Dirk Nowitzki made the game-winner of Carmelo Anthony at the buzzer. Credit: Getty Images
The Knicks continued their struggles at home with a heartbreaking 110-108 loss to the Mavericks in the final seconds.
It was the team’s fourth loss in its last five home games, as not even Carmelo Anthony’s game-high 44 points could keep the Knicks from continuing their descent into the Eastern Conference abyss.
Knicks head coach Mike Woodson sounded as despondent as he’s been all season in recalling the final sequences, including a Knicks 24-second shot-clock violation that preceded Nowitzki’s winner.
“Melo [Anthony] couldn’t get the shot he wanted [and] I thought J.R. [Smith] got bumped, but they ain’t calling that [at that juncture],” said Woodson. “And Dirk [Nowitzki] just hit an incredible shot.”
Anthony was still in disbelief at the ending.
“That shot right there, I felt like I couldn’t do anything better. He hit a tough shot,” said Anthony. “After the first bounce, I thought we were going to overtime. ... It’s like a needle popping a balloon. It sucks the air right out of you. He hit a hell of a shot.”
Nowitzki’s winner at the buzzer was what ultimately deflated the Knicks. Nowitzki finished with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He was quiet for most of the evening until his team needed him the most, as he squared up Anthony at the top of the key and nailed his patented one-legged fadeaway that initially hit the front iron, bounced high in the air and nestled softly into the net as the horn sounded.
“It’s the great Nowitzki, man,” said Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle. “He’s done it so many times. ... What an incredible shot. It was only fitting [having] the two best players out there man-on-man. He hit as difficult a shot as you are going to hit. Carmelo was all over him [and] just to get the ball up in the air was a feat and the shot going in was great.”
The Knicks would certainly beg to differ, but the fact remains that it’s yet another heartbreaking defeat in front of the faithful. The loss isn’t a rare occurrence for the Knicks (21-36), which now own a 12-19 record at the Garden.
“Melo has been our most consistent player all year, no doubt about that. The way he has played, it’s a damn shame we are in the position we are in, because our team doesn’t deserve it and he definitely does not deserve the position we are in based on how he has played,” said Woodson. “I am the coach and I have to take blame for a lot of it. I have to put them in the best position to win and I am going to continue to do that and hopefully the breaks go our way.”
Things went Dallas’ way early, as it started hot, forging a 31-21 lead after one quarter, led by Jose Calderon’s eight points and nine points from Vince Carter. But the Knicks showed some mettle in the second quarter as they outpaced the Mavericks, 27-17, from the middle of the second quarter until the halftime break on the strength of Anthony’s 17 points. During that swing in momentum, the Knicks used an 11-0 run to get back into the game and close the gap to just one point at the break.
The remainder of the game was nip and tuck for both teams as Dallas slightly outscored the Knicks, 24-23, in the third quarter and were continuously nursing slim margins until the final horn – which included entirely giving away an eight-point lead with 1:50 remaining to set up Nowitzki’s dramatics.
“That’s the thing about the greatest players. I played with [Larry] Bird for three years, and he took more pleasure in hitting the game-winning shot after he missed eight or nine in a row than having a great game,” Carlisle said. “That’s why the great ones stick to their process. They keep working the game the same way and believing in themselves.”
The Mavericks featured three starters and Carter in double figures. That balance was what ultimately did in the Knicks. Anthony tried all he could to once again carry his team, adding eight points in the fourth quarter, but his supporting cast finally ran out of steam following a 58-percent shooting display in the first half.
Reserve swingman Smith added 15 points, while rookie guard Tim Hardaway Jr. contributed 10 points, including two 3-pointers. But that was about all the offensive help Anthony would get as his fellow starters struggled to surpass the double-digit mark. Only Chandler shook his doldrums by finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“We can’t get a shot when we need one and we can’t get a win when we need one,” said Smith. “Things are not going our way like we wanted to. ... That’s life.”
Knicks notes ...
» The Knicks made it official by waiving reserve forward Metta World Peace and backup shooting guard Beno Udrih on Monday.
» Entering Monday night’s game, Anthony was averaging 31.3 points per game over his last 10 contests. Second in average during that span was rookie shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. with 11.9 points per game.
» Smith once again donned the face mask. The piece, which once proved cumbersome to him, wasn’t a detriment to his shooting or vision as he tallied 15 points and seven assists in 36 minutes of action.
» As wonderful as Anthony has been all season, he continued a disturbing tendency in the final quarter that reared its head again against the Mavericks. Anthony entered Monday’s tilt fostering a trend of seeing his shooting percentage wane with each passing quarter this season. The All-Star forward shoots a season-high 49 percent in the first quarter, but his effectiveness takes a dip with each quarter, shooting 48 percent, 46 percent, 37 percent and 31 percent in the second, third, fourth and overtime periods, respectively. He tallied eight points in the fourth, but also missed key shots down the stretch.
» Amar’e Stoudemire got the rare start at power forward, as Woodson decided to go with a big lineup with the absence of swingman Iman Shumpert. The switch in roles produced few dividends, however, as Stoudemire could only muster nine points on 3-of-5 shooting in 21 minutes of action. Stoudemire did not make himself available to the media after the contest.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.