While the rest of the town was decked out in green Sunday, the Knicks were very much in the red. If it was defense that led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game, it was a lack of it that led the Knicks to their worst home loss in franchise history in a 128-78 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in a Garden matinee.
The Mavericks played without two starters, most notably Jason Kidd, but shot a scorching 58.1 percent from the field and had seven players in double figures. The Knicks, meanwhile, made 33.7 percent of their shots and missed 21 of their 25 attempts from three-point range.
The 50-point deficit is the second-largest beating the Knicks have ever taken, after a 162-100 loss at Syracuse on Dec. 25, 1960.
The Knicks' previous mark of futility at the Garden was a 43-point loss (111-68) to the Charlotte Hornets on Jan. 21, 2002.
"It's hard to even comment on this game, it was just so bad," Mike D'Antoni said without a trace of anger or frustration in a team that is in a 2-6 tailspin in the last eight games. The team plays the fourth game of this five-game homestand Tuesday against the Timberwolves.
But it wasn't anything anyone saw coming. The Knicks led 21-20 late in the first quarter and ended the quarter trailing just 27-25. And Dirk Nowitzki was scoreless in the first.
But the former MVP finished with 20 points, all of which he had in the second and third quarters, when Dallas outscored the Knicks 70-31. Jason Terry also had 20 points and Drew Gooden, who started in place of injured Erick Dampier (knee), had 15 points and 18 rebounds. The Mavericks made 12 of 22 from downtown.
The Mavs' hot shooting compared with the Knicks' poor shooting - how about 6-for-24 from the field in the third? - was one thing, but the Knicks' defense played very soft against the Mavs, who shredded them with hard cuts and screens and lights-out shooting from their bench (19-for-32). Dallas also had 10 steals.
Jeffries, who spent most of the time guarding Nowitzki, said his team "didn't have enough fight."
With Nate Robinson out because of a hamstring strain, D'Antoni went with rookie Toney Douglas (eight points, 2-for-7 from the floor) as the third guard and left Larry Hughes on the bench for the entire game.
D'Antoni opted to leave starter Chris Duhon (four points in 34:59) in the game during extensive garbage time to perhaps help him out of what has become an alarming slump. Duhon shot 2-for-7, missed all four of his three-pointers and now has shot 6-for-40 from the field in the last seven games.
While the Knicks are searching around the league to upgrade at guard before the Feb. 18 trade deadline, the Mavericks showed their depth at the position with J.J. Barea (11 points, four assists in 24 minutes) playing well in place of Kidd and Rodrigue Beaubois racking up 13 points with 5-for-8 from the field, including 3-for-6 from downtown.