LOS ANGELES — The Knicks’ playoff-clinching celebration will have to wait. The clincher got away — along with that one lost rebound. In a Hollywood heartbreaker, the Knicks blew a 10-point...
LOS ANGELES — The Knicks’ playoff-clinching celebration will have to wait. The clincher got away — along with that one lost rebound.
In a Hollywood heartbreaker, the Knicks blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and the defending-champion Lakers showed their mettle by surviving a 101-99 overtime battle at Staples Center on Tuesday night.
The Knicks had the game and the playoffs in the bag but couldn’t hold off these Lakers, even with LeBron James watching from the bench.
“It sucks,’’ Julius Randle said. “We fought like hell. Guys played to exhaustion. To do what we did, last game of the road trip, against a championship-caliber team, the play was great. And for me to have an opportunity to finish the game off. I felt I had to finish the game.’’
Talen Horton-Tucker, who went to the same Chicago high school as Derrick Rose, hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 13 seconds left in overtime to win it and keep the Knicks’ magic number at 1.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was despondent over the final seconds of regulation when Wesley Matthews’ offensive putback sent the game into overtime. Matthews took the rebound away from Derrick Rose.
A tight-lipped Thibodeau said the game was lost not on Horton-Tucker’s trey but rather the rebound they didn’t get to close regulation.
“Rebounding beat us tonight,’’ Thibodeau said. “All we had to do is get that last rebound — the last shot of the game. Everyone’s got to get a body on everyone. That’s the bottom line. Their rebounding hurt us throughout the game. We always say defend, rebound and keep turnovers down. If you neglect that area, you’re going to be pay for it.’’
Rose said Thibodeau got on him afterward.
“It’s f–king hard right now,’’ Rose said. “It just sucks, man. ’’
With the Celtics losing to the Heat, 129-121, earlier in the evening, the Knicks took the court with a chance to clinch their first playoff berth since 2013.
After Horton-Tucker’s 3 on which Rose was picked off by Anthony Davis, the Knicks couldn’t get off a good shot on the last possession as a struggling RJ Barrett had to fire a 40-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Randle punished his former team with 31 points and Rose scored 27 points off the bench and had a late steal in OT that looked to be the clincher.
It wasn’t. Randle hit a big 3-pointer with 1:10 left to give the Knicks the lead but they couldn’t hold on. Ultimately, the Knicks couldn’t survive an awful night from Barrett (2 of 13, 0 of 7 on 3-pointers).
After allowing the Matthews rebound, Randle nearly won it on the final possession of regulation and shouldered blame for the loss that put the Knicks at 3-3 on their six-game Western swing. They will close the season with three home games with the magic number at one to break the playoff drought.
“I wouldn’t call it a success,’’ Randle said of the trip. “I felt we had a chance to go 5-1. I had a chance to close it out and make it a successful trip at 4-2.”
The Knicks blew that 10-point fourth-quarter lead yet rallied from five down in OT. But they couldn’t close either session.
The fourth quarter went down to the final possession after the Knicks were harassed into a 24-second violation, giving the Lakers the ball with 13.3 seconds left down two.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed a corner 3 but Matthews grabbed the offensive rebound from Rose and put it in to tie the score with 3.1 seconds left.
Next, the Knicks ran a great play and Randle raced past Davis into the paint but couldn’t connect on the runner at the buzzer, with Davis affecting the shot from behind. Onto overtime.
James, watching in his teal top and teal shorts like he just came off the tennis court, opted out of facing the league’s hottest club but celebrated at the end.
Davis was held to 20 points and missed a big jumper with 34 seconds left with a chance to tie in regulation.
Andre Drummond, whom the Knicks couldn’t get to break his verbal agreement with the Lakers, added 16 points and 18 rebounds.
Among those in attendance hoping for history was Knicks superfan Spike Lee — the filmmaker who never abandoned the franchise during their miserable seven-year walk through the wilderness.
The Knicks fell to 38-31 and down to the No. 6 seed in the East based on tiebreakers with Atlanta (38-31) and Miami (38-31).
With Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley missing the final three games of this trip, Frank Ntilikina was called into action again. And this time, Ntilikina delivered a good outing and closed the game.
Ntilikina finished with nine points, two assists, two steals and zero turnovers in 23 minutes. He drilled two 3-pointers in the first half and made a slick crosscourt pass to Rose, who canned a jumper.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:tholmlundnyp