If the New York Knicks fail to make the playoffs, it won’t be that hard to pick out moments of their missteps. Recall in December, in a home battle versus the Washington Wizards, the Knicks granted Bradley Beal an open layup with seven seconds remaining. Down one, with three timeouts left, the Knicks opted not to use any of them to set up a play. Instead, Carmelo Anthony trotted up the court and was forced into a fade-away three-pointer from 30 feet out that missed badly.
It was one of the worst losses of the season, simply because of the total lack of execution and communication. But in December, it didn’t seem as devastating because the Knicks would have ample time to make up for it.
Enter Friday night, the Knicks tied for eighth place, fighting for their lives to make the playoffs. At this point in the season, there isn’t time for such costly mistakes. But something about the aura of the Wizards brings out the worst in the Knicks.
Despite 32 points from J.R. Smith, some solid production from Amar’e Stoudemire, and some generally poor play from Washington, the Knicks collapsed again. After Raymond Felton splashed a corner three to put the Knicks up, Bradley Beal came back and squggled his way through the Knicks for a fairly open midrange jumper. With 23 seconds left, the Knicks called timeout to set up a final play.
And what did they do? They killed clock for no reason, then it seemed there was some confusion between Felton and Anthony, as they fumbled a hand-off that looked like Felton was expecting a screen from ‘Melo. Then, Anthony drove to the lane, went to pull up, but lost the ball. Smith recovered it from several feet beyond the arc and missed a deep three as time expired. Game over.
In a critical game, Anthony had his worst outing of the season: 10 points on 5-14 shooting with 9 turnovers, and nearly a 10th at the end of the game. These are the miscues that the Knicks can’t afford, the kind of thing they can no longer hide from.
It’s tough to say why the Knicks are so bad at the end of games. It certainly doesn’t help that they’re a terrible defensive team; there’s a lot of pressure to come up with critical stops at the end of games. As far as their execution, certainly a lot of that is on Mike Woodson. It seems so much easier for the Knicks to go away from isolation ‘Melo to draw up plays, but they never do. Is that Woodson’s own doing, or does that come from Anthony, who wants the big shot and demands the ball?
The Knicks take on the Miami Heat on Sunday in a virtual must-win. If they lose that game (it’s in Miami), the Knicks will have plenty of time this summer to think about all of their missteps this season.