SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Carmelo Anthony had the ball in his hands with a chance to force overtime or win the game. He went for the win.
His off-balance running three-pointer was wide left just before the buzzer, though, and the Knicks fell to the Kings, 99-97, on Thursday night for their fourth straight loss.
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“That was the shot that was there,” Anthony said. “It was still a clean look, a clean look at the rim. I got the ball up there. Anything other than that, I’d rather not speak on.”
Anthony thought he was fouled on the play. Replays showed that Rajon Rondo grabbed his arm before he went up to shoot, but nothing was called.
Before Wednesday night’s game in Utah, Anthony said he doesn’t get enough calls.
“It’s reoccurring events,” he said.
The same can be said about the Knicks’ play. They have lost eight of their last 10 and take a 10-14 mark into the trip finale Saturday night in Portland.
It’s surprising that the game came down to the final possession. The Knicks fell behind by 19 points late in the third quarter and trailed by 13 early in the fourth but showed much more fight than they had in Utah on Wednesday night.
“That’s the type of effort and intensity and desire we have to play with right from the start every single night just to give ourselves a chance,’’ Derek Fisher said. “Sometimes maybe that’s not good enough.”
After Anthony’s layup made it 99-97 with 8.6 seconds to go, the Kings threw the ball away, Arron Afflalo tracked it down and the Knicks called a timeout with 4.6 seconds left. The play was for Anthony, but he couldn’t connect.
“You take the best shot available,” Fisher said. “The ball was in our best player’s hands. He got to a spot on the floor he felt comfortable. We’ll take that every time.’’
Anthony finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds but shot 8-for-21 from the field. Afflalo added 14 points but missed two big three-pointers down the stretch and was 0-for-6 from outside the arc. Kristaps Porzingis struggled with his shot again, going 4-for-11 with 13 points and seven rebounds. The Knicks also missed three free throws in the fourth quarter.
DeMarcus Cousins had 27 points and 11 rebounds for Sacramento and Rondo played a brilliant overall game with 16 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
Fisher called out the players after the Knicks were blown out by the Jazz, 106-85, on Wednesday night. He challenged them, suggesting they’ve gotten complacent after their 8-6 start, and said he was considering changing the starting lineup. He decided to stay the same, though, against the Kings.
“Three games don’t make up a season,” Fisher said. “You don’t throw everything out the window because of struggles at a particular time. At the same time, it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way forever.”
The Knicks’ offense sputtered again. They scored 16 points in the first quarter and trailed 34-20 with 6 1⁄2 minutes to go in the second quarter. They were shooting 8-for-29 at the time.
The Knicks scored 10 points in the last 2:40 to get within 46-39 at the half, but they gave up 19 points in the first 6:12 of the third quarter and fell behind 65-49 on Rondo’s layup in transition.
Sacramento extended to a 70-51 lead on Cousins’ three-point play with 4:47 to go. But the Knicks went on a 27-11 run in the third and fourth quarters and got within 86-83 with 5:45 remaining.
After Rudy Gay hit a three to make it 91-85 with 3:39 left, Porzingis scored on a baseline jumper and was fouled. He hit the free throw to make it a three-point game again.
On the other end, Rondo drove baseline and electrified the crowd with an unexpected one-handed dunk to put Sacramento up 93-88.
Anthony couldn’t convert an offensive rebound on the Knicks’ next trip, leading to Cousins’ put-back over Porzingis and a 95-88 Kings lead with 2:25 to go.
But the Knicks weren’t done. On the ensuing trip, Afflalo hit a long jumper just before the shot clock sounded and Anthony knocked down a three-pointer to make it 95-93 with 1:02 remaining.
The Kings turned the ball over on their end with 41.3 seconds to play, giving the Knicks a chance to tie. But Afflalo misfired on a three-pointer with 29.9 seconds left and Sacramento rebounded.
Omri Casspi was fouled going to the basket and made both free throws with 24.5 seconds left to put the Kings up 97-93. Anthony then found Afflalo for a corner three that didn’t fall. Porzingis rebounded and was fouled trying to throw it down. His two free throws brought the Knicks within 97-95 with 16.4 seconds remaining.
The Knicks intentionally fouled Darren Collison, and he made it a four-point game with 15.7 seconds left. Anthony scored quickly in transition to bring the Knicks within two, and that’s as close as they could get.
“Don’t enjoy the loss, but take from it that we have to literally empty ourselves every night just to give ourselves a chance,” Fisher said. “We had a chance. We just couldn’t come through.”