The New York Knicks (10-22) began 2014 with an impressive road win against the San Antonio Spurs. They were looking to make it two in a row in the Lone Star State when they faced the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
The Knicks’ chances to win looked promising as they took a 81-73 lead into the fourth quarter, but then the Knicks reminded us why they were 10-21 coming into the game.
The lead quickly evaporated as the Rockets tied the game at 85 with 7:11 left to play. The Knicks had no answer for James Harden who scored 37 points and kept the Rockets in the game. The two teams traded leads down the stretch, but two straight baskets by James Harden gave the Rockets a 100-95 lead with 2:25 left in the game.
To their credit, the Knicks showed no quit. They got two consecutive stops and tied the game on an Iman Shumpert three — he scored 26 and was 6-6 from behind the arc — and two free throws from Tyson Chandler.
The Knicks got another stop and called timeout with 43 seconds remaining and the scored tied at 100. That is where it all went wrong.
The Knicks came out of the timeout and ran a play for Carmelo Anthony. He was doubled and eventually got the ball to Beno Udrih for an open three that was missed as the shot clock expired. Tyson Chandler corralled Udrih’s miss and the Knicks retained the ball with the shot clock off.
Chandler passed to Udrih to set up what should have been the final play of regulation, but Udrih passed to JR Smith. Smith, who ended the game 3-13 and 1-8 from downtown, inexplicably shot the ball with 19 seconds left. He missed and the Rockets rebounded the ball.
To compound Smith’s blunder, Beno Udrih fouled Aaron Brooks in the backcourt with the Knicks in the penalty. Brooks hit the two free throws and Udrih missed a floater on the Knicks’ final play as time expired.
The Knicks have made a disturbing habit of losing games because of simple errors and poor late game execution. Smith admitted that the he thought the Knicks were down two when he attempted the three with 19 seconds remaining. Smith’s lack of awareness is not only a bad reflection of Smith, but also of coach Mike Woodson.
During the 2013 9-21 start to the season, Woodson was not getting consistent effort from the players. In the first two games of 2014, he is getting consistent effort but the attention to detail is not there for 48 minutes. That can be the difference between winning and losing.
The Knicks are 6-13 this year in games decided by 3 or less possessions. Look no further than Friday night’s game against the Rockets as one of the reasons for the poor record in these situations. “We gave them the game,” Carmelo Anthony said after scoring 25 in the loss.
The Knicks can ill afford to lose a lot of games or they will fall further out of playoff contention. They certainly cannot give away games like they did on Friday night.
Hopefully the Knicks will finally learn from their mistakes, but if they do not the losses will continue to pile up.