Saturday, July 2, 2022

Knicks latest late-game fail probably killed hope of playoffs

Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but the Knicks couldn’t execute down the stretch.

This wasn’t the typical collapse from Tom Thibodeau’s squad. The fourth quarter, up until the final minute, was actually encouraging. The Knicks finally found a workable formula against Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, blitzing the otherworldly scorer each time he touched the rock.

They had an opportunity to take the lead with about 30 seconds remaining.

But then the Knicks’ familiar head-scratching moments took hold, and they suffered a 110-107 defeat Sunday at Barclays Center that probably killed any hopes of the playoffs.

“Slim, obviously,” Evan Fournier conceded with the Knicks sitting five games out of the final play-in spot and only 14 to play. “The odds are against us.”

Fournier’s turnover with nine remaining served as one of the game’s pivotal moments, and squandered the Knicks’ last best chance for a victory. It arrived out of a timeout, with the Knicks’ trailing by a point and Fournier receiving the inbounds pass.

Fournier tried to feed Mitchell Robinson under the basket, but the pass was intercepted by Brooklyn’s Bruce Brown and the Nets took control.

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Fournier took the heat for the play, although he was put in a difficult spot in the corner with two closing defenders.

“I had an easy pass, I messed up,” Fournier said. “It’s that simple. If we make that pass, that’s a dunk, we’re up one. Nothing else to say, really. Bad pass.”

Thibodeau said the play was designed for three options off the inbounds pass. He labeled the corner, however, “where we wanted to go.”

“There were three options, on most plays there’s three options, so you don’t know what they’re trying to take away,” the coach said.

Following the botched inbounds play and Durant scoring his 50th point on the ensuing free throw (he finished with 53), the Knicks had another opportunity with Barrett bringing up the ball and a 3-point deficit.

Barrett, anticipating a foul, didn’t take a potential tying trey when presented the opportunity, instead dribbling inside the 3-point line before finally getting hacked by Brooklyn’s James Johnson with 2.6 seconds remaining.

“I was going to take a step back or something. And then he kind of like stopped and went behind me,” Barrett said about Johnson. “It was weird. And then he fouled me.”

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Barrett tried to miss his second foul shot, setting up a potential offensive rebound with a two-point deficit. Barrett swished it, however, and failed by succeeding. The game was effectively over.

“My teammates were laughing at me because I was trying to miss it and it ended up being a perfect free throw,” Barrett said.

The defeat finished the Knicks’ season-long seven-game road trip with a 3-4 record, an agonizing stretch considering all their defeats came after second-half leads.

Barrett, who finished with 24 points in 42 minutes, wasn’t ready to give up on the playoffs. But it would now require something close to a miracle.

“You never know,” Barrett said. “Other teams could also go on losing streaks, too. So you don’t know what’s going to happen. Might start sneaking in games. People try to rest their stars or whatever. Anything can happen. It’s the NBA.”

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Nation World News Desk
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