Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks lost to the Kings. Credit: Getty Images
Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony deemed the game a must-win, but apparently his teammates didn’t have the same sense of urgency in a 106-101 overtime loss to the lowly Kings.
Anthony was ready to play, notching a game-high 36 points on 12-of-28 shooting, but the rest of his teammates struggled to match his intensity until it was too late.
The Kings (18-35) were led by Jimmer Fredette’s career-high 24 points, as the reserve guard put on a shooting clinic in the second and fourth quarters to upset the Knicks (20-32).
“They played well and we had opportunities to win, but we didn’t follow through at the end,” said Amar’e Stoudemire. “And Jimmer Fredette gave them a spark. He got hot. It reminded me of what he was like back in college.”
Kings small forward Rudy Gay was also instrumental in the win, as he knocked down a clutch mid-range jumper over Stoudemire with 20 seconds remaining to force overtime. Gay finished with 20 points.
Gay had big moments in the fourth quarter and the extra session, as he also nailed a mid-range jumper at the 4:14 mark of overtime, which was the Kings’ first lead since early in the first half. Sacramento never looked back.
Knicks head coach Mike Woodson admitted that once swingman Iman Shumpert was lost to a hip flexor injury early in the game, it hampered his game plan. And Gay took full advantage.
“When Iman went down that hurt because it was a bad matchup problem with Timmy [Hardaway Jr.] playing at the three spot [small forward] and they utilized that mismatch in the post, so I had to go big,” said Woodson. “I thought [Stoudemire] and the rest of our bigs played great. But we had built our lead by playing small ball with Melo at the four [power forward]. ... I just couldn’t get back to it.”
Anthony had his share of good looks in the fourth quarter and overtime, but came up just as short as his underwhelming supporting cast when it mattered most, including a missed game-winning attempt at the buzzer from 22 feet away. The All-Star forward shot just 1-of-8 in the final quarter and extra frame, including blowing a wide-open layup early in the extra frame to set the tone.
Woodson acknowledged his star might’ve needed a rest, but his hands were tied due to the absences of J.R. Smith and Shumpert.
“I don’t think Melo was pressing. There were a lot of minutes that he played and I didn’t give him a chance to get a break, especially in the fourth quarter,” said Woodson. “That’s no knock against guys like Metta [World Peace], but I elected to ride Melo the rest of the way. ... We just didn’t get it done.”
The Knicks didn’t get it done early, as they blew separate leads of 12 points and 13 points, including one third-quarter stretch where they missed 13-straight shots to allow the Kings to gain confidence and get back into the ball game.
They also wasted solid efforts from Tyson Chandler and Stoudemire. Chandler posted a season-high 17 points to go with his 11 rebounds, while Stoudemire added 20 points off the bench.
“We let them stay close and [we let] Fredette to come in and hit some shots, so it let them stay in the game and it cost us in the end,” said Chandler. “It’s very disappointing, but we have a break now. We need to step away from the game a little bit, recharge our batteries and then come back focused and ready to play the second half of the season.”
“It’s not a great feeling going into the break,” said Stoudemire. “We know we have to step on it. This loss is something that we have to recover from really quick. We have to give our bodies a little break to rest and recover for the second half of the year. I’ll get lots of rest and focus on dominating when I get back.”
New York has now lost to the Bucks, the worst team in the league, last week, and a Kings squad that was the worst in the Western Conference heading into the game.
New York remains 2 1/2 games behind the Bobcats for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Knicks notes ...
» Smith, who suffered a small fracture of his left cheekbone last Sunday, was told he’d have to wear a protective mask if he wanted to play Wednesday. But after finagling the gear, he decided he couldn’t play with the mask. The doctors, however, noted if he failed to wear the mask, he could go blind if hit in the same spot without it. Smith, who acknowledged he’d have to wear the mask for at least the next four to five weeks, said prior to tip-off that his decision to not play was a no-brainer:
“It’s definitely, and I hate to say it, somewhat of a selfish decision, but it is what it is,” said Smith. “It’s way too risky to play without.”
The game was the first Smith had missed because of injury since he became a Knick – although he has missed a few games for other reasons, including multiple suspensions.
» Stoudemire continued his ascending play with a stellar 20-point performance in 37 minutes of action. Stoudemire has averaged 17 points, 6.8 rebounds and has shot 58 percent from the field in 26.3 minutes of action per game over the last four contests.
» Raymond Felton had a game-high 12 assists and only three turnovers, but his final giveaway proved to be costly late in overtime, as it led to Derrick Williams’s fastbreak dunk that essentially put the game out of reach.
» Fredette is an upstate New York native (Glens Falls, N.Y.), but he played as if he owned the Garden, as he torched the Knicks for a career high off the bench. Fredette, who has been in and out of the lineup this season as he’s struggled to find his niche, certainly found his famous jumpshot Wednesday. Fredette, who had a couple dozen family and friends in attendance, gave them a show as he made the best of his only appearance at the Garden this season.
» Shumpert suffered a strained hip flexor in the third quarter and didn’t return. He finished with eight points and three steals in 22 minutes.
» Kings center DeMarcus Cousins left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent lower body injury, but still managed to do considerable damage to the Knicks’ interior by producing 19 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Cousins entered the game fifth in the league in rebounding.
» Diminutive point guard Isaiah Thomas flexed his muscles and stood tall for the Kings as he added 20 points, including the back-breaking jumper in the waning seconds of overtime to send the Garden faithful home unhappy. The 5-foot-9 Thomas also added seven assists.
» The Kings used the Knicks as an elixir, as they ended their seven-game road losing streak.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.