They lost a 17-point lead, they lost their cool, then they lost the game as their grip on a playoff berth became a little looser. If the Knicks ultimately miss the postseason, they will look back with stinging regret on a stunning .
was mostly brilliant, scoring a season-high 39 points, only to miss the two most critical shots of the night. The Knicks’ defense was mostly sound, until it allowed a 40-point fourth quarter.
As the frustration bubbled over, J. R. Smith lost his head, earning an ejection after throwing Leandro Barbosa to the court in the final seconds — an act that Coach Mike Woodson called “unprofessional.”
“We somewhat self-destructed,” said Woodson, who lost for just the third time in his 12 games as the interim coach. “I mean, we kind of lost our composure.”
The collapse was so quick and so forceful that it took the Knicks at least a dozen adjectives to describe it as they milled about a dejected locker room. Baron Davis called it ugly. Anthony called it unfortunate and frustrating. There was talk of complacency, the sort that the Knicks cannot afford at this late date.
The loss left the Knicks (27-27) with a mere for the eighth and final playoff spot, with 12 games to play. The next four games could make or break the season: at Orlando on Thursday, followed by two games against Chicago (home and away) and a trip to Milwaukee next Wednesday.
“We’re not going to let it happen again,” Tyson Chandler said, adding, “The season is not long enough to have these type of letdowns.”
The Knicks beat the Pacers (32-21) on consecutive nights last month, and convincingly so, which made this letdown all the more irritating. Danny Granger and Paul George combined for 26 points in the fourth quarter, when the Pacers made 10 of 17 shots and took advantage of five Knicks turnovers, two by Anthony.
Steve Novak hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to give the Knicks an 87-70 lead, stoking a celebration on the bench. The smiles and laughter faded quickly.
Barbosa, Dahntay Jones and Granger opened the fourth quarter with layups as the Pacers began their charge, which ballooned to an 18-2 run by the middle of the period. Granger hit a pair of 3-pointers, then celebrated by pretending to snap on a championship belt — a dig at Novak, who makes the gesture after every big 3-pointer. George scored 7 straight points to make it a 31-6 run, giving Indiana a 101-93 lead.
Anthony answered with an 8-point burst to cut the deficit to 103-101, but the Knicks never regained the lead. Anthony had two 3-pointers rattle out in the final 42 seconds.
“They both felt good,” said Anthony, who otherwise had a good shooting night (17 for 31).
The game ended with an ugly scene, as Smith, who had been tangling with Barbosa, threw him down in a fit of frustration with 10.7 seconds left. He was immediately ejected.
“He was frustrated — I could see that as that fourth quarter lingered on,” Woodson said. “And maybe I should have pulled him. But I didn’t. He and I will have a discussion about that, because that’s a little unprofessional, I think.”
As he was approached at his locker, Smith grumbled about reporters looking for “controversy” and “selling newspapers.”
“He was going at me, I was going at him,” Smith said of Barbosa. He added, “Just got a little fed up with it.”
The Knicks are 3-2 since Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin went down with serious injuries, and are looking vulnerable for the first time.
Stoudemire has not spoken publicly about his back injury since the day the Knicks shut him down, more than a week ago. He maintained the silence Tuesday, though he chatted amiably with reporters on other topics before the game. Asked why he would not talk about the injury, Stoudemire said: “Just in silent mode, man. Focused.”
Woodson has repeatedly referred to Stoudemire as “day to day,” but the official recovery window of two to four weeks — announced on March 28 — remains unchanged. Stoudemire received an epidural last week to treat a bulging disk.
“I keep saying ‘day to day,’ in hopes that he might come back,” Woodson said. He added, “All I can do is wait.”
Carmelo Anthony leaped into 103rd place on the N.B.A.’s career scoring list, passing the Knicks Hall of Famer Walt Frazier, as well as Terry Porter and Elton Brand. Anthony now has 15,607 points. Frazier has 15,581 points, 106th on the list. … Jared Jeffries missed his seventh straight game because of a sore right knee. His return remains undetermined.