NEW ORLEANS — The Knicks had lamented the amount of turnovers they committed Friday night against the Hawks, even if they were able to outshoot their mistakes for their first victory of the season.
Sixteen turnovers one night earlier in Atlanta were exceeded by 19 more giveaways — led by a whopping eight by Julius Randle — in the sloppy Knicks’ ugly, 96-87 loss to the Pelicans on Saturday night at Smoothie King Center in the second half of a back-to-back.
“Just gotta be better. I had eight turnovers. That should never happen. So I take full accountability for that,” Randle said. “I just think that we were just a little stagnant, just didn’t do much to help each other out. Even with all that said, we cut the lead in the third quarter and gave ourselves a chance. Just didn’t finish it off right.”
Randle also endured another erratic shooting performance, finishing 4-for-15 overall while missing all five of his 3-point attempts to finish with 10 points.
The two-time All-Star forward has connected on just 27.7 percent of his field-goal attempts (13-for-47) through the Knicks’ 1-2 start.
Jalen Brunson, who had buried a career-high eight 3-pointers Friday night against the Hawks, missed four of five from long distance as part of a 7-for-37 team-wide shooting effort from beyond the arc.
RJ Barrett scored 18 points to lead the Knicks, who will complete this three-game road trip Tuesday night in Cleveland.
Never one to rest players or even alter his rotation based on the schedule, Thibodeau had said before the game that the Knicks had “no restrictions” in their first back-to-back situation of the season following Friday’s win in Atlanta.
“That’s the big challenge of the league. It requires you to be in great shape,” Thibodeau said after the game. “It requires you to be mentally tough. You’re gonna be challenged each and every night. You get challenged in different ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, you’re gonna be challenged.”
Brandon Ingram netted 26 points to lead the Pelicans (2-0), and Zion Williamson had 24 on 12-for-17 shooting in his first game against the Knicks in more than two years.
Williamson had missed the previous four meetings between the teams with multiple injuries, but the two-time All-Star had scored 24 points in the Pelicans’ first win Wednesday over Memphis after not appearing in a game last season after Jan. 2.
Mitchell Robinson (eight points, 15 rebounds) rejected Williamson at one end and scored four straight points at the other, including a putback dunk off an offensive rebound midway through the first quarter, but the Knicks trailed, 26-12, after 12 minutes.
Randle committed three of the Knicks’ seven turnovers in the quarter, and five of their 10 in the first half.
They also missed 15 of 21 field-goal attempts in the period, including all eight tries from 3-point range.
The Pelicans extended that cushion to 19 early in the second, and despite nine points by Barrett in the quarter, the Knicks still were down 55-37 at intermission, with Williamson registering a game-high 12 before halftime.
Quentin Grimes nailed a 3-pointer for his first points of the game early in the third and Barrett sank a reverse layup in a 14-6 run to open the second half to close the gap to 10.
Brunson’s 3-pointer got the Knicks within seven 5:05 into the quarter, and another by Josh Hart trimmed the deficit to six late in the third.
But the Knicks missed their first eight shot attempts to open the final period, and the Pelicans used a 10-1 spurt to essentially close out the victory.
“Less than 24 hours and a time change is kind of weird. Especially for the beginning of the season, but of course a little bit of fatigue today, but that’s not really any excuse at the end of the day,” Barrett said. “When we come out here, we gotta give our best effort and play our best game.
“I think we played hard, we played together, we didn’t go away. Every time they’d go up, we’d make a run, cut it to six. I think we played hard, but they got the better of us today.”