PORTLAND, Ore. — Carmelo Anthony wanted a whistle on the final play Thursday night, and he deserved one.
After the Knicks cut a 19-point third-quarter deficit to two in Sacramento, Anthony had the ball with a chance to win it in the closing seconds. But his three-pointer just before the buzzer was wide, and the Knicks fell to the Kings, 99-97, for their fourth straight loss and eighth in 10 games.
Replays showed Anthony was grabbed by Rajon Rondo before going up to shoot. The league admitted as much in its “Last Two Minute Report,” stating that with 2.9 seconds left, “Rondo grabs Anthony’s arm prior to the start of his upward shooting motion and affects his RSBQ [Rhythm, Speed, Balance Quickness].”
The replays also showed that Kristaps Porzingis was open under the basket. The Knicks had 4.6 seconds left and were taking the ball out in the backcourt, so Anthony might not have been able to get the ball to Porzingis in time.
Anthony, who complained Wednesday about not getting calls from the officials, called the last play “reoccurring events.” The truth, however, is that the Knicks — who will end their three-game road trip against the Trail Blazers on Saturday night — were fortunate to have a shot on the final possession.
Falling behind early is the big problem plaguing the Knicks. They’ve been down by at least 19 in six of those eight defeats and at least 15 in seven of them.
The only way their loss to the Kings will mean anything is if the Knicks, in their frenetic comeback, discovered how they need to play from the outset.
“No loss feels good,” Anthony said. “Guys want to win. When you drop a couple of games, have a stretch like we’re having right now, it’s easy to kind of break away as a team. We’re together. We want a lot out of this locker room.”
That continues to give Anthony optimism that the Knicks will turn things around and start competing from the opening tip the way they did more consistently during the first few weeks of the season.
Even though the Knicks have looked a little like last season’s 17-win team lately, Anthony said they’re nowhere near that group, which splintered pretty quickly. “We were much more divided last year than we are now,” he said. “We’re still confident and comfortable with where we’re at as a team.
“We know what kind of team we are. I know what kind of guys we are, people, as individuals. During these tough times, nobody is straying away from each other. We’re coming together even closer and tighter to get through these moments.”
Derek Fisher considered a lineup change after the Knicks came out flat and fell behind by 32 in the first half Wednesday night in Utah. He used the same five starters against the Kings but said there eventually could be changes if the Knicks’ play doesn’t improve.
They showed much more fight than they had in Utah and were given plenty of chances by the Kings. In the last 4:44, the Knicks missed eight shots, including seven three-pointers, and still had a shot to win it.
“It’s not always about the final result,” Fisher said. “It’s what you put into it. We put out the type of effort that as professionals you’re supposed to put out.”
The Knicks also might have found something by playing Porzingis at center down the stretch. He didn’t back down against DeMarcus Cousins and affected him, fronting and denying him.
“I didn’t want him to receive the ball so I just did whatever I could,” Porzingis said. “It’s hard to stop a player like that. I was just trying to do what I can to stop him a little bit.”
“Kris fought hard,” Fisher said. “Cousins is not an easy matchup, but I thought he did some good things in terms of his activity and length around the basket. It’s something we can do more often at the right times. But he fights hard.”
The Knicks need to do the same right from the start.