MIAMI - As the calendar flips to March today, the Knicks are completely engulfed in their own form of madness.
After bringing a 15-point lead into the fourth quarter before falling to the Heat last night, 120-115 - Dwyane Wade scored 24 of his 46 points in the final quarter for the Heat - the Knicks are 24-35 and 3 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Bucks in the Eastern Conference. With 23 games to play, the Knicks need to go 16-7 to make good on Mike D'Antoni's goal of achieving 40 wins to stamp a possible playoff ticket.
So there isn't much time for the Knicks to put a streak together and leave their impression on the Selection Committee, er, the rest of the Eastern Conference.
"We've got to get it quickly," D'Antoni said, "and get our rotations down."
Last night would've been a good time to get things headed back in the right direction. It didn't work out that way.
Playing the second game of a back-to-back, just like the Heat, the Knicks melted down the stretch.
Nate Robinson had 29 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Chris Duhon awoke from his terrible shooting slump to score 19 to go along with nine assists for the Knicks. Larry Hughes, plugged into the starting lineup at shooting guard, finished with 19 points and five assists after starting off 1-for-7. David Lee extended his double-double streak to 23 straight with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
The Knicks, who've lost eight of their last 10 and are 2-4 since the All-Star break, led 98-83 at the start of the fourth. But it wasn't long before things started getting pretty chippy.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was whistled for a technical foul after arguing vehemently with referee Ken Mauer. He was hopping mad when Wade's lip got bloodied after Danilo Gallinari clobbered him with an inadvertent elbow and dropped him to the floor. Robinson hit the technical free throw to make it 103-88 with 8:36 to go, but it was all downhill from there for the Knicks.
An angry Wade scored 15 points during a 19-0 run that turned things upside down and put the Heat in control. Miami outscored the Knicks 37-17 in the fourth to pull it out.
A night after getting off to another one of their slow starts, the Knicks were running on high-octane fuel in the first half and drained 58.9 percent of their shots on the way to putting up 67 points.
The Knicks opened a 34-22 lead heading into the second quarter behind some outstanding ball movement and sharp shooting from the perimeter. They canned 14 of their first 22 attempts from the field - including 6 of 8 shots from beyond the three-point arc - and had assists on 10 of those buckets.
Robinson led the charge in the second quarter, jolting the already hot Knicks with his usual infusion of energy. He netted 15 of his 24 first-half points in the second, virtually putting the team on his back and helping the Knicks' cushion swell to as many as 15 points. The Heat managed to chip into the deficit with a 9-2 run to end the quarter and got within shouting distance at 65-57 on Moon's follow-up dunk with 39.7 seconds left.
That momentum shift continued after the break when the Heat rode its superstar. Once again, though, after Robinson popped off the bench and checked into the game with 5:55 left in the third, the Knicks got things going back in their direction. Lee's putback with 5:02 remaining in the third started a 17-6 spurt. Hughes hit two threes during that stretch and Robinson had one, keeping the Knicks' unbelievable shooting display going - until they went cold when it counted most.
Hawks at Knicks
Radio: WEPN (1050)