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Knicks can't hold on to 17-point lead, allow 39 in fourth in loss to Hawks

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony drives against Atlanta Hawks

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony drives against Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, in Atlanta. Credit: AP / John Bazemore

ATLANTA -- The Knicks added another game to the list of candidates for their worst loss of the season. From the way the players' heads were hanging and their shoulders were slumped, Saturday night's defeat might have felt like the worst to them, and that's saying something.

One night after blowing a 14- point third-quarter lead in a double-overtime loss in Orlando, the Knicks gave away a 17-point third-quarter cushion against a Hawks team that had lost eight straight and was missing All-Stars Paul Millsap and Al Horford.

They gave the Hawks confidence by playing lackluster defense, allowed 39 points in the fourth quarter, let unheralded Mike Scott and DeMarre Carroll have career nights and lost for the eighth time in 10 games, 107-98, at Philips Arena. The Knicks were outscored 66-40 in the last 21:05.

"It's the same thing, different day," Carmelo Anthony said after scoring 35 points. "It's starting to get tough to handle. It's definitely testing me. The frustration has definitely sunk in just for the simple fact that we're losing games the same way over and over. It seems like we're just not learning from that."

The loss dropped the Knicks 5½ games behind Atlanta (26-29) for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The trade deadline has passed and the Knicks didn't make any moves. The only change they could make at this point would be on the bench.

The Knicks (21-35) are competing, but they're not executing late and closing out games. They blew fourth-quarter leads in all three losses on this 1-3 trip.

"Hopefully it will turn around before it's too late," Anthony said. "We're digging ourselves a much deeper hole. It's not early in the season anymore, so we can't use that excuse."

Scott scored a career-high 30 points off the bench, shooting 11-for-14 overall and 6-for-7 from three-point range. Jeff Teague had 16 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and Carroll scored a career-high 24, including a four-point play with 57.2 seconds left that made it 107-95. The Hawks shot 16-for-31 from outside the arc.

Anthony played brilliantly through three quarters but struggled in the fourth, scoring seven points and shooting 3-for-11. Raymond Felton had 16 points and 10 assists and Tyson Chandler added 10 points and a season-high 23 rebounds.

The Knicks seemed to pick a bad time to negotiate buyouts with Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih. They were finalizing them when they could have used the extra bodies. The Knicks wore down late in the game as the Hawks outscored them 50-27 in the last 14:08.

"It's like we ran out of juice and forgot how we got the lead," Mike Woodson said. "Defensively, it all came tumbling down after we built the lead.''

Anthony's jumper gave the Knicks a 58-41 lead with 9:06 left in the third quarter, and they led 71-57 before the Hawks ended the quarter on an 11-2 run that included three three-pointers in the final 2:08. Then they hit three straight three-pointers in the first 1:37 of the fourth quarter for a 77-73 lead, and Anthony could be seen on the bench shaking his head in disbelief.

Atlanta continued to drain three-pointers and went ahead 88-81 when Scott hit one with 6:58 left. The Hawks took a 90-81 lead on two free throws by Teague with 5:53 left.

Pablo Prigioni buried a three to bring the Knicks within four. But the Knicks' defensive breakdowns continued. Teague kept getting to the basket whenever he wanted and making plays, and Scott kept confounding the Knicks.

After a layup by Teague, Scott hit a turnaround jumper that put Atlanta up 99-89 with 2:41 remaining. The closest the Knicks got after that was eight.

"This was basically a carbon copy of [Friday] night's game," Woodson said. "We had a double-digit [lead Friday] night. You got a 17-point lead, you got to milk it. We just didn't get it done."

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