The shot that usually belongs to Carmelo Anthony went to Arron Afflalo on Friday night. That’s been a common theme when Anthony has been out with an injury. Another common theme: The Knicks can’t win without him.
Afflalo had a chance to tie the score in the closing seconds. He had the ball on the left wing, spun to get some room and went to his familiar pull-up jumper, but the shot went in and out.
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That’s another common theme. The Knicks suffered their eighth loss in nine games, falling to the Memphis Grizzlies, 91-85, at the Garden with Anthony sidelined because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. They are 0-7 without Anthony, who is listed as day-to-day.
“I don’t know if you draw up a play if I can get a better shot,” Afflalo said. “I just missed it. It’s not the first time that’s happened. I thought it was in. It’s unfortunate we were in that situation that we had to rely on that shot.”
Afflalo missed a potential game-winning baseline jumper against the Thunder on Jan. 26 and the Knicks, without Anthony, lost in overtime.
The Knicks, who dropped to a season-worst seven games under .500 at 23-30, nearly erased a 12-point deficit. They moved within 87-85 on Afflalo’s three-pointer, and on their next possession, Afflalo spun away from Jeff Green and misfired with 8.9 seconds left.
Green rebounded Afflalo’s miss and hit two free throws to make it a four-point game with 6.2 seconds left. Matt Barnes added two free throws with four-tenths of a second left.
The Knicks had a timeout available before Afflalo’s shot but Derek Fisher chose not to use it because he didn’t want the defense to get set. “It’s really difficult to score at the end when the defense is set,” he said. “They get to make substitutions, they get guys in that can switch and do other things. Maybe another second or two, if he doesn’t take that shot, I was running up to call timeout, but he turned to shoot it. That’s as good a look [as] I think we’re going to get there down the stretch.”
Jose Calderon led the Knicks with 18 points. Kristaps Porzingis added 17 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots. Afflalo scored 14 points but was 4-for-15 from the field.
Green scored 16 and Barnes had 12 for the Grizzlies (30-20).
“It’s tough,” Calderon said. “You’re in a losing streak and it looks like we cannot get a break with the injuries as well, so it’s a little bit of everything. Man, [injuries], it’s the worst when we’re trying to make this push. But we competed.”
The game started like Thursday night’s in Detroit, when the Knicks trailed 9-0 en route to falling behind by 27. The Grizzlies scored the first 10 points, but this time the Knicks went ahead in the second quarter.
They played from behind most of the game, though, and trailed 71-62 in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter before moving
within 85-82 on Porzingis’ three-pointer and Afflalo’s corner jumper.
After Mike Conley Jr.’s two free throws with 1:27 left made it 87-82, Robin Lopez was called for an offensive foul, negating a layup by Calderon. Afflalo then buried a corner three-pointer to make it a two-point game with 37.6 seconds left.
Then they got the stop they needed and Afflalo got the look he wanted.
“When I spun off of him, I had a lot of space,” he said. “I just tried to get to my routine pull-up jump shot. I didn’t quite see the ball go in or out. When it left my hand, it felt good.”
But the feeling for Afflalo and the Knicks at the end was an all-too-familiar one.