Jeff Hornacek thought mixing up his lineup would spark a change in his team. Too bad Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard didn't care who was on the floor.
Frank Ntilikina saw his first start as a Knicks, but it was at shooting guard as Courtney Lee was injured. Michael Beasley, on the other hand, came off the bench as his offensive struggles forced the move by Hornacek. Lance Thomas took his spot instead.
But, on the road in Portland, it was the red-hot Lillard who put on a show once again to aid the Blazers to a 111-87 blowout. He had 37 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including eight threes.
"He's just like Steph Curry," Tim Hardaway Jr. told The Post Marc Berman. "You can't give him space anywhere."
Hornacek also agreed with Hardaway in that Lillard has been playing with a Stephen Curry mentality: Just shoot from anywhere on the court.
"It's hard -- I said before the game he's playing like Curry plays," he said. "It's from anywhere, anytime. I thought we did a pretty decent job when we trapped him, but he gets away from there and still gets his shot and drives."
It was yet another loss to wrap up the Knicks' four-game West Coast trip. They have now dropped 13 of their last 14 games, and will be pitted against the Bucks on Friday before they return home against the Raptors on Sunday. It was also another night that saw Emmanuel Mudiay struggle from the field, as he went 1-of-9 for a measly three points, and he committed six turnovers.
Mudiay mentioned on Tuesday that he needs to start playing better if he wishes to stay in the Knicks' starting lineup, has shot 3-for-25 over the last three games.
"I just got to clear my head, really," Mudiay said after running straight to the Blazers' weight room for a post-game workout. "I've been struggling the last three games. It's no secret. I got to keep working. That's the main thing. Trust the process, keep working, not being in my own head and it was the best thing for me."
The Knicks' young guards in Ntilikina, Mudiay, and Trey Burke didn't have a favorable matchup against Lillard and his counterpart C.J. McCollum, who notched 19 points in the win. Hornacek believes trying to keep them in check was the reason each guard had a poor shooting night (5-for-28 combined).
"They were really battling those guys and maybe got a little tired," Hornacek said. "I thought [our guards] had good looks. It wasn't like they were taking bad shots. You've just got to knock those down."
As for Ntilikina, he didn't have the spark in the starting lineup that Hornacek hoped would happen. He produced just six points on 2-of-7 shooting, while dishing out two assists and collecting two rebounds. Ntilikina and Hornacek both agree the first-rounder needs to work harder in the summer on his offensive game, and get stronger.
"He's 19-years-old in this NBA game,'' Hornacek said. "I can look back, I'm not sure I shot well my first year. He does have the eye, he can shoot over guys. He'll go back in the summer and continue working. He's a kid who really wants to improve on and work on his game. He studies tape. He'll get in better shape and get stronger. He'll be a dynamite shooter one day.''
With 17 games left in this season, though, the Knicks will continue to try and fight through their struggles in yet another lost season.