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The Knicks Are a Loss to the Defending Champs Away From .500

When the Knicks put together their 13–1 stretch from mid-November to mid-December, they were criticized for their easy schedule, coasting through the NBA's weaker sisters, destined to be exposed when the level of competition rose. Oh, for those halcyon days of wonder. Now, the Knicks play outstandingly against the Spurs and the Heat. And they lose at home to the Kings, the Suns, and, now, the Clippers.

The Clips came into the Garden and wiped out the Knicks last night 116–108, in a game that honestly wasn't even that close. The Knicks trailed by as many as twenty in the third quarter before making a run to close the gap late. But Randy Foye, of all people, wouldn't stop scoring points in the fourth quarter, and the Knicks couldn't make it all the way back. The main offensive issue for the Knicks was outside shooting — they were 6-for-26 from the three-point line — but they lost because of their interior defense, which consistently gently lay their jacket over mud puddles for the Clips all night. Blake Griffin, the star attraction, scored 21 points, but the Clips didn't need him to be terrific; the Knicks pretty much let everyone do whatever they wanted.

So, the Knicks fall to 26–25, and they're 5–11 since Christmas Day. They haven't been at the .500 level since November 28, at 9–9. That day, they beat Detroit on the road in double overtime and, lo and behold, ran off an eight-game winning streak. After the Knicks play the Lakers on Friday night — a game that presumably would put them back at .500 — they play:

@ New Jersey
Atlanta
Milwaukee
@ Cleveland
@ Miami
@ Orlando
New Orleans
Cleveland

Yeah, we do not see an 8–0 stretch in their future. By the way, that No. 6 seed we've all been assuming the Knicks had wrapped up? ESPN's John Hollinger projects that the 76ers will pass them for it. (That's the difference between playing Boston in the first round, or Chicago.)

This is all to say that the Knicks could use the All-Star break to get here lickety-split fast. Or maybe some sort of roster change to reinvigorate matters. (Hmmm.) After the game, coach Mike D'Antoni said the Knicks "lacked the energy of a playoff team" and that the loss was a "total lack of commitment on our part." This whole time we've been assuming the Knicks were set for the playoffs, and, apparently, the Knicks have been doing that, too.

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Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images