Knicks, 96-95; At New York, Houston scored 28 points, including the game-winning free throws with 5.4 seconds left, and Michael Doleac added a season-high 16 for the Knicks. Duncan had 31 points and 17 rebounds, but missed a short jumper as time expired.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Knicks - 0-0 on the road; Spurs - 1-0 at home.