Sources: Some top Knicks have privately expressed frustration over early offensive woes

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Evan Fournier triple teamed against Bucks
Evan Fournier triple teamed against Bucks

Yes, the Knicks beat the Rockets on Saturday. But they needed a 17-point fourth quarter from Alec Burks to get the job done.

And, once again, their starters put them in a hole with a slow start.

That’s been a recurring theme for the club. But the first quarter on Saturday may have been the starters’ worst stretch of the young season.

The Knicks scored just 13 points in the first quarter against Houston, a team that entered the Garden with a 13-game losing streak.

They continued to struggle in the second quarter before a 14-4 run helped them tie the score at halftime.

The game remained close through the third quarter. The Knicks then needed heroics from Burks, Immanuel Quickley and Nerlens Noel to beat Houston, which fell to 1-15 with the loss.

If you’re an optimist, maybe you think the Knicks can gain momentum from their solid fourth quarter against Houston.

Maybe Evan Fournier’s strong shooting carries over into Sunday’s game at Chicago and the tough stretch next week.

Maybe Noel’s defense around the rim and in the pick-and-roll return can jolt the Knicks on that end of the floor.

Maybe Julius Randle and Fournier can continue to find success in the two-man game.

All of that is possible.

But there’s mounting evidence that New York’s starting unit are a poor fit.

Publicly, the starters have said all of the right things about their early-season struggles. They hold themselves accountable, remain optimistic that they’ll be better as the season goes along.

But privately, a couple of top rotation players have expressed frustration with how things have played out on offense, sources say.

Those players’ specific issues are unknown, but the early season frustration can manifest itself in a few ways. Among them:

  1. The starters can start to play better and help the Knicks win games. Winning can often cure bouts of internal frustration. So if the Knicks start winning games, everyone should be relatively happy.

  2. The Knicks and their starters can continue to struggle, leading Tom Thibodeau to alter the lineup.

  3. The current starting five (Kemba Walker, Fournier, RJ Barrett, Randle, Mitchell Robinson) continue to struggle, the Knicks play sub .500 basketball, leading to a roster shakeup.

It’s premature to start talking about the second or third path above. If the Knicks win in Chicago on Sunday, play well next week and start to build momentum, everyone will forget about their early-season struggles.

But if the Knicks lose most of their games next week and the starters continue to underperform, you wonder how long team decision-makers can stick with the status quo.