The Knicks wasted a season-high 39 point performance from Carmelo Anthony and let a 17 point lead evaporate in the final quarter, losing to the Pacers 112-104 last night.
The late game failure resulted in the Knicks allowing 40 fourth quarter points by the Pacers, watching Danny Granger (surely hungry for a win after losing to the Knicks in back-to-back games earlier this season) propel his team to victory.
Even before Mike D'Antoni resigned as head coach of the Knicks, current coach Mike Woodson was the defensive brain of this team. Such a feeble effort defensively by the Knicks has not been what's come to be expected of late. The team clearly let a victory slip out of their fingers.
Aside from their defense, however, the game also came down to awkward substitutions and lineup changes. With many Knicks sidelined or playing through the pain, Woodson assembled different alternatives out on the court, many of which looked confused, struggling to find a rhythm with one another.
One player who did have a breakout performance, Landry Fields, sat the entire fourth quarter after scoring 15 points early on. Fields hit two three point field goals in the first quarter alone, after only converting on two long bombs all of last month. Woodson admitted to "forgetting" to insert Fields back in the game as the Knicks began to falter.
Instead of Fields, J.R. Smith received major late-game minutes. Though he struggled shooting from the field, Smith did score 11 points and played well in other areas too, grabbing 9 boards and dishing out 4 assists. That said, he seemed to put his own negative stamp on the Knicks' big meltdown when he was ejected for pushing Indiana'a Leandro Barbosa to the ground with only seconds left in the game.
Though the loss did likely represent the team's worst failure of the season, Woodson and the Knicks should not sweat the loss so much so that it affects them going forward. The Knicks have been praised for their lockdown defense under Woodson, and with the new coach still holding a 9-3 record, late game letdowns appear to be a thing of the past. Such a loss no longer defines what the Knicks are about anymore. The team just needs to correct mistakes (including some small errors by Woodson), and make sure these struggles do not continue.
The key to this loss will be how the Knicks bounce back. The team shouldn't get down on themselves for one game, solely because they have enough time to make things right and capitalize on the opportunities coming their way the rest of the season. It would be an awful thing to see last night's loss spark a downward spiral by the Knicks, rather than motivate them to never let it happen again and not look back.
The Knicks will aim to get their tenth win under Coach Woodson as they take on the Magic in Orlando tomorrow night.