Photo Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Knicks continue to falter late in games

What has the New York Knicks done to incur the wrath of the basketball gods? As usual, the Knicks had multiple opportunities to tie the game, against the Portland Trailblazers, late but failed every time. In late game situations, it’s becoming a common occurrence to see the Knicks slump to defeat. David Fizdale may love the effort of his players, but fans are exhausted seeing the same Knicks story play out over and over again.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum dominate the Knicks

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined to score 60 points to lead the Trailblazers to a narrow 118-114 victory over the Knicks. Lillard had 29 points, and he nailed a big jumper late to help quiet the Garden crowd. Tonight, may not have been Lillard’s night in regards to efficiency, he only shot 9-of-22, but he was a great facilitator throughout the game, finishing with 8 assists.

McCollum was the leading scorer for the Trailblazers. He ended the game with 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting. Throughout the game, McCollum was a nuisance to deal with on offense, and his 10-point offensive outburst early in the fourth quarter helped lift the Trailblazers lead to eleven. Despite Lillard and McCollum’s offensive exploits, the Knicks were within striking distance from start to finish. Unfortunately, the Knicks have been striking out more times than Giancarlo Stanton when it comes to late game situations.

Fizdale made another alteration to the Knicks starting lineup

Before the expected fourth-quarter collapse occurred, the Knicks entered the ring battling. To start the game, Fizdale tweaked the lineup. Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, and Allonzo Trier returned to the bench, and Fizdale replaced them with Enes Kanter, Mario Hezonja, and Noah Vonleh. Only Tim Hardaway Jr. and Emmanuel Mudiay retained their spots in the starting lineup.

On paper, that lineup looks weak defensively, but on the court, that was far from the case. Kanter, Hezonja, Vonleh, Hardaway Jr., and Mudiay went to work on both ends of the court and battled the Trailblazers. At halftime, the Knicks held a slight 60-58 advantage. Early in the third quarter, it seemed like the Knicks would run away with the game, but the Trailblazers used their experience to maul the Knicks second unit to retake the lead.

Knicks start the third quarter strong before collapsing later

During the break, it seemed like the Knicks are their Wheaties because they started the third quarter on fire. For the first five minutes, Mudiay was playing like he was the second coming of Dwyane Wade. He scored 8 points during the Knicks 15-5 run which increased the Knicks lead to ten with 7:15 remaining. Afterward, the Trailblazers took over.

Lillard and McCollum led the charge against the Knicks second unit. Both players helped the Trailblazers casually cut into the Knicks lead. Late in the third, the Trailblazers retook the lead when Lillard spotted Meyers Leonard on the wing open for three. Meyers nailed the shot to give the Trailblazers an 85-83 lead with 1:14 remaining. Overall, the Trailblazers ended the third on a 16-6 run to lead by four going into the fourth.

Trailblazers put the Knicks away with timely baskets in the fourth

After McCollum’s early fourth quarter offensive explosion, the Knicks began to make a comeback. With Hardaway Jr. on the bench, Trey Burke took over. He nailed two threes during an 8-0 Knicks run to cut their deficit to three points. Several times throughout the fourth, the Knicks came within two or three points of the Trailblazers but couldn’t execute well enough to tie the game.

With about 1:03 left, Vonleh was fouled and sent to the line. If Vonleh nailed both free throws, he’d be able to tie the game at 114. Instead, he missed both free throws and on the next possession, Lillard made a midrange jumper to give the Trailblazers a four-point advantage. Later, the Knicks had another opportunity to tie the game but folded as usual.

Hardaway Jr. made two free throws following Lillard’s basket to bring the Knicks back within two of the Trailblazers. On the following possession, all the Knicks needed to do was to stop the Trailblazers from scoring. Initially, they did. Lillard missed his midrange attempt, but Jusuf Nurkic was there to try and tip it in. Nurkic’s tip missed, but Evan Turner was there to grab another offensive rebound. This time, Turner made the Knicks pay by banking in his shot from close-range to preserve the win for the Trailblazers.

New York Knicks stats

Hardaway Jr. led all Knicks scorers with 32 points. Lately, Burke has gotten his groove back like Stella. He contributed with 19 points. Mudiay continues to be productive on offense. He finished with 16 points. Vonleh had extra motivation going against his old team, and it paid off. He possibly had his best game as a Knick, finishing with a double-double: 14 points and 14 rebounds.

The Knicks will take their six-game losing streak to Boston to face the Celtics on Wednesday. As the games go by, it seems like the Knicks are making progress every day on the road to Zion.

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