The New York Knicks’ eight-game winning streak just came to an end. They might need another one if they’re going to have a shot at catching Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
A new run will have to begin away from home against their former coach Tuesday night, when the Knicks open a five-game trip looking to end a six-game road skid against the Los Angeles Lakers.
While Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni will be facing his former team for the fourth time, it will be the Knicks’ first game against the Lakers since bringing former Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson on as team president. Jackson reportedly won’t attend the game.
New York (29-41) could have flown west in better shape had it been able to hold onto a 17-point lead in a 106-100 home loss to Cleveland on Sunday.
"This was a huge opportunity lost, one we can’t afford," said guard J.R. Smith, who scored 18 points. "But we can’t get it back. We’ve just got to go on the road, win some games and try to come back home and win."
Carmelo Anthony had game highs of 32 points and eight rebounds but missed all five shots in the final period. The Cavaliers shot 60.9 percent and 50.0 percent from 3-point range for the game.
"It’s tough. We should’ve won this game. We gave it away," Anthony said. "They earned it, they beat us. We didn’t play well coming down the stretch or in the second half and they did. But it’s behind us now, there’s nothing we can do about that."
The missed opportunity was especially painful because New York took the court knowing the Hawks had lost earlier in the day.
"It’s good that they lose, but again, it’s about what we do at this point," coach Mike Woodson said before the game.
With 12 games to play, that logic isn’t quite accurate as the Knicks will need plenty of help from Atlanta’s opponents down the stretch.
New York’s five-game trip against West opponents includes matchups with the bottom three teams in the conference in the Lakers, Sacramento and Utah.
While the Knicks haven’t beaten the Lakers in Los Angeles since Feb. 13, 2007, they did win the only meeting this season. Anthony had a game-high 35 points in a 110-103 victory Jan. 26.
Pau Gasol had 20 points and 13 rebounds that day but is unlikely to play in the rematch after recently being diagnosed with vertigo. Steve Nash, meanwhile, is questionable with his usual back problems.
Anthony has managed at least 30 points in his last three against Los Angeles, averaging 33.0 and 53.6 percent shooting in that span.
The Lakers (23-46) may not be up to stopping Anthony’s string Tuesday, as they’ve given up an average of 117.2 points and 49.2 percent shooting in a 1-4 stretch. Los Angeles did manage to knock off visiting Orlando 103-94 on Sunday.
The win was highlighted by a career-high 28 points and game-high 13 rebounds from Jordan Hill in his first start since Jan. 17. Nick Young added 26 points and has averaged 23.5 in his last two.
"We’re playing for pride," Hill said. "I mean, we’re still the Lakers. We’re definitely one of the top organizations in the league, if not the best. So we have to take a stand for ourselves. We can’t quit and we’ve got to keep fighting."