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Knicks' loss to Wolves acceptable to some

NEW YORK -- To Lance Thomas, the New York Knicks' effort in their overtime loss on Thursday was "unacceptable."

To a large segment of the team's fan base, however, it was perfectly acceptable. Preferable, even.

That's where we are with the 2014-15 Knicks, who are at the tail end of the worst season in franchise history.

For New York, the focus now is on losses and on lottery odds.

So, in a sense, Thursday's game against Minnesota was one of the most pivotal of the season.

The injury-plagued Timberwolves came into the Garden tied with the Knicks for the worst record in the NBA.

The loser would have sole possession of the league's worst mark, and with it a 25 percent chance at landing the top overall pick in June's draft. The winner would be a game ahead in the standings but see its odds for the landing the top pick fall to 19.9 percent.

Still, the idea that the Knicks improved their lottery odds on Thursday didn't make it any easier on the players.

"There should be no way that they had more energy than us. It's impossible," Thomas said. "They had eight guys. And they played last night ... We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard. That can't happen."

This sentiment may confuse some who think the Knicks are trying to lose. But players and coaches don't tank seasons. Executives do.

Phil Jackson pulled the plug on the Knicks' season in January when he traded Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to Cleveland for two second-round picks and two trade exceptions.

It was clear at that point that the Knicks weren't going anywhere so it was more important for Jackson to focus on the future. He did what he could to put his team in position to lose games.

Jackson admitted as much when he said last week that the current players aren't talented enough to compete for 48 minutes.

So Knicks fans are left to hope for more losses and a high pick in June's draft. The pick is one of the tools Jackson will use to try to rebuild the team.

It's still unclear if New York will trade the selection or keep it to take a top player such as Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns.

But that's an issue for another day.

All the Knicks can do now is drop as many games as possible to ensure a top pick.

And Thursday's loss was pivotal.

With the defeat, the Knicks' chances to finish at least tied for the worst record in the league increased to 62 percent, per numberFire. They have a 43.4 percent chance of finishing with sole possession of the league's worst record.

The projection is based on thousands of simulations of the remainder of the season.

With its win, Minnesota's chances of finishing at least tied for the NBA's worst record fell to 40.7 percent. The Timberwolves now have a 24 percent chance of finishing with sole possession of the worst record,

per numberFire.

Given how close these two teams are, each game will be pivotal down the stretch.

Next up for the Knicks: The Sixers on Friday night. Philadelphia is 16-52, two games ahead of the Knicks in the standings.

In other words, it will be another must-lose game for the Knicks.