Embattled New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson pointed the finger at himself after a disastrous loss on Sunday.
"We didn’t handle our business,” Woodson said, “and I’ve got to take full responsibility for that.”
The Knicks let a 17-point lead slip away at home to a Cavs team that was without Kyrie Irving, its best player.
With a win, New York would have cut the deficit between itself and eighth-place Atlanta to two games.
Instead, the Knicks will wake up on Monday morning three games behind the Hawks with 12 games to play.
Atlanta lost on Sunday afternoon, so the Knicks knew exactly what was at stake when they took the court on Sunday evening. That made the loss to the Cavs all the more catastrophic.
"It’s tough," Carmelo Anthony said. "We should’ve won this game. We gave it away. They earned it. They beat us."
The Knicks were up 15 at the half but allowed Cleveland to score nine straight to start the third quarter.
"I thought we came out a little flat," Anthony said.
Anthony led the Knicks with 32 points but went cold late, missing 11 of his last 13 shots and all five in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks as a whole went 5-for-18 in the fourth and missed 11-of-15 3-pointers in the second half.
"They were just scrapping more, I think," J.R. Smith said. "They were more hungry than us in the second half. It’s a huge opportunity lost, one we can’t afford. But we can’t get it back. Just got to go out there on the road and win some games. Hopefully, [the Hawks] keep losing."
That's what the Knicks have been left with in this roller-coaster season: hoping the eighth-place Hawks can continue to give away their lead.
"It's tough," Woodson said, "It's very tough. We could have moved within two games, I think, had we taken care of business."
For what feels like the 30th time this season, the Knicks failed to do that. And it leaves Woodson and his team in a difficult spot. According to Elias Sports Bureau, just one team in the past 30 years has overcome a deficit of more than four games with 14 games or fewer to play in the regular season to make the playoffs.
New York trailed Atlanta by four games with 14 to go late last week.
“We can’t worry about how many wins it’s gonna take,” Anthony said. “We gotta go play.”
So where does it all leave Woodson?
The coach’s job security has been an open question all season. He's expected to be let go at the end of the year, but some have speculated that a late run to the postseason could help his prospects.
It will all be settled after the season when Woodson sits down with new team president Phil Jackson to assess his future.
If Jackson brings up Sunday night’s loss to Cleveland, Woodson may want to change the subject.
J.R. ditches mask: Smith took off his protective face mask in the second half of the loss to the Cavs. He hopes that he doesn't have to wear the mask for the rest of the season. He had be wearing it to protect a fractured cheek bone.
Smith shot 2-for-4 in the fourth quarter but missed both of his 3-point attempts.
Felton injures thumb: Raymond Felton's right hand was wrapped after the game. He said that he'd hyperextened his right thumb. Felton finished with 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds but was routinely torched by Cleveland's Jarrett Jack (31 points, 10 assists).
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