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Knicks battle to the end but still lose with new coach Mike Miller

Julius Randle of the Knicks misses a potential

Julius Randle of the Knicks misses a potential game tying free throw with .01 seconds remaining in a game against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

When Giants coach Bill Parcells spoke about no medals for trying, he didn’t know what life would be like for the Knicks.

In their first game under interim coach Mike Miller, the Knicks tried. And after losses of 44 and 37 points in their previous two games, that was something. A spirited comeback died when Julius Randle’s free throw with one-tenth of a second remaining bounced off the back rim in a 104-103 loss to the Pacers on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

“Very difficult,” Marcus Morris (25 points) said quietly. “But we played a really good game, played hard, competed. Came down the stretch, gave ourselves a chance to win.”

Indiana is not at the level of Milwaukee or Denver, the teams that demolished the Knicks in the previous two games and led to the decision to relieve David Fizdale of his duties. Plus, Indiana was on the second half of a back-to-back and without star Malcolm Brogdon. But in the end, the Knicks (4-19) have lost nine straight.

“It was a lot of fun,” Miller said after watching the Knicks rally from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. “Once the game started, it was about the game. The way we played, the effort, the way that we kept fighting back and stayed in it. Those are fun games to coach.”

While nothing changed on the roster and Miller kept the starting lineup intact -- after Fizdale spoke a day earlier about considering changes, ones that he never got the chance to implement -- the Knicks did change how they fought down the stretch. Maybe it had to do with the coaching change or maybe it was the players-only meeting that preceded the practice and coaching change Friday, but the Knicks fought this one to the finish.

Elfrid Payton, who was the third point guard in on this night, sparked a comeback with a three-point field goal, a steal and a dunk, and Morris' three-pointer cut the deficit to one.

Down 104-100, the Knicks had five shots on one possession but came up empty on all of them.

With the Pacers going cold, too, the Knicks had chance after chance but misfired on eight straight shots before Morris finally connected in the lane with 1:39 to play to bring them within 104-102. But Randle and Morris both had shots blocked by Myles Turner and Payton missed on a short shot in the lane, giving Indiana the ball back with 30 seconds remaining.

After a timeout, T.J. Warren missed and Payton swiped the rebound from Turner. When he fed Mitchell Robinson cutting down the lane, Turner rose to block that shot, too. Randle grabbed the loose ball and was fouled with one-tenth of a second remaining. He made the first free throw but misfired on the second, and time expired.

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