The Knicks needed one stop, and there was no reason to think they would get it with the way they had defended the Wizards all night. But what happened next was a mind-numbing breakdown that featured multiple mistakes and could increase the heat on Mike Woodson.
The Knicks had a foul to give and three timeouts at their disposal -- and didn't use any of them.
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Instead, Bradley Beal blew past Beno Udrih for a go-ahead layup with 6.9 seconds left to hand the Knicks a 102-101 loss Monday night at the Garden.
The Knicks could have designed a final play, but Woodson never called a timeout. Carmelo Anthony dribbled up the court without much urgency before launching a contested three-pointer just before the buzzer that sailed off the backboard. Then, after a loss that dropped the Knicks to 7-17, Anthony removed his headband and threw it down in disgust.
Anthony said the team was never told in the huddle before the Beal basket to call a timeout, make or miss.
"I probably should have taken the timeout there at the end," Woodson said. "But Beno grabbed it, the ball was in Melo's hands before I could even react, and I should've reacted a lot sooner once the ball went through the bucket. So that's on me."
Woodson has been under fire because of the Knicks' poor and at times uninspired play. This kind of loss, one in which they defended poorly throughout and looked lost in the final 10 seconds, could jeopardize his job.
But Anthony, who finished with 32 points, wouldn't address a question about Woodson's job security. "I won't discuss it," he said. "I won't talk about that. As far as I'm concerned, he's secure right now. I haven't heard anything. There's nothing to discuss. He's our coach and we're rolling with him."
The Knicks had a team with 38 years of NBA experience on the floor on that last trip -- Anthony, Udrih, J.R. Smith, Andrea Bargnani and Iman Shumpert.
Udrih was expecting someone to help and Beal got past him easily. The helper was supposed to be Bargnani, but he was out of position. Shumpert also could have helped, but he was late.
"Beno opened the floodgates when he caught it on the side," Woodson said. "It happened so fast and he's thinking the help was there and it wasn't there, so he couldn't even reach to grab the guy to take the foul. So that's where the breakdown occurred.
"We all knew we had a foul to give, but we didn't even get a chance to use it. And then I didn't call the timeout, so I've got to take the heat for that."
Anthony said he doesn't have a problem with Woodson taking the blame, but the players should have known what to do. "If he said it's his fault, it's his fault," Anthony said. "There's no need for me to talk about that or make excuses for it. As players, we got to be smart enough to know as well -- time, score and situation."
The Knicks erased a 15-point third-quarter deficit to take a six-point lead, then got out of a seven-point fourth-quarter hole to go ahead 98-94 on J.R. Smith's three-pointer with 2:17 left, but they collapsed.
Udrih, who left before reporters entered the locker room, missed a free throw with 24.5 seconds left that would have given the Knicks a two-point lead.
He was forced into duty after Pablo Prigioni suffered a hairline fracture in his right big toe in the third quarter. Prigioni will miss at least two weeks, but the Knicks said no surgery is required. Already without Raymond Felton because of a hamstring injury, the Knicks might ramp up their pursuit of Toronto's Kyle Lowry.
Martell Webster shot 9-for-13 from the field and 6-for-8 from three-point range and scored 30 for Washington (10-13). Beal scored 14 of his 21 in the fourth. John Wall had 20.
"It was a tough loss," Anthony said. "We're shocked at the way we lost the game. I thought we did everything right to give ourselves a chance to win the basketball game."