Harris DeckerComing into Monday night, the Dallas Mavericks had 34 wins. Thirty-four wins means the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, but in the Eastern Conference that would be good for the third-best record. The only teams in the Eastern Conference with more than 34 wins are the Pacers and the Heat. What’s the point of this long, drawn out setup? Losing to the Mavericks isn’t all that surprising. The way it happened was the story.
In what was a well-fought, back and fourth game, a single shot by future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki sealed the Knicks fate. With 34 — hey, there’s that number again — seconds left in the game, the Knicks controlled the ball. There was plenty of time to run a play, get a good look at the basket and then try to play defense for the remaining 10 seconds of the game. What took place in that 24 seconds was truly sickening.
Carmelo Anthony dribbled the ball between half-court and the three-point arc, starring down Vince Carter. He dribbled right, dribbled left. He threw in a number of head fakes and at one point, looked like he was halfway up into a deep 3-point attempt. Instead, he passed to J.R. Smith with 10 seconds left on the play clock. Smith took that opportunity to flail around for a few seconds before hoisting up a wild shot that not only didn’t go in, but failed to even reach the rim.
What was disappointing was not that Smith missed the shot or that he was fouled in the process. What was disappointing was the shot selection. While Smith was fouled and should have gone to the line, Smith being forced to hoist up a shot with the shot clock expiring isn’t exactly the way you want your last possession to end.
Anthony discussed that final Knicks possession after the game.
“I should’ve just pulled up for the three and just took that chance,” he said.
Mike Woodson added, “J.R. tried to get it off. I thought he got bumped.”
The shot clock went off and the Mavericks used a timeout to move the ball back to their end of the court. After a few passes, the ball reached Dirk Nowitzki and everyone in the building knew the game would come down to his one shot. Anthony played tough on Dirk. He was pushing, swatting and giving him very little room to operate. I honestly thought that if it were earlier in the game, a foul could have easily been called on Anthony.
With about two seconds left on the clock, Nowitzki put up a classic high-arching shot which bounced around the rim for a full second before finally going in as time expired, to the dismay of the Madison Square Garden crowd. It was another close game that ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Knicks. For the Mavericks, it was their win No. 35 of the season, moving them into the seventh seed in the West. For the Knicks, it was their loss No. 36, good for the fifth-worst record in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks are back at it again on Thursday when they take on the Heat in Miami. That would should be interesting.