PORTLAND, Ore. - After an 0-3 week in which the Knicks talked so optimistically about losing, there was a different tone after yesterday's 109-108 loss to the Trail Blazers. This wasn't a feel-good anything.
"No, it's not," David Lee said. "It's frustrating. Even though you're on the road against a Western Conference playoff team, when they're down seven with whatever to go, should have found a way to [finish] it out."
Brandon Roy ended the chances of a stunning comeback victory by the Knicks when he spun on Jared Jeffries and finished a finger roll just before the final buzzer to give the Blazers their own comeback win.
The Knicks (21-29), who have lost four straight games, led 108-101 with 1:45 left. They actually trailed 77-60 in the third quarter but exploded with a 20-1 run in a four-minute span late in the third to gain the lead. It turned into a 30-point turnaround at 37-7 when the Knicks took a 97-84 lead with 8:08 left.
Lee led the Knicks with 29 points and 11 rebounds in his 14th straight double-double. Al Harrington and Nate Robinson each had 19 points in the opener of a three-game road trip that continues against the Warriors tomorrow and the Clippers Wednesday.
Roy finished with 19 points and eight assists for the Blazers (31-19), who played their first home game after a pair of troubling road losses, including a 102-93 defeat at Oklahoma City (now 13-38) on Friday night. Portland's poor performance has sparked whispers questioning coach Nate McMillan's job security. This one, especially after blowing a 17-point lead, could have been the clincher.
Travis Outlaw, whom the Knicks have coveted in past talks with the Blazers, had 23 points off the bench, including four in the 8-0 run to end the game. Greg Oden had 17 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
On the final play, the Knicks had a foul to give but instead opted to play Roy straight up and avoid the chance that he might try to take a quick shot and get to the free-throw line.
"It's one of those things with players. If they can do it, fine; if not, you just have to rely on the ability to go do it [defensively]," Mike D'Antoni said.
But there appeared to be some confusion about whether, coming out of the timeout, the Knicks' players were aware they had a foul to give. McMillan said he expected the Knicks to foul and was surprised they didn't.
The Knicks not only failed to get a stop but were unable to score in the final 1:54. Lee missed on a dunk attempt against the aggressive defense of Oden and then missed a short jumper. Harrington also missed badly on a lefthanded drive with 11.3 seconds left, which set up Roy's drive after an inbounds play with 4.3 seconds left.
Before the game, D'Antoni shook up the starting lineup by reinserting Wilson Chandler and giving rookie Danilo Gallinari his first NBA start. Was it a reaction to an 0-3 week against three of the NBA's best teams?
"No, just the feeling about how, as a coach, you get a sense of how your team is playing," D'Antoni said, "and I think that combo looks good."
D'Antoni said his reasoning also included avoiding having Gallinari get loose in warm-ups and then sitting for an extended period before checking in.
Harrington was one of the Knicks who talked with such curious satisfaction during last week's 0-3 run at the Garden. Lee called it "the best 0-3 week I ever had" and Harrington labeled last Wednesday's loss to LeBron James and the Cavaliers "a feel-good loss."
"It's funny that you all ran with that and made it seem like I was saying that I felt good that I was playing well," Harrington said. "That's --. All losses feel bad. You made me seem like I'm some bad guy for saying that."
The problem is the Knicks can base such things only on their recent history, which is why even yesterday's heartbreaker couldn't possibly be a low point.
"This is a tough loss," Jeffries said, "but definitely not as down as you can be. We've been down way worse than this."
"All of last season."
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