Knicks give up lead late in fourth for ninth loss in row
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His arms extended above his head, Mike Woodson delivered the universal sign for a timeout so vociferously that it wouldn't have been a surprise if he had broken a finger.
The Knicks' coach was angry, and who could blame him? His team again spent the fourth quarter a step slow on defense and careless on offense, so the result shouldn't come as a surprise.
The Knicks lost. Again.
Returning home after a weeklong western trip, the Knicks fell to the New Orleans Pelicans, 103-99, for their ninth consecutive loss. The last time they lost this many games in a row was in March 2006, the season when Larry Brown was their coach.
The Knicks, whose home losing streak was extended to seven games -- their longest since November 2009 -- share the Eastern Conference's worst record (3-13) with Milwaukee. Only Utah (3-15) has a worse record.
"We're not getting anything from a defensive standpoint when we need it," Woodson said. "We needed some stops and we couldn't get it."
The Knicks led 93-88 midway through the fourth quarter but gave up 10 straight points and never really recovered. They had a chance to tie it with about 20 seconds left, but Tim Hardaway Jr. (21 points) and Carmelo Anthony (23 points) missed three-point attempts.
"I thought coming down the stretch, we played on our heels like this oh-and-eight we're looking at here was staring us in the face instead of just relaxing and playing," Woodson said. "We didn't make one play."
At the final buzzer, there was a trickle of boos, which is becoming a familiar sound at Madison Square Garden for a team that began the season with title aspirations but would happily settle for just another victory.
All this losing is playing with players' minds and affecting them on the court, they said.
"I think we're playing not to lose rather than playing to win right now," Anthony said. "When you lose games the way we've been losing them, at home, on the road, you start thinking about it. You start playing a little tense, start playing on your heels."
That the Knicks were even in the game late was a testament to the play of Hardaway, who scored 12 points in the fourth quarter. But the Knicks couldn't capitalize on the rookie's breakout night.
Ryan Anderson scored 31 points and Tyreke Evans had 24, both off the bench, for the Pelicans (8-8), who won despite losing standout center Anthony Davis to a broken hand midway through the second quarter.
Ever since Tyson Chandler went down with a broken leg last month, Davis has been the type of big man the Knicks have had trouble with, and in the early going, it looked as if that would be the case again.
Davis entered the game averaging 19.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.87 blocks, and he had his way with the Knicks in the early going. In only 10 minutes, he scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds.
So the Knicks figured to benefit from Davis' departure because it forced the Pelicans to play smaller, much the way the Knicks do without Chandler. But the Knicks struggled to keep up defensively, and their frustration was evident.
"When it counted, we didn't make no plays on the defensive end," Anthony said. "That's just the way it was tonight."
The Knicks have three days off before playing in Brooklyn on Thursday night. By then, they hope to have some answers for their late-game defensive woes.
Said Woodson, "We're just not taking pride in guarding."