The 10 Worst Losses of the New York Knicks' 2013-14 Season
Now that the New York Knicks are officially eliminated from playoff contention, we can thoroughly scrutinize the team's miserable season.
The most maddening detail of the Knicks' underperformance is that, in a year defined by the Eastern Conference's remarkably poor play, New York could have lost over half its games and still snuck into the postseason.
With such acute futility in mind, here's a list of the Knicks' 10 worst losses from the 2013-14 season. Three factors were taken into account: the quality of the opponent, the significance of the game and the nature of the defeat.
(Dis)honorable Mention. February 24: Dallas Mavericks 110, New York Knicks 108
The Knicks' last-second loss to the Mavericks had more to do with simple bad luck than their own shortcomings, but that didn't make it any less painful.
The Knicks hung with a talented Dallas squad for the entirety of a back-and-forth second half. With under 30 seconds left and the game tied, J.R. Smith could not convert a difficult jumper, giving Dallas the ball back with a chance for a walk-off win.
In a battle of superstars, Dirk Nowitzki faced off in isolation against Carmelo Anthony as the game clock ticked toward zero. Anthony, not known as a superb defender, forced Nowitzki into a difficult fadeaway jumper. The shot rattled off the back and front rim, then bounced high above the basket, and for a split second it appeared the game was headed to overtime.
But the ball fell straight down and through the basket for a peculiar but nevertheless game-ending two-pointer. Again, Anthony's best efforts were insufficient on a flawed Knicks team.
10. November 14: Houston Rockets 109, New York Knicks 106
Given the wide range of wild and disheartening defeats the Knicks accumulated this year, their early season loss to the Rockets wasn't that egregious. Houston has proven itself to be one of the league's better teams, and New York was playing the second night of a back-to-back.
But several aspects of the game are notable. First of all, Jeremy Lin reminded the Knicks what they abandoned two summers ago by scoring 21 points against his former team. James Harden added 36, foreshadowing the Knicks' persistent defensive woes in the backcourt. Finally, the Knicks almost pulled off an amazing victory only to end up on the wrong side of a tough call.
With five seconds remaining, it looked like Carmelo Anthony had hit a three-pointer while getting fouled. A subsequent made free-throw would have given the Knicks a one-point lead. But the refs ruled the foul had occurred on the floor, thus negating the basket. The Knicks would not recover and lost by three.
9. January 22: Philadelphia 76ers 110, New York Knicks 106
At the time, the Knicks' home loss to the 76ers seemed like a discouraging loss, but not a particularly embarrassing one. The teams came into the game with similar records and played a closely contested game Philadelphia took over in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
In retrospect, the loss comes off as much worse. The 76ers would lose 29 of their next 30 games, including an NBA record-tying 26-game losing streak that stretched the limit of how poorly a professional basketball team could play (perhaps intentionally). The fact the Knicks, a playoff-hopeful team with an expensive roster and a legitimate superstar, could not beat a Philly team trotting out a lineup fit for the Developmental League is another blemish on their heavily stained season.
Plus, the loss included Andrea Bargnani's curious mental lapse, during which he believed himself to be Michael Jordan and leapt for a dunk from eight feet away. Bargnani came up well short and crashed violently on the court, and his rogue shot bounced once before landing on him as he lay prone on the floor in agony. Bargnani suffered a season-ending elbow injury on the play.
8. March 3: Milwaukee Bucks 101, New York Knicks 98
The Milwaukee Bucks came into their March 3 contest against the New York with only eight victories under their belt after more than half of the season. The Knicks have a knack for making even the lowliest of opponents appear competent, though, and found themselves down by 10 points to Milwaukee in the fourth quarter despite Carmelo Anthony's usual heroics.
New York clawed back to tie the game with less than a minute remaining on the strength of 17 points by Anthony in the final period. But the Bucks retained the final possession and Brandon Knight's pull-up three-pointer over an outstretched Raymond Felton went in with just 1.4 seconds left, essentially ending the Knicks' comeback hopes.
7. December 16: Washington Wizards 102, New York Knicks 101
The New York Knicks made a habit of mishandling their final possessions this season and their December loss to the Wizards was no exception.
To set the scene, Washington's Bradley Beal left Beno Udrih and his porous defense in a puff of smoke as the Wizards guard bolted to the basket for an easy go-ahead lay-up. Still, the Knicks had a good opportunity to win with seven seconds left and a timeout that would advance the ball past midcourt.
What happened next still confounds basketball strategists. First of all the Knicks declined to use their timeout, opting instead for the task of traversing the entire length of the floor for a desperation shot. Yet for some unknown reason, Carmelo Anthony leisurely dribbled the ball up the court, almost completely stopping 50 feet from the basket, before realizing his gross miscalculation of time and racing upcourt for an off-balance three-point chuck.
The shot, of course, was well off, and Anthony slammed his headband to the floor in frustration as the Knicks endured another crushing defeat.
6. February 21: Orlando Magic 129, New York Knicks 121
The one play that epitomizes the Knicks 2013-14 season might have come during the team's February 21 loss to Orlando. The Knicks battled the Magic, another of the East's underwhelming teams, into a first overtime period.
New York had a distinct opportunity to grab momentum when Raymond Felton tossed a would-be alley-oop to Tyson Chandler with the score tied and a minute left. Chandler appeared to have secured an impressive reverse dunk, but his body drifted under the basket as he finished the move. As a result, the dunked basketball did not drop through the cylinder but rather ricocheted off of Chandler's own head, and then was launched out of the basket and into the stands once Chandler released the rim.
The officials upheld the original call of offensive goaltending, and the game remained knotted at 113 through the rest of the extra period. The Magic dominated the second overtime and escaped with a victory.
5. Novemeber 20: Indiana Pacers 103, New York Knicks 96
Way back in November, the Knicks were still considered one of the better teams in the East. On November 20, New York hosted the Indiana Pacers in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference semifinals, and an early season barometer of the team's progress since that series. For most of the game, the Knicks proved up to the challenge, keeping pace with Indiana despite Paul George's dominant efforts.
The Knicks even had a three-point lead in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Iman Shumpert committed a cardinal basketball sin, fouling George as he attempted a game-tying three pointer. George converted all three free throws, sending the game into overtime, where he would score nine more points to lead the Pacers to victory.
The loss came to symbolize the two teams' seasons, as the Pacers surged toward the top seed in the East while the Knicks floundered.
4. April 4: Washington Wizards 90, New York Knicks 89
The Knicks were able to stay in contention for the final playoff spot in the East deep into the regular season largely in part to the equally poor play of the Atlanta Hawks, their competition.
The Knicks began the night of April 4 with the potential to tie the Hawks in the loss column. However, Atlanta won its game, putting the burden of keeping up on New York.
New York led the Wizards for most of the game, but could not secure the victory thanks to the efforts of Washington's Bradley Beal. Beal scored 11 of the Wizards' final 13 points, including a long two-pointer to put his team up by one with 20 seconds remaining.
In a familiar scene for Knicks fans, New York bungled its final possession and with it the chance to steal a win. A driving Carmelo Anthony lost control of the ball with five seconds remaining, and by the time J.R. Smith had corralled the loose ball, he only had time to throw up a desperation fall-back three-pointer that was off the mark. Again, the Knicks had come up short in a crucial game.
3. March 25: Los Angeles Lakers 127, New York Knicks 96
Unlike many of the Knicks' worst losses this season, their March 25 debacle against the Los Angeles Lakers did not feature a signature disastrous play.
Instead, it featured an entire disastrous quarter. Needing to pick up late-season wins against subpar teams like Los Angeles, the Knicks had a 12-minute defensive breakdown against a Lakers squad itself known for horrendous D. The Knicks allowed a franchise record 51 points in the third quarter, turning a manageable eight-point deficit into a 28-point blowout.
In what looked like basketball's version of a power play, Los Angeles poured in six three-pointers in the quarter, and shot 19-of-26 from the floor against the hapless Knicks, adding an ignominious record to New York's sinking season.
2. January 3: Houston Rockets 102, New York Knicks 100
On December 18, Andrea Bargnani took perhaps the worst shot of the NBA season, hoisting up a three against the Milwaukee Bucks with the Knicks up two and less than 24 seconds remaining in the game. New York was able salvage the victory, and most assumed the team had learned its lesson about ill-advised shots.
But these are the Knicks, and standard basketball lessons must be beaten into their heads repeatedly to take hold. Thus, on January 3 against the Rockets, J.R. Smith made a similar and unacceptable mistake.
In a tie game, Tyson Chandler grabbed an offensive rebound with about 23 seconds left, giving the Knicks a chance to hold the ball for a final shot. However, a mere two seconds later, Smith launched a three-pointer that not only clanged off the back rim, but caused a scramble for the rebound that ended with a loose-ball foul on New York.
Houston's Aaron Brooks would sink the ensuing free throws, and the Knicks could not convert their final possession and lost 102-100.
1. March 23: Cleveland Cavaliers 106, New York Knicks 100
The Knicks breathed a little bit of life into their otherwise dreadful season with an eight-game winning streak in mid-March. New York had a great opportunity to extend its run to nine victories on March 23 with a home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team 18 games under .500 and without its best player, Kyrie Irving. All looked well at halftime with the Knicks holding a 15-point advantage.
And then a familiar and troubling pattern flared up for the Knicks: Raymond Felton's poor defense turned an otherwise mediocre point guard into a lethal scoring machine. This time, Jarrett Jack played the villain's role, scoring 22 second-half points including a short jumper over Felton with 25 seconds left to seal the Cavs' improbable comeback and terminate the Knicks' vital winning streak.