It was the NBA's version of The Biggest Loser Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks, the worst team in the Eastern Conference, played host to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the worst team in the Western Conference. At stake: The worst record in the NBA, which in the world of the lottery-bound isn't exactly a bad thing.
Both teams entered the game at 14-53. Four quarters and one overtime later, it was official. The Knicks are the NBA's biggest losers, by a nose, as they were defeated, 95-92.
"You can't practice losing," coach Derek Fisher said when asked how he approached a game the Knicks might have been better off losing as far as the lottery picture goes.
The loss was more than a bit demoralizing, considering that just two nights earlier, the Knicks defeated the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in overtime.
That win was so unexpected that when Fisher replayed the tape for his players, he said he repeatedly reminded them that it indeed was them out there on the court.
Minnesota entered Thursday night having lost six straight and nine of 10. The Timberwolves, however, aren't a team as bereft of talent as the Knicks' current squad. Minnesota has a decent core of young players, including Andrew Wiggins (20 points), Zach LaVine (20 points) and Gorgui Dieng (19 points, 11 rebounds. (Kevin Martin, who is 32, had 22 points.)
The Knicks, by contrast, have only four players with fully guaranteed contracts for next season and only one, Carmelo Anthony, is guaranteed to come back. None of the four played Thursday night. Langston Galloway, who has a partially guaranteed contract for next season, had 21 points and seven rebounds. Alexey Shved had 20 points and Andrea Bargnani added 14.
It's apparent that the future of the Knicks was not at Madison Square Garden, but both Fisher and Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said their teams needed to approach the game with the mentality of wanting to win.
"As a coach, you worry about what you're doing now," said Saunders, who also is the Timberwolves' president and co-owner. "There's never any guarantee about what's going to happen in the draft. You can't say just because you lose this game, it will be better for you. It's a lottery. It's called luck.
"So you go out to play it and you try to do it for the respect of the game."
Notes & quotes: Saunders said he thinks the Knicks' style of play is a good one for Shved, who was on the Timberwolves before being part of the trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cavaliers and Wiggins to Minnesota. "He's been with four teams this year," Saunders said of Shved. "To his credit, he kept working wherever he's gone.'' . . . The Knicks filled their 15th roster spot when they signed Ricky Ledo to a 10-day contract. Ledo, a second-round pick of the Bucks in 2013, averaged 1.3 points in 16 games for the Mavericks the past two seasons.