Knicks keep finding ways to lose the tight games

Here’s the problem with pro sports: The Knicks’ most recent game just wasn’t good enough.

If an overstaffed college team had conceded three straight home games, as the Knicks have in their last three games at Madison Square Garden, they would have a recognizable consolation prize attached. effort counts. Play counts. It’s important to drive good teams to the abyss.

In the NBA, 0-3 is 0-3.

Losing in the NBA at home to Portland (#2 in Northwest Division), Memphis (#1 in Southwest Division), and Milwaukee (#1 in Central Division) each in the last minute or overtime means one thing: You could not win a winnable game. You weren’t good enough.

you are not good enough

“There are no medals for trying,” Bill Parcells once said, six words that sum up all professional sports, NFL or NBA, MLB or NHL.

Or, as Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after his team’s recent loss, 109-103 against the Bucks on Wednesday: “It was a hard-fought game. It’s a make-or-miss league. We missed.”

Antetokounmpo, who scored 37 points, grabbed a rebound from Derrick Rose during the Knicks' 109-103 loss to the Bucks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 37 points, grabbed a rebound from Derrick Rose during the Knicks’ 109-103 loss to the Bucks.
Robert Sabo

Are the Knicks looking better than they did a few weeks ago when they took off on the West Coast, close to seeing their season crash off a cliff? Sure they are. They went 3-2 on that trip, and in the nine games since they allowed 145 points for the Thunder, they’ve shown noticeably more effort this side of the floor.

Are there any encouraging elements to take away from those three landmark losses at the Garden (between a Pistons stomp Tuesday night in Detroit)? Sure there is. The Knicks have to believe they can compete with these teams and have shown they can compete with them. There were moments late in all three games where they seemed poised to seize the day.

But they missed the day all three times.

In the NBA, 0-3 is 0-3.

Jalen Brunson powers up Jevon Carter during the Knicks' loss to the Bucks.
Jalen Brunson powers up Jevon Carter during the Knicks’ loss to the Bucks.
Robert Sabo

“This is the league,” said Thibodeau.

“It’s annoying,” RJ Barrett said. “No one likes it.”

Wednesday was another example of the Knicks doing just enough to lose in agonizing fashion. They played some of their toughest defenses of the season. They got monster play from Mitchell Robinson (15 points, 20 rebounds), returned to the Bucks after falling behind by seven in the fourth, fouled Giannis Antetokounmpo (though not before he scored 37 points and grabbed 13 rebounds).

“We did a lot of things well tonight,” said Barrett, who finished as the team’s best with 26 points. “We’re getting better and better.”

Julius Randle, who scored 18 points, goes for the shot during the Knicks loss.
Julius Randle, who scored 18 points, goes for the shot during the Knicks loss.
Robert Sabo

Said Thibodeau: “I like the way we lined up. I thought we did a lot of good things.”

But they also missed four grueling free throws on the stretch. When they finally got the score to 103 with 47.6 seconds to go – and Antetokounmpo looked on from the bench – they allowed a 3-pointer from Grayson Allen that ultimately doomed them. Barrett actually played Allen well, Allen just took the shot.

But that was the story of the last few games:

Whenever a shot needs to be taken, Allen is. Or it’s Ja Morant. It’s almost unfair to point it out because he’s been so good this year, but Jalen Brunson had both the Blazers’ game and the Grizzlies’ game on his hands, and both times he made good shots that he usually does. He just didn’t take those shots.

And these are the shots the Knicks need to take, especially at home. It’s almost bizarre to think that the Knicks are a better road team (6-6) than the Garden (4-6). All three of those games have featured roaring, begging spectators who did everything they could to pull them to the finish line, and almost did.


But in the NBA, 0-3 is 0-3

It’s just not good enough.