NEW YORK -- Go ahead, blame Stephon Marbury. Blame him for the missed free throw with 0.9 seconds left in the New York Knicks' 100-99 loss Tuesday to Seattle, or the long 3-point attempt on the possession before that led to a long rebound and a game-winning triple by the Sonics' Rashard Lewis.
Knicks skip advance course
Marbury's game-ending plays will be dissected and analyzed in spite of a game-high 40-point effort that rallied the Knicks from an 18-point deficit -- the third straight contest in which he's put the team on his back. But focusing on the ending ignores the real culprit here.
New York didn't lose -- and in the process, miss out on a chance to move up to the No. 8 spot in the East -- because of Marbury. It didn't lose because David Lee was out with a sprained ankle either, nor did the Knicks fall because they missed 14 free throws, as damaging as it was.
No, the Knicks lost because they didn't show up until the third quarter. In the first 26 minutes, it looked like Seattle was the team clawing for a playoff spot and New York was the one playing out the string. The Sonics' 62-44 lead two minute in the third quarter forced the Knicks to play a perfect game over the final 22 minutes.
To their credit, they nearly did it -- including earning a whopping 22-0 advantage in fourth-quarter free-throw attempts. But the deficit was too great to overcome and as a result any mistake -- like a missed free throw, for instance -- turned into a calamity.
What made it so frustrating for the New Yorkers was that the early struggles came as the result of serial mental errors. Foremost on the list was Channing Frye, who passed up multiple open jumpers, made a ridiculous goaltend on a contested Johan Petro fling that seemed to have little chance, and took a horrible foul on Ray Allen 90 feet from the basket near the end of the first half to give Seattle two free points. Knicks coach Isiah Thomas mercifully pulled the plug on his evening 3:15 into the second half, yanking him for Malik Rose to help kick-start New York's comeback.
However, Frye was hardly alone. When the Knicks briefly cut Seattle's lead to 10 and the Madison Square Garden crowd got into the game for the only time in the first half, Quentin Richardson threw an outlet pass to his imaginary friend in Section 79 to end the rally with a thud. Then there was Eddy Curry, who seemed to have trouble recognizing Seattle's double-team even though it came from the same place every time. He ended up with five first-half turnovers and several other near-misses.
Finally, there was Jared Jeffries, who delivered a 0-point, 0-rebound, 0-for-4 from the line first half. He also made perhaps the worst play of the game in the third quarter, passing up a wide open 3-pointer from the corner to throw a pass under the basket to Nick Collison -- which would have worked out great if Collison didn't play for the Sonics. That sequence led to a thunderous dunk by Chris Wilcox and Seattle's biggest lead of the game.
"When you're fighting an uphill battle throughout the whole game, it takes a lot of energy," said Marbury. "Every mistake that you make at the end of the game is magnified. We can't allow ourselves to get put in that situation.
"We didn't play the way we normally play at the beginning of the game. Especially at home, we normally come out attacking at both ends, and tonight we didn't do that."
And as a result, the Knicks dropped one at home against a team that had won six road games the entire season. So if New York does fall short of the playoffs, it's sure to look back at tonight as the one that got away.
But Knicks fans shouldn't lament Marbury's missed free throw or any of his other plays down the stretch. The real puzzling part wasn't the ending, but the beginning. It boggles the mind how the Knicks could come out so flat in a game of such obvious importance.
• Talk back to The Daily Dime gang
AP Photo/LM Otero
Mavericks guard Jason Terry lands in the crowd during the fourth quarter of his team's 16th straight win, 102-89 over the Nets. JET kissed one elderly woman to apologize for the intrusion. "I saw that she was dazed. I wanted to give her a kiss to wake her up," said Terry, who scored 24 points. "A little kiss never hurts anyone."
Chad Ford, Henry Abbott and John Hollinger debate the best centers of all time: Where do Kareem, Wilt, Russell and Shaq rank? Hollinger explains why Shaq's No. 1, and Bill Russell sinks to No. 7. Abbott puts is finger on what makes Russell special -- winning.
Just like Tim Duncan, just like Shaq -- though I'm not putting Oden in their class -- Greg Oden will make a team a contender for 80 percent of his career.
He is already a monster on the defensive end, and I expect him to get better. And offensively, breaking his right wrist is going to help him in the long run. He's been forced to develop his left hand, so he'll be a force on the block with either hand.
And believe me, though it may take a year or two, Oden is going to be a much stronger scorer in the NBA than he is in college.
In the NBA, a team will focus its offense around him in the post. That hasn't been the case at Ohio State. Plus, NBA guards will be much better at getting him the ball than his inexperienced Buckeye teammates are. Plus, there's no true zone in the NBA &
That's 16 straight for Dallas
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
New York Knicks' Quentin Richardson consoles Stephon Marbury (40 points) as he bows his head leaving the court after missing the second free throw that would have tied the game during the fourth quarter. The SuperSonics defeated the Knicks 100-99.
Quote of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
Portland fans, don't feel bad about squandering that big lead to San Antonio. Winning won't get you anywhere this year. But losing gives you the chance at a better pick in the draft. Right now, looks like Spencer Hawes is your guy, according to Chad Ford's not-so-infernal machine.
Justin (Philly): The Sixers have been playing great lately and are clearly responding to Maurice Cheeks. Do you see Cheeks coming back next year or will they replace him with Larry Brown?
Marc Stein: The story in coaching circles as I heard it a couple months back, around the time Larry rejoined the franchise and Iverson was traded, is that Brown has an open invitation to return to the Sixers' bench next season if he chooses. In that scenario, if Larry accepts, word is Cheeks would then be offered a front-office position. Only time will tell if Brown wants to make his bench return in Philly, but this much is clear: Larry IS going to coach again someday. No way he goes out with the NY debacle standing as his last hurrah.
Reaction to Kiki Vandeweghe's top choices for Coach of the Year:
Perhaps I'm a little biased being from Canada, or maybe it's that I'm just a little more exposed than our neighbors to the south, but I was a little surprised that Sam Mitchell, a coach that was thought to have little job security at the season's start, wasn't even mentioned among the talk for COY. Sure, Bryan Colangelo (who will probably win exec of the year) deserves much of the credit for the team's success, but Mitchell is the one that has brought together this roster of no-names, and led them to the fourth-best record in the East.
If Avery Johnson doesn't win Coach of the Year, it will only be because he won it last year. As good as Sloan and Pops have been, the Little General has been better. He improves his team ever time they take the court, sometimes even DURING a game. No one in the league is better at getting the most out of their players. Most of all, in every situation, no matter what they have been up against this year, he always finds a way for them to win.