Poor play at the end of games has been a regular obstacle for the New York Knicks, as was clearly the case in their last contest.
As they visit a Dallas Mavericks team which had the same problem, the Knicks will look to move past those issues Sunday night and continue what their coach believes has been improved play recently.
New York was in a tie game Friday at Houston with 19 seconds left when J.R. Smith attempted a 3-pointer despite the shot clock being off. He missed and Beno Udrih unnecessarily fouled Aaron Brooks on the rebound, allowing the Rockets guard to hit the go-ahead free throws and help hand the Knicks a 102-100 defeat.
Smith said he took the shot not because he was open, but because he didn't realize what the score was at the time.
"Honestly, I thought we were down two. I shot the ball and I started hearing Tyson (Chandler) saying 'no, no don't take it,' but by that time, it was already released," said Smith, who was 1 of 8 from 3-point range. "It was just a bad shot, or a good shot, but bad timing. I realized as soon as we got the foul that the score was 100 to 100 and it was just bad basketball IQ on me."
It was similar to a game in Milwaukee on Dec. 18, when Andrea Bargnani tried a 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds left and New York up two points in overtime. The Bucks would force a second overtime, but the Knicks won that game.
New York (10-22) shoots 36.6 percent in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, which ranks among the worst in the league. The Knicks were 1 for 7 during that span versus Houston and outscored 29-19 in the fourth.
"We're playing a lot better now and that's promising and a good sign," coach Mike Woodson said. "I like the way we're competing and if we stay at this level, we'll be in a lot of games and we just have to figure out how to win them down the stretch, if they're close."
Dallas (19-14) also had end-of-game struggles Friday. The Mavericks led by as many as 13 against the Los Angeles Clippers and by seven with four minutes to play but lost 119-112. Dirk Nowitzki overcame an ankle injury to score 24 points and Shawn Marion added 20, but it was not enough, as the Clippers ended the game on a 16-2 run.
"Defensively, they went right through us. Offensively, without getting stops, the shots got harder," coach Rick Carlisle said of the team's late-game struggles. "It's on every one of us — the coaches and players — and it's very disappointing."
Dallas has lost three straight home games, allowing an average of 114.7 points, after winning 11 of their first 13.
However, the Mavericks have won 12 of their last 13 home games against New York, including three straight.
They'll be wary of Knicks guard Iman Shumpert, who has posted the highest-scoring games of his career through two stops on the team's Texas road trip. He had 27 points in Thursday's win at San Antonio, scored 26 on Friday and went a combined 12 for 14 from 3-point range. Shumpert was 6 of 31 from beyond the arc in his previous 12 games while averaging 3.5 points.