The Knicks had whittled the Nets' 16-point lead down to three, and the ball was in Carmelo Anthony's hands in the closing seconds.
But Anthony, in the midst of a dismal-shooting fourth quarter, added one more miss to his night and the Knicks added another loss to this disappointing season.
Anthony misfired on a potential tying three-pointer over Alan Anderson with 9.2 seconds left and the Nets held off the Knicks, 98-93, at the Garden, sending them to their fifth straight loss and 14th defeat in 16 games.
Derek Fisher said he was signaling for a 20-second timeout, but neither Anthony nor the referee saw him.
"I thought that was a great look,'' Anthony said. "I really don't know what's the situation with the timeout being called or anything. I got the ball. I looked over. I didn't see anything, anybody call a timeout, so I kept it going.
"I didn't want them to get a chance to set up and switch and trap. I had a clean one-on-one shot and I missed it.''
Anthony, who played the entire second half, missed a lot after halftime.
He led the Knicks (4-15) with 20 points, but was just 2-for-13 in the second half, and 1-for-9 in the fourth. Anthony missed all three three-pointers he took in the final minute, including another one that would have tied the score with 46.9 seconds left.
"I did try to signal for a 20 to get something drawn up, but Carmelo taking a pull-up three is not the worst shot we can get,'' Fisher said of the final shot. "Something we would have drawn up would have probably included that in some way, anyway.''
Jose Calderon added 19 points and Amar'e Stoudemire 17.
Brook Lopez paced the Nets (7-9) with 23 points, 19 of them in the first half. Joe Johnson scored 19 of his 22 in the second half, including two foul shots with 4.5 seconds left. Deron Williams had 19.
Fisher started Stoudemire at power forward because of the Nets' size. But it didn't help keep Lopez out of the middle or Kevin Garnett (13 rebounds) and other Nets off the boards. The Nets held a 49-40 rebounding edge, 21-13 on the offensive glass.
"We can't give up the amount of offensive rebounds we gave them, the points in the paint,'' Anthony said. "I don't think the game should have came down to the last shot or whether the coach called a timeout or whether the referee saw him call a timeout. I don't think it should have come down to that.
"There was certain parts of the game where we kind of just gave them the game and then we decided to fight back.''
The Knicks went on an 11-2 run in the fourth to trim the Nets' 13-point lead to 83-79 with 6:12 left. The Nets pushed the lead back to 10 after Johnson's steal and layup in transition made it 89-79 with 4:28 left. But the Knicks fought back behind Stoudemire and Calderon.
They got within three three times in the final 2:25. Each time they had a chance to draw closer, but all three times Anthony missed.
After Calderon drilled a three in front of the Nets' bench, which had coach Lionel Hollins stomping his feet, to make it 94-91 with 1:19 left, the Knicks point guard came up with a steal. Lopez blocked Cole Aldrich's shot but got the rebound and Anthony missed a three.
With the score 96-93, Garnett missed inside and Anthony rebounded. He took it up himself but couldn't knock it down.
"I knew he was going to shoot the three,'' Anderson said. "I just didn't want to get up under him so he'd land and they'd call a foul on me. I just didn't want to get nowhere near him.''
Said Anthony: "If we would have called a timeout, I would have been cool with that. I had a clean, one-on-one look with no double teams. It was just me, mano a mano. I thought I got the look that I wanted. I just missed the shot.''