With a minute to go in Monday night's game against the Wizards, things were looking pretty good for the Knicks. They'd taken control of a back-and-forth battle with a game Wizards team and were up 100-97. Their third win in four games seemed likely. But then all hell broke lose, Knicks style, and a series of miscues left them reeling, desperate and without any answers. And so after another week with more losses than wins, the Knicks are 7-17 and are in thirteenth place in the Eastern Conference.
It wasn't great when the Knicks surrendered a Bradley Beal three-pointer to tie the game at 100 with 45 seconds left. It didn't get much better when Udrih made just one of two free throws after getting a bail-out reach-in call with 24.5 seconds left.
It became a disaster when Mike Woodson let the Knicks, up 101-100, out of the huddle without much of a gameplan, one that admittedly didn't cover whether they were going to call timeout if the Wizards scored. And score they did, as Udrih, opting not to use the Knicks' foul to give and unsurprisingly left without much-needed help, couldn't slow Beal down as he scored easily on a baseline drive to the rim to make the score 102-101.
The Knicks season, already dry and ripe for burning, was fully engulfed in flames when Carmelo Anthony, otherwise fantastic on the evening, took the inbounds pass with six seconds left and wandered upcourt as he seemingly waited for a timeout to be called, only to realize too late one wasn't coming. Melo threw up a running prayer of a three and the Knicks lost; another loss, another abject failure.
After the game, the Knicks had no answers.
It isn't just that the Knicks lost. Their record, win or lose Monday night, would continue to be an embarrassment. It isn't that they wasted one of Carmelo Anthony's best performances in a Knick uniform as he had 32 points on twenty shots and moved the ball out of the double-team all night long. It was the performance his critics claim he never gives: dominant, efficient scoring paired with a determination to pass whenever that was the right decision. But that's not what this game will be remembered for.
It isn't that they wasted a performance to build on for JR Smith (he made his first big shots of the season, knocking down two huge threes down the stretch to give the Knicks control of the game on his way to eighteen points). Or that they wasted yet another strong offensive performance from Tim Hardaway (5-6 shooting for fourteen points), a scrappy one from the otherwise struggling Iman Shumpert (nine boards, +11 on the night) or even a highlight block from Andrea Bargnani.
It's what they lost. They lost yet another chance for a signature win. They lost a real chance to ever-so-briefly quiet the tabloids, twitter and the frustrated Garden crowd and buy themselves some time to figure things out. They lost all of that and what would have been a chance for more as they head to Milwaukee to take on a Bucks team that is one few behind them in the standings. They lost all that, just as defensive savior Tyson Chandler gets set to return to the lineup after being sidelined for six weeks.
The season is teetering on the edge of disaster and it's going to take a miracle to pull it back, even before factoring in that they lost Pablo Prigioni to a broken toe in the third quarter (he'll be out two weeks) and will be leaving Amar'e Stoudemire home with sore knees tonight, just as he was hitting his stride. They're still without Raymond Felton, who will be out 2-3 weeks with a myriad of lower body aches and pains. The Knicks are so desperate for a point guard they called Chris Smith up from the D-League today, obviously forgetting that he's not actually an NBA-caliber player and is only around because he's the kid brother of their struggling small forward. Oh, and Kenyon Martin is out two weeks with a strained abdominal muscle. The Knicks are a barren wasteland. Even more than usual.
Where do the Knicks go from here? Mike Woodson probably doesn't have much time left and has no choice but to run Carmelo Anthony into the ground before he's fired. A trade with the Raptors for point guard Kyle Lowry is now likelier than ever, except with every loss and injury it gets harder for the Knicks to keep their most valuable assets (Shumpert, Hardaway or a first round pick) out of the deal. Amar'e Stoudemire's sore knees will probably end up being more than that, just as they were last year, no matter how much he denies it.
— Amar'e Stoudemire (@Amareisreal) December 17, 2013
As the Knicks limp along the "will Melo stay or will he leave" chatter will reach a volume so loud reasonable fans will just want the saga to be over, regardless of the outcome. And the Knicks first round draft pick very well might end up in the lottery, where the Denver Nuggets will be ever so happy to use it to take the best player available in the strongest draft in years.
The NBA season is more than a quarter over and the Knicks have less than nothing to show for it. Three winnable games (at Milwaukee, Memphis, at Orlando) stand between them and the Thunder on Christmas Day. If they don't use this week to find some type of stride, they're going to have an embarrassing holiday.