DALLAS -- The “Texas Triangle” has been a mixed bag for the New York Knicks. After splitting their games between the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, New York has a chance to end its four-game road trip with a split with a victory over the Dallas Mavericks tonight. During the team’s last four-game road trip back in late November, the Knicks lost all four in the midst of a nine-game skid.
A split would be welcomed by everyone, even if it came with a bit of sour grapes and thoughts of what could have been. New York will have to avoid a potential hangover from J.R. Smith's ill-advised 3-point shot in the final seconds of Friday's game against the Rockets.
“I’ve been around this a long time. When you think you’ve seen it all and then something creeps in throughout the course of a ballgame and you shake your head and say, ‘wow,' ” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said of the final offensive sequence. “It happens. It happens in sports. It happens in all sports, no matter what level it is. Unfortunately, he went blank. What are you going to do? You can’t go back and get it.”
Woodson, somewhat surprisingly, also blamed point guard Beno Udrih for passing the ball to Smith on the play in question. Replays showed Udrih and Tyson Chandler motioning to Smith in an effort to stop him from shooting the ball.
"Hell, his shot that he took was wide open," Woodson said. "The bottom line is, you look at his shot, but did Beno have to throw him the ball? You have to look at that."
Woodson has been critical of Udrih's late-game decision-making in the past. Last month, Udrih openly complained about what he felt was overt criticism of his game.
On Sunday, Udrih seemed to hint that blame for the loss should be spread among the whole team.
"After you lose, you can’t really do anything about it. You can just think about what we did prior to it in the whole game," Udrih said. "The game definitely wasn’t lost because of the last shot. We lost it before. We lost it as a team, too. We just have to do better [against Dallas]."
Later, Woodson re-addressed the Udrih situation.
"I want to clear something up with this Beno thing that was written today," Woodson said. "Everybody is held accountable. I wasn’t pointing the finger at Beno about anything. I just think when you’re trying to win games and coming down the stretch, everybody has got to be held accountable in terms of what they do. He had the ball, and he probably should have held the ball. That’s just the nature of winning basketball games if you’ve been around this long enough."
The Knicks have to work on their collective basketball IQ, particularly in crunch time.
New York is shooting 28.1 percent in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter in games that are decided by 5 or fewer points, fourth-worst in the league. In their most recent matchup, the Knicks went 1-of-7 from the field in the final 2:12 of the fourth against Houston -- and wound up being outscored 29-19 in the period.
“When you’re winning and losing games, it’s a fine line between winning and losing,” Woodson said. “When we’ve had the struggles that we’ve had, you just can’t make those mistakes.”
Dallas also has struggled in the clutch. In their last game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Mavericks went 1-of-6 from the field in the final three minutes and allowed the Clippers to go on a 16-2 run to close out the game. The Clippers were without the services of Chris Paul who suffered a separated right shoulder in the third quarter, but they were still able to operate successfully on offense against the woeful Mavs defense.
Injury update: Forward Kenyon Martin (ankle) will be a game-time decision. Guard Raymond Felton (strained right groin) was ruled out for the sixth straight game. He has played only one game in the last 13 due to injuries. With both Felton and Pablo Prigioni (toe) still injured, Toure Murry will continue to see minutes as the Knicks’ backup point guard. Woodson expressed that he was pleased with what he’s seen out of the young guard.
“For the most part he’s been a bright spot in terms of how he’s played and conducted himself on the floor,” Woodson said of Murry. “It’s not easy when you’re young and you sit and watch and now you’re thrown into a game and you play. I think he’s handled it pretty well.”