DALLAS — Carmelo Anthony is involved in another drama off the court and the Knicks remain a maddening team on it.
They had an opportunity to push aside another day when Anthony’s future whereabouts was a topic and pull off their first two-game winning streak in more than a month.
But Anthony and the Knicks fell apart down the stretch and lost, 103-95, Wednesday night to an undermanned Mavericks’ team that by the end of the game was playing without its three top guards.
The Knicks (20-27) went 4:23 without a basket after cutting a 10-point deficit to one midway through the fourth. They scored just seven points in the last 6:57 of the game and committed eight fourth-quarter turnovers as they lost for the 14th time in 18 games.
“It’s definitely frustrating because we have the talent,” Brandon Jennings said. “We were 14-10. Now we’re fighting to try to even not be last in the East.”
Anthony led the Knicks with 30 points and shot 13-for-24. But he struggled in the fourth quarter: he went scoreless, missing both shots he took with two turnovers. Anthony finished with seven turnovers. But there was plenty of blame to go around for the Knicks.
Courtney Lee was 9-for-13 and scored 23 points. Derrick Rose had 13, but was 6-for-15 with three turnovers. Kristaps Porzingis, who was in foul trouble for much of the first half, also scored 13 and shot 4-for-11.
“It’s tough,” Porzingis said. “Nobody’s happy.”
Harrison Barnes scored 23 to pace Dallas (16-29). Seth Curry finished with 20 and Dirk Nowitzki 19 for the Mavericks, who were without starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews, Jose Juan Barea and lost Deron Williams in the first half with a sprained big toe. Pierre Jackson, who is on a 10-day contract started at point guard in the second half.
But this has become the norm for the Knicks: losing games they should win or letting guards, well-known or not, have big games against them.
“I thought in the fourth we let our foot off the gas,” Anthony said.
The Knicks reportedly tried to engage the Cavaliers in an Anthony-for-Kevin Love swap, but Cleveland wasn’t interested. The Cavs are trying to win a second straight NBA title, so they likely want to add to their team, not break up their core.
But this report came on the heels of LeBron James’ ranting about the Cavaliers needed to improve their personnel and adding a playmaker. When asked about it Wednesday, Anthony said he thinks James wants to play with him.
That could become a reality at some point, but right now Anthony remains committed to the Knicks.
Despite their poor fourth, the Knicks still had a chance after a Porzingis three-point play with 56.8 seconds left made it 99-95. After the Knicks got a stop, Anthony drove and as two Mavericks converged he threw a pass to rookie guard Ron Baker in the corner.
Baker, also missed a corner three-pointer when the Knicks had a chance to take the lead with 6:35 left, probably shouldn’t have been in the game at that point.
The pass was errant but it also was deflected. Jeff Hornacek said Baker didn’t realize that and he tried to save it and stepped out of bounds, giving the Mavericks the ball with 27.5 seconds left. If he let it go, the Knicks would have retained possession.
Anthony admitted “it was a bad pass.” But Hornacek said Anthony made the right play.
“Down four with 26 seconds left, we got all our shooters in there,” Hornacek said. “We didn’t need a three. He drove and kicked it out but the ball was tipped. I don’t think Ron realized it was deflected.”
On the ensuing possession, Barnes was fouled intentionally and he made both free throws with 26.8 points seconds left to make it 101-95.
On the other end, Anthony missed a three-pointer and Porzingis couldn’t convert the rebound. Barnes collected the miss, was fouled and hit the two free throws for the final points.
“We’re playing all right,” Hornacek said. “We’re just not making any enough plays late to win these games.”