Late-game failures doom Knicks yet again

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Stefan Bondy, New York Daily News
·2 min read
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We’ve said it before, we can say it again after Wednesday’s 101-99 gut wrenching defeat in Boston. The Knicks have a big problem closing games.

The latest collapse in the final seconds included an egregious turnover from RJ Barrett, three missed jumpers from Julius Randle in the final six minutes, two misses from Alec Burks in the final 30 seconds and a double-team that led to a wide-open 3-pointer from Boston’s Marcus Smart.

In the end, the Knicks (25-27) lost for the fifth time in their last six games and fell to 2-8 in games decided by three points or fewer. They lost Monday night in Brooklyn with similarly awful execution down the stretch.

“You want to learn from each game, and hopefully you’re not repeating the same mistakes over and over again,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You have to learn, and also to understand where we are in the season. You’re facing teams every night someone’s playing for something, they’re fighting for something. So the intensity gets ratcheted up now. So we have to understand that, and we have to respond well and I’m sure we will.”

Thibodeau lamented the rebounding again, which favored Boston, 53-39. The Celtics (26-26) grabbed 16 offensive boards – 11 more than the Knicks – and the issue was encapsulated on a possession in (you guessed it) crunch time.

Up by two with about three minutes left, the Celtics got three chances on a possession because of two offensive boards – leading to Smart’s putback for a four-point advantage.

“We just got to when the shot goes up find bodies. Take care of the glass that way,” Julius Randle said. “We knew we were a great offensive rebounding team going in and it showed today. We got to lock in more.”

The Knicks were trailing by one and had the ball with 1:05 remaining, but Barrett – who otherwise contributed an exquisitely efficient performance – inexplicably lost control of his dribble for a turnover. Barrett made up for it with a tying 3-pointer about 10 seconds later, but then the Knicks doubled Jayson Tatum on the perimeter and left Smart open for his game-breaking trey.

“Well anytime you commit to putting two on the ball, you’ve got to understand what you’re willing to be vulnerable in another area,” Thibodeau said. “They have two dynamic scores in Tatum and (Jaylen) Brown. . . So you go in you know that, particularly in the fourth quarter, you have to be committed to putting two on to them, so that’s part of it.”

On the heels of yet another late-game defeat, Randle appeared disappointed in his postgame interview but tried to shake off the emotion of frustration.

“We’re not going to get much out of frustration,” he said. “We have to figure out what the problem is and solve it from there.”