Carmelo Anthony had the ball in his hands with a chance to send the Knicks into the All-Star break with something they and their embattled coach desperately needed -- a win.
But Anthony shot his jumper long on the last play of regulation and missed all five of his attempts in overtime as the Knicks fell, 106-101, to the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night in what could have been Mike Woodson's last game.
It was a bad, yet fitting way for the Knicks to head into the break.
They have dropped five of six and can add a loss to the Western Conference's worst team to their list of embarrassing defeats. The Knicks are 20-32 and 2 1/2 games out of the East's last playoff spot.
"I didn't expect to be in this situation that we're in right now," Anthony said. "If somebody would have told us that before the season I'd have put any amount of money that they were lying. But we're in this situation right now and we've got to figure how to fight through it."
These are the kinds of losses the Knicks and Woodson can't afford. Anthony, who scored 36 points, basically called this a must-win game Tuesday.
Amar'e Stoudemire scored 20 points and Tyson Chandler added 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The Knicks blew a 13-point first-quarter lead, a 12-point cushion in the third, and a five-point advantage with 1:41 left in regulation. They came up empty on their last three trips of regulation, and were 0-for-6 to start the overtime. Anthony opened the extra period by missing a layup.
Jimmer Fredette had a huge game for the Kings (18-35). He scored a career-high 24 points, 15 in the second quarter. The other nine came in the fourth -- all on three-pointers, including two in the last 2:53. Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas each had 20.
In the last 10 days the Knicks have been beaten by the NBA's worst team (Milwaukee) and now the Kings, who had lost 10 of 12 and were completing a back-to-back. With five days before their next game, the Knicks could have a new coach by the time they take the court in Memphis on Tuesday.
There has been speculation that Woodson could be fired before the Feb. 20 trade deadline. He has said he would be back after the break, but this loss may not have helped his staying power.
"I am not thinking about that at this point," Anthony said. "That has been an ongoing issue, ongoing story. Every day is a new story so he is still here and that is what we are dealing with."
The Knicks were without J.R. Smith because the mask covering his fractured cheekbone didn't fit right, and they lost Iman Shumpert early in the third quarter after he strained his left hip flexor.
Woodson, who has used injuries as a crutch all season, didn't help his cause by making excuses about not having Smith and Shumpert. Woodson could have turned to Metta World Peace for defensive reasons, but he's buried on the bench.
"When Iman went down that hurt because we had a bad matchup problem with Timmy [Hardaway Jr.] playing at the three spot," Woodson said. "They kind of utilized that from a post-up standpoint so I had to go big."
When Chandler was asked if he's worried about Woodson's job security, he said curtly, "No."
In the overtime, Raymond Felton's driving layup with 1:37 left were the Knicks' first points and cut Sacramento's lead to 98-95 with 1:37 left.
After Stoudemire's dunk made it 100-97, the Knicks allowed an offensive rebound and putback to Jason Thompson with 60 seconds remaining that made it a five-point game.
After a Felton free throw, Derrick Williams hit a tough jumper to make it 104-98 with 32.9 seconds remaining. Hardaway drilled a three to bring the Knicks within three, but Thomas buried a jumper with 7.9 seconds left to seal it.
"I thought we played well and it came down to the end," Anthony said. "There were some missed opportunities, a lot on my behalf. I don't think the guys on the team could have played any better."