With 7.8 ticks remaining in the fourth quarter and the score knotted at 117 after a too-easy Carmelo Anthony layup, the New York Knicks rolled out their customary "switch all screens" final frame man-to-man defense, allowing Indiana Pacers star swingman Danny Granger to go one-on-one with Knicks reserve forward Shawne Williams in a "hit it and go home/lose it and go to overtime" situation.
The result? Everybody in Indiana made curfew.
The Knicks had a chance to tie or win with 0.3 seconds remaining, attempting a lob to the rim rather than a Trent Tucker rule prayer. The ill-designed alley-oop was doomed from the start, though, and Indy held on for the 119-117 home victory on Tuesday night.
As Brett Pollakoff noted at Pro Basketball Talk, that final possession didn't exactly cover either team in glory. While Indy put the game in the hands of its best scorer, it did so with an unimaginative isolation call leading to a mid-range jumper by a player who's shot 32.7 percent, 25 percent, 39.6 percent and 28.3 percent in "clutch" situations over the past four seasons. And while Granger certainly deserves credit for making the shot after creating a clean look with the step-back, the Knicks certainly didn't make life too difficult on him, eschewing ball denial and double-teaming in favor of sticking with a single-up-and-switch blueprint that makes creating quickness mismatches like Granger-on-Williams a heck of a lot easier.
Granger's sure shot — his second career last-second, game-winning bucket for the Pacers, according to Mike Wells at the Indianapolis Star — gave Indy its second win over the Knicks in three nights. It also put Frank Vogel's team a half-game up on the idle Charlotte Bobcats in the race for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot; the two teams will square off in Charlotte next Wednesday.
As for the Knicks?
They're now 34-32 on the season, and 6-6 since the deal that imported Carmelo with four losses to the Pacers and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets sport an 8-2 mark since the trade. Mike D'Antoni believes in yesterday, but isn't sure about tomorrow. Oh, and despite believing there's a bullseye on their collective back (which is weird for a six seed), the team is starting to look scarily like one that will make an early-round playoff exit (NOTE: they were always going to!). Plus, the New York front line has single-handedly launched the Tyler Hansbrough for Most Improved Player Movement, giving up consecutive career-best performances to the former North Carolina standout. And on multiple occasions last night, Darren Collison made Chauncey Billups look like he was 57 years old.
Outside of that, though, everything's cream cheese.
Luckily for the Knicks, New York fans (and media types, especially) are notoriously patient and measured in their responses to stuff like this, so they'll have plenty of time to figure it all out. No pressure.