TORONTO -- The Knicks are distancing themselves from the Heat in a bad way, and unless they fix their problems, they could drop further in the Eastern Conference standings.
Bad defense in the first and third quarters and bad execution late in the game led to the Knicks' fourth straight loss, 100-98 to the Raptors Friday night at Air Canada Centre. It's the Knicks' first four-game losing streak of the season and dropped them into third place in the East, a half-game behind Indiana and six behind the Heat.
"We're still alive," J.R. Smith said. "We still got a heartbeat. It's just a matter of do we get off the bed or not?"
After losing by 34 points in Indiana, the Knicks were expected to bounce back, especially against a team that came in 11 games under .500. But the Knicks (32-20) lost to Toronto (23-33) for the second time in 10 days.
The Knicks, who remain a game up on the Nets in the Atlantic Division, erased a 13-point third-quarter deficit and went ahead 88-86 on Smith's layup with 6:18 left in the fourth. But they shot 3-for-10 the rest of the way, and Tyson Chandler missed a foul shot that would have tied it with 21.4 seconds left.
"At the end of the day, I don't think we executed plays," Carmelo Anthony said.
Anthony led the Knicks with 32 points but missed a three-pointer with 8.9 seconds left with a chance to tie the score. The Knicks were down 99-96 and Anthony had the much smaller Kyle Lowry on him. He regrets the shot he took.
"I should have took advantage of Lowry being up there," Anthony said. "I should have drove to the basket and tried to create something else. It's bad execution on my behalf."
With about two minutes left and the score tied at 93, the Knicks had a possession in which Smith swung it to Jason Kidd, who was open from three-point range but threw it back to Smith. He ultimately passed it to Anthony, who misfired on a three.
With the score 95-all, Anthony threw a crosscourt pass to Raymond Felton, who missed a three with 51.9 seconds left.
Mike Woodson thought Anthony should have held on to the ball and seen if he could create something for himself. "He got rid of it too soon," he said. "When he caught it, he had an opportunity to drive it right away to the rim and he let it go."
After Anthony's missed three, the Knicks fouled Rudy Gay, whose free throw made it 100-96 with 6.9 seconds left. Smith shot an air ball on a three that Anthony put back for the final points.
"We just got to get out of this slump," Chandler said. "We played hard enough to win. We just made some mistakes in execution."
Gay led the Raptors with 32 points, 26 in the second half.DeMar DeRozan had 18 points and six assists and Lowry added 15 points and seven assists. Smith scored 19 points, nine in the fourth. Amar'e Stoudemire had 14 points and six rebounds.
Lowry hit a huge basket in the final minute that gave the Raptors the lead for good. He drove on Chandler and hit a tough runner over him with 28.9 seconds left that made it 97-95. "He made a tough shot," Chandler said.
Martin can help. Kenyon Martin, whom the Knicks will sign to a 10-day contract, took his physical in New York and could be available Sunday against Philadelphia. Martin's former Denver teammates said that if he's in shape, he can make an impact.
"A guy who demands respect on the defensive end, a guy who can play multiple positions and just a tough-nosed guy," Anthony said. "The one thing for sure about Kenyon is he's definitely going to play hard."
Smith said Martin brings "toughness for sure. He's a smart defensive player, which is definitely something we need. He's a great rebounder as well, as well as a great teammate, so I think he brings a lot of intangibles to this team that we've definitely been lacking lately.''